After being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft, Kyle Schwarber got off to a good start, making it all the way to High-A in 2014. Over 78 games, across three levels, Schwarber dominated exactly how you’d hope a first round college bat would. With a strong walk rate (12.7%), strikeout rate (18.6%) and OPS (1.029), Schwarber hit his way onto all of the major top 100 lists over the off season.
He ranked as high as 19th (Baseball America) during the offseason, but some still had questions about his glove/position. ESPN’s Keith Law, for example, ranked Schwarber 90th overall, his lowest ranking of the offseason, because he didn’t believe he would stick at catcher and (rightly) expected a polished, college bat to dominate the low minors, as he did.
Well, Schwarber isn’t dominating the low minors anymore; now, he’s dominating at AA Tennessee and Law has taken notice. In the most recent update to his Top 100 Prospect Rankings, Keith Law has Kyle Schwarber all the way up at 15.
The bio on Schwarber requires Insider Access, so I’ll only give you a taste of what Law had to say.
Bringing a smile to your face, Law drops the Kris Bryant comp on Schwarber’s developmental path, right out of the gate. He doesn’t believe the Cubs are right about his sticking with Schwarber at catcher, citing his poor receiving skills, but Law believes Schwarber’s bat might be the best option in left field for the Cubs by midsummer … 2015(!).
Brett recently wrote about the possibility of seeing Schwarber up this year, but midsummer is by far the earliest date I’ve seen attached to Schwarber’s MLB readiness. Of course, there is a difference between being MLB ready, and actually having the MLB team decide you’re ready to be called up (ask Kris Bryant). But, if you are part of a competitive team that has a particular need, anything is possible.
Either way, it’s especially encouraging to see a guy like Keith Law – who tends not to be reactionary with his rankings – believe in the bat that much to merit such a significant jump.
With Javier Baez crushing AAA lately, I doubt Schwarber comes up midsummer, though. Barring a trade, the defensive alignment on the major league team (with Baez on it) will already be stretched, potentially with some variation of “the shortstops” at positions around the infield, and, for example, Bryant in left field. And if Chris Coghlan’s production continues to improve/normalize, it’s possible left field won’t actually emerge as a dire need by midseason anyway.
So, for now, I’d expect Schwarber to continue catching in Tennessee, while working towards a promotion to AAA Iowa in the next month or so. From there, he’ll have to show he can dominate that level, too, before earning a promotion to help the Cubs.