Kyle Schwarber is returning to the Chicago Cubs on Friday when the team opens its series in Atlanta. (See UPDATES below.)
That’s the report of Jonathan Mayo, and, although the Cubs haven’t confirmed, I’ve heard rumblings of the same:
— Jonathan Mayo (@JonathanMayo) July 16, 2015
I’ll have a more comprehensive take on this when the details emerge on the scope of the call-up and the precise plans for Schwarber, but a few reactions:
(1) Clearly, the Cubs feel like Schwarber’s bat is so big-league-ready that it will offer a legit impact in the lineup. I know we generally anticipate that to be the case, but that’s a far cry from the Cubs actually make a move like this for the stretch run with a very young player with very little professional experience. A taste of the big leagues as DH with a sure-fire end date is one thing. This is another.
(2) I’m not sure this is good news for Miguel Montero’s thumb injury. If Montero was expected back in a very short while, would the Cubs bring up Schwarber right now for only a handful of games? Maybe, but it seems more likely that they would do so only if it wasn’t going to be disruptive to Schwarber’s catching development – i.e., more than just a few games. And if Schwarber is coming up for more than a few games, that suggests Montero will be out for a while. We’ll find out soon, and my fingers are crossed – no pun intended.
(3) Even if I’m stating 1 and 2 accurately, Schwarber still probably wouldn’t get the call if the Cubs didn’t think Schwarber would be, at worst, passable behind the plate right now. There’s so much risk associated with having a relatively inexperienced pro catcher handling a bunch of games for your big league staff that I seriously doubt the Cubs would take this chance if they didn’t feel like Schwarber wouldn’t embarrass himself or his pitchers out there, and wouldn’t seriously harm the team in games (not to mention his own long-term value as a possible future catcher). When Schwarber was up the last time, he did get an inning of work behind the plate, though at the time it seemed like there was no inclination to use Schwarber as a catcher again at any point during that AL swing.
Whatever the case, it sounds like we’re going to get some first-hand viewing opportunities. We’ll see just how much catching Schwarber does, and whether he’s also used in left field at times.
In 67 plate appearances at AAA after humbling AA pitching, Schwarber is hitting .333/.403/.633, which is excellent. I’d be more nervous about the 34.3% strikeout rate (super high) and 10.4% walk rate (way down for him) if not for the small sample. The expectation was that Schwarber would be back up with the Cubs eventually, once the Cubs felt he’d had enough time behind the plate at Iowa. Montero’s injury may have forced the issue, however.
UPDATE: Just to button this up with a couple local confirmations, and the early “ugh” news on Montero:
Schwarber to join Cubs on Friday
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) July 16, 2015
Miguel Montero will go on the DL according to a source. Schwarber returns…Don't know his role or anything until we get to Atl
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 16, 2015
#Cubs to recall Schwarber tomorrow. Montero to go on DL and see hand specialist and expected to be out more than 15 days.
— Bruce Miles (@BruceMiles2112) July 16, 2015
UPDATE 2: A glimpse into the usage plan for Schwarber from Sahadev Sharma:
Schwarber is being called up, but not to be the everyday catcher. Cubs will carry three catchers and KS will get some time behind plate.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) July 16, 2015
That’s probably the most reasonable approach, given the concerns I mentioned above. That said, you’d hope that Schwarber can catch enough to keep his bat in the lineup and keep his development going, and also that he can chip in elsewhere on the field so that the bench doesn’t become too shortened once again. I’m pretty interested to hear from Joe Maddon on what the plan is here, and then to see how it actually plays out.
That said … I still hope Montero’s injury is not a season-ending or even month-long kind of situation.
UPDATE 3: Mayo now has a short written report out, and it indicates Montero could miss upwards of six weeks. Ouch. That has the potential to really hurt, given how much value Montero provides – league average (or better) bat against righties, huge framing value, very good defensive value.