Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs surprised – if not for the surge in rumors in the past few days, I’d have gone with “shocked” – the baseball world by taking Indiana catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber with their first round pick, fourth overall.
The surprise comes primarily from Schwarber’s pre-draft rankings: Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus each had Schwarber at number 17, and MLB.com had him at number 16. Most mock drafts had him going in the teens, but, at the same time, everyone seemed to know that the Cubs at four was a possibility. The Cubs have a clear preference for college hitters at the top of the draft, when plausible, and, when the top pitchers weren’t there for them, it was definitely going to be a bat. Schwarber is the top college bat, and top overall bat, in the draft this year, according to the Cubs, so he was their guy.
As far as the under slot speculation, Chicago Cubs Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod essentially confirmed it after the pick, telling the media that Schwarber could sign quickly and allow them some funds to use later (Cubs.com). How much in savings? Well, we can only speculate, but here’s one way to look at it: the Cubs’ slot for four was $4.6212 million. If Schwarber fell even as far as number 10 to the Mets (about as high as anyone could realistically say he would have gone if the Cubs hadn’t taken him), the slot number drops below $3 million. We can’t say for sure, because we don’t know how other teams were viewing Schwarber (there may have actually been far more interest than was reported), but it seems reasonable to guess that the Cubs could get him to sign for at least $1 million under slot, and perhaps as much as $2 million under slot. That’s the range I think we’ll be looking at.
If he does sign quickly, we could see Schwarber in Arizona for rookie ball later this month, or short season Low-A Boise, which also kicks off later this month. From there, you’d love to see him quickly demonstrate – as Kris Bryant did – that he’s not being challenged, and move up for the close of the 2014 season. Kane County looks to be a playoff team (Daytona does not), so perhaps that’s where he’ll go, and get his season extended.
More thoughts, reactions, scouting reports, video, etc. on Schwarber:
- Jim Callis suggested on the Draft broadcast last night that Schwarber would probably slide into the Cubs’ organizational rankings around number six, behind the Big Four and C.J. Edwards. That sounds about right to me, though I could see an argument for Arismendy Alcantara being ahead of Schwarber, too. I could also see an argument for having Schwarber ahead of a couple guys in that group, too. I don’t much like to do the “ranking a draft pick” thing, though, because we haven’t seen him in pro ball at all yet. It’s a different game than college.
- Everything you read about Schwarber talks about what a great character/leader kind of guy he is. If accurate, that stuff really matters, because it not only helps all that unquantifiable “team chemistry” stuff, but it helps players maximize their own ability. The Cubs are very high on the importance of character, so we can’t be surprised.
- MLB.com drops 60/65 hit and power grades on him, which, when paired together, would make him a fantastic overall hitter (Kris Bryant, for comparison, was 50/70 to MLB.com at this time last year). No, he’s not Bryant, but he’s a legit, top-of-the-draft bat. From MLB.com’s scouting report:
He offers lots of strength and bat speed from the left side of the plate, and he’s not a one-dimensional hitter either. Schwarber controls the strike zone well and repeatedly barrels balls, so he should hit for a high average as well.
His offensive ability could make him a star as a catcher – provided that he can stay behind the plate. While he moves well for his size, his throwing and receiving both grade as below average and could prompt a move to the outfield, where he has seen time for the Hoosiers.
Schwarber has a case for the title of best overall bat in the class at the collegiate ranks, showing plus to plus-plus raw power from the left side and the potential to hit for average at the next level. His strength and bat speed allow him to cover the quadrants and drive the ball to all fields, and he utilizes an advanced understanding of the strike zone to help find his pitches.
- We keep talking about Schwarber’s upside, but Baseball America also likes Schwarber’s high floor (one of the top in college). Here’s a bit of their scouting report:
Recruited by some Big 10 Conference schools to play middle linebacker, Schwarber instead brought his fierce physicality and power to the middle of the diamond, anchoring Indiana’s lineup for the last three seasons. His 18 homers in 2013 ranked third in the country and helped the Hoosiers become the first Big Ten team to reach the College World Series since 1984 …. His leadership qualities have been evident with the Hoosiers and he has a strong, durable body for catching, but he’ll never be more than a fringe-average defender. Schwarber fits in the first round for his bat. He’s a smart hitter who studies pitchers and has tremendous strength to punish pitches to all fields. He’s thick and could be quicker on pitches inside with a trimmer physique. He’s a better athlete than he looks and is even a fringy runner with the aggressiveness to have stolen eight bases this spring, second on Indiana’s team. His athleticism gives him a chance to shift to left field if catching doesn’t work out.
- Baseball America was also digging on Schwarber back in February:
Cubs Kyle Schwarber (No. 4) and Red Sox Sam Travis (No. 67) on the Baseball America college preview cover in February pic.twitter.com/msPncFzXvI
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) June 6, 2014
- And, get your fill watching Schwarber in action:
Baseball America has video of Schwarber at the plate using wood bats here. More video …
- My immediate #NotAScout thoughts on Schwarber at the plate: he looks very comfortable and is well settled in that wide stance, which is probably why he’s been such a disciplined hitter. The swing looks quick to the ball, and there’s not a ton of uppercut in it. I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing, as I’d think it suggests sacrificing a little power for contact, but he’s shown plenty of power – so, either I’m just wrong, or he simply hits the ball really, really hard. I’m a sucker for swings that demonstrate a short path to the ball (which is probably why he doesn’t strike out much, by the way), so I really like what I see.
- Didn’t love that throwing motion behind the plate – pretty long, with a hitch. I don’t think it much matters, because if the Cubs want the bat to move quickly, he’s going to head to the outfield in short order.
- He’s a big dude, but he doesn’t look bad-bodied to me. It’s hard to judge without actually seeing him in the outfield, but, based on the physique and the running there, playing adequate left field certainly looks plausible.
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