Chicago Cubs: Schwarber could have us asking Bryce who?
We can’t forget about the last name on the outfield rotation. He’s the guy who puts Paul Bunyan to shame amongst many of the Cubs’ faithful. The guy who came back from a horrific knee injury to set the table for the greatest Cubs’ victory in over 100 years. Or, if things go right, the guy who could give you Bryce Harper-type numbers if he puts it all together.
That’s right. I said it. And, one of these seasons, Schwarber, 25, will silence the haters, the doubters and the casual fans who think he can’t play in the outfield and needs to go to the American League to DH. To them, I have one point to make – Schwarber is already a better defensive outfielder than Bryce Harper, and it wasn’t really close last year.
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What fan doesn’t think he can hit 42 home runs (Harper’s career-high in his godly 2015 season) if given 650 plate appearances? What fan questions his eye and ability to work counts, continuing to improve pitch recognition, selection, and mashability? Sure, he needs to work on going the other way with two strikes (or even before) to beat the shift and learn to hit lefties.
You know who else needed to do both those things? A guy sitting right next to him in the dugout who struggled mightily against left-handers before he didn’t, who has learned to choke and poke while still consistently hitting for power with two strikes.
With any luck, Schwarber is talking to Anthony Rizzo routinely and allowing all the info that helped him reverse those issues to soak right in. If he’s able to do those two things, who’s to say Schwarber doesn’t have a 4-5 WAR season? We know he can slug .500. We know he can get on base even more than his 15 percent walk rate said last year.
He beats the shift a few more times and hits the ball with authority the other way, and you’re looking at Schwarber posting a .280/.400/.500 type line. With the improvements he made in the outfield last season and the way every fan and coach knows he works, don’t discount that very real possibility. And when he does that, no one will even remember that Bryce guy’s name.