[SEE UPDATE BELOW]
Maybe I shouldn’t say wow, given what we’ve discussed before, but it still feels so surprising given the expectations for Kyle Schwarber coming into the season.
Here’s the report, via Dave Kaplan:
**Breaking News** Cubs are sending Kyle Schwarber to Class AAA Iowa. Not expected to be gone long but it is an opportunity to clear his head
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) June 22, 2017
Kaplan indicates that the move will be about giving Schwarber and opportunity to reset, which aligns with some things Theo Epstein suggested a few weeks ago generally about young players when this topic first came up.
Earlier this month, we talked about Schwarber’s season, development, and the possibility of a demotion:
Imagine a world where Schwarber doesn’t lose a season to the knee injury. Instead, imagine this season was last season, and this is the story you have: a college bat is drafted in 2014, plays almost none in the minor leagues before reaching the big leagues the next year. He has a scorching month, then some struggles, and has a great postseason. The next year – his first full season in the big leagues after almost no minor league experience (including just 17 AAA games) – he really has difficulties. Pitchers expose some holes, and it’s taking him a while to adjust.
In that scenario, wouldn’t we expect an option to AAA to be on the table? Wouldn’t we see that as completely normal?
In other words, how much are we rebelling against this idea because it’s been an extra year since he was in the minors? Even though that year was entirely lost to a knee injury? Which arguably makes it even more justifiable to say that he might need some time at AAA to work through issues?
Maybe there’s some sense here.
Still, from a results perspective, Schwarber had actually been showing signs of life. Since hitting that dramatic grand slam against the Cardinals on June 3, Schwarber has hit .205/.340/.545 (128 wRC+). Sure, the batting average is low, but that’s largely because he’s been killed by a ridiculously low BABIP – and everything else has been positive.
The Cubs must have their reasons, though.
We’ll see how long Schwarber goes down, and who comes up in his stead. It could be Jacob Hannemann, who has been tearing up AAA since a promotion, and who is already on the 40-man roster. It could also be another chance for Jeimer Candelario to come back up.
We’ll further have to see how this relates to Ben Zobrist’s coming return, and a possible DL stint for Jason Heyward.
UPDATE: So there is a relationship:
Sources: #Cubs planning to send Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa, put Jason Heyward on DL and add Mark Zagunis and Dylan Floro to roster.
— Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) June 22, 2017
Breaking this down a bit, I’m thinking the Cubs wanted an extra arm for the next day or two, since the bullpen is pretty taxed, hence Floro coming up and overloading the bullpen. He’ll be up, I’m guessing, only until Ben Zobrist returns, at which point – if the bullpen is settled by then – Floro will head back to Iowa. Zagunis might be up longer than Heyward’s return from the DL, depending on how long the Cubs want Schwarber at Iowa.
Zagunis, 24, was the Cubs’ third rounder in 2014 (the same year as Schwarber was drafted), and is hitting .249/.399/.474 in his second half-year at AAA Iowa. The corner outfielder has always excelled with plate discipline, but the power has really come around at AAA. He is among the Cubs top ten-ish prospects, and is probably a legitimate big league outfielder, at least in a reserve role. I’m excited to see him get a chance.