Chicago Cubs: New-look physique helped Schwarber defensively
After a disappointing 2017 that saw Schwarber thrust into the leadoff spot and struggle so mightily that he was sent down to the Minor Leagues, the former first-rounder re-dedicated himself to conditioning and getting into the cliché “best shape of his life” heading into 2018.
While that’s almost always hyperbole with players, Schwarber’s transformation was not. His new slimmed down physique was the talk of the town during March and for good reason. His body transformed, Schwarber was noticeably different in the outfield, seeming a bit quicker. He also appeared to take better routes to balls hit his way. And, while most of his defensive metrics were buoyed by his outfield assists, he was a positive defensive player in 2018, after being mediocre or less than average in his showings prior to that.
In fact, Schwarber posted 11 outfield assists in 2018, tied with Andrew Benintendi of the Boston Red Sox for most from left fielders. (Mitch Haniger in right field and Billy Hamilton in center were the only outfielders who had more, with 12 each).
Schwarber was third among Major League left fielders in Total Zone Runs and Fielding Percentage, and believe it or not, was the 10th-highest rated outfielder per Fangraphs DEF rating. The guys he was sandwiched between? Kevin Pillar and Mike Trout. Yep. That Mike Trout.