Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

kyle schwarber chicago cubs featureIt’s really incredible that Kyle Schwarber was drafted just one year ago.

It’s even more incredible that, when he was drafted, most pundits outside the organization thought the Cubs had reached.

Now, here we are, so soon after the Cubs “reached,” they’re adding a supremely intriguing bat in the middle of a competitive season.

That’s perhaps the most exciting part of this temporary Kyle Schwarber call up for me. Yes, I’m excited to see another top prospect, and I’m interested to see if he gets even an inning behind the plate. But I’m most excited that, in a season when the Cubs could really use an extra bat right now to DH, they’ve got one ready and waiting that they can just pluck, almost from the ether, and plop right into the lineup.

How many teams right now have that ability?

Even after losing Jorge Soler and Javier Baez to injury (were they both not injured, I’m not sure we’re having this conversation just yet), the Cubs have a guy who can step in and potentially be an impact bat for a week in June. No trade required. No significant roster maneuvering, either. Just, hey, man, we could use your bat a bit, can you help us out?

That’s, of course, the primary difference here between the Schwarber call up and the Kris Bryant patience last year. Every player is different, and I’ll leave open the possibility that there’s something special in the player development plan for each guy that would have precluded this kind of taste-of-the-bigs last year for Bryant (maybe something about Schwarber getting a chance to work with the big league catchers and pitchers for a week, since that’s so crucial to his future). But I think the real difference we’re seeing is the big league team, itself. Last year, Bryant coming up for a random week to DH wouldn’t have meant much to the Cubs’ chances of winning in 2014. Bryant’s crazy good, but he’s not that good. No one is.

The Cubs also didn’t have consecutive series in AL parks at any point last year like they do this week. This is a unique opportunity and confluence of events that implores for Schwarber to come up, with all appropriate apologies to Bryant. The situation is simply very, very different.

All that said, let’s not go around expecting Schwarber to be the difference-maker in every game in which he appears. For one thing, he’s joining a team with a few other quality players with whom you might be familiar. For another thing, even as polished as his approach is, he’s still a rookie facing big league pitching – indeed, facing any pitching above AA – for the first time in his career. A little over a year ago, he was beating up on amateurs. We’ll need to keep expectations in check.

Do I think he can be better than the Cubs’ other present DH options? I do. Might he not be better in a tiny sample? Sure. That’s just baseball. Is it worth the chance because the downside risk of Schwarber struggling is so small? Yup.

When Schwarber is done with his week’s coffee, he’ll head to AAA Iowa – a promotion by way of Chicago – to continue his work behind the plate. From there, as we’ve discussed before, there’s a good chance he could be back for the stretch run if the bat looks like it can contribute. Schwarber will already be on the 40-man roster, will already be likely to contribute in 2016 (though perhaps not right out of the gate), and there might once again be the perfect confluence of reasons to bring him back up.

The Cubs are very serious about trying to win in 2015.

* * *

Other various things about the Schwarber promotion …

  • You can assume it’ll be one of the nine relievers heading back down when Schwarber is promoted, perhaps Brian Schlitter as the last guy in.
  • The 40-man roster stands at 39, so there will be no need to open up a spot for Schwarber. Even if there were, the Cubs already have a couple guys on the 15-day DL who could be transferred to the 60-day DL without actually changing their timeline because they’ve already been out at least 60 days (Dallas Beeler and Tommy La Stella).

  • Theo Epstein’s official comments on the promotion are in this CSN article – he sent a texted statement last night after Tennessee’s game, according to Patrick Mooney (I should give Epstein my digits for messages like that, or maybe just to go get a pizza). The heavy emphasis of the statement was that Schwarber will go to AAA after these six days no matter what, and he’s coming up to get a taste of what it’s like to be a catcher in the big leagues. That is not necessarily to say that he’ll catch in games (hopefully he does), but he can work with the catchers, pitchers, and coaching staff to see what it’s all about.
  • Speaking of which, here’s a good read from Mark Gonzales on the catching infrastructure with which Schwarber will now get to spend some time.
  • BP’s take on the Schwarber call up, complete with plenty of scouting info.
  • This is fantastic:

  • Here’s hoping Schwarber can do this again a couple times at Target Field:

  • A fun look back at Schwarber early in college, which was so-not-long-ago:

  • I asked folks something semi-serious on Twitter, and got some really funny responses:

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