It seems like a little while since the Chicago Cubs last had a player of the week. There was a stretch for a month or two where it seemed like they had multiple guys getting nods every single week. As I said at the time, that was truly something, because these awards are actually fairly rare, when you consider how many minor league players there are (and how many pop-up great weeks there are).
But the Cubs did get another one this past week, and it might be the least surprising one of all: it’s Kyle Schwarber, honored as the Florida State League’s player of the week.
I just wrote about Schwarber’s ridiculous 2014 season, which he has capped off most recently with a rash of six homers in a five game stretch. Over the full week, Schwarber played in 8 games, hitting .500/.529/1.333 with 7 homers and 4 doubles, as well as an 8.8% walk rate and 11.8% strikeout rate. He added a sac fly and a stolen base for good measure.
I look greatly forward to what the Cubs decide to do with Schwarber in the offseason. His receiving skills behind the plate have drawn mixed reviews, with some folks stating unequivocally that he cannot be a big league catcher, and others saying just as confidently that he can. The question for the Cubs has always been: risk slowing down the bat to give him time to properly develop behind the plate, or move him permanently into the outfielder where his overall value takes a hit? I’m not sure I can give you an obvious answer, because I can see the merit in either approach (and it depends, of course, on the Cubs’ internal view of Schwarber’s long-term catching ability).
In an ideal world, Schwarber’s catching ability would remain at least passable, even if he’s aggressively promoted in the next two years because of his bat. From there, you could at least dream on the potential of a two-days-a-week catcher at the big league level, giving the Cubs not only versatility, but a huge bat behind the plate every now and again. We’ll see what happens in the offseason. If Schwarber heads to the AFL, it might be to continue developing his bat for an aggressive promotion schedule (a la Kris Bryant last and this year). If he instead strictly does instructional ball with the Cubs, it might be to work on his catching skills. Which, of course, is not to say that he couldn’t work on catching in the AFL – it just might not be as steady and focused.
Either way, I think we’ll come into the Spring with a much better sense of the plan for Schwarber. And it’s exciting.