You May Not Want to See Schwarber and Almora in Platoons, But the Roster Might Dictate It

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You May Not Want to See Schwarber and Almora in Platoons, But the Roster Might Dictate It

Chicago Cubs

Over the weekend, Cubs’ outfielder Albert Albert Almora jumped on 670 The Score to discuss his expected 2018 playing time with Bernstein & Goff, but, like the high-quality teammate and person Almora is, he stuck with a team-first response:

“You’re asking the wrong person,” Almora said. “I’m going to do as I’m told, and whenever I get the opportunity, I’m going to go out there and try to help the team win. But I’m not really focused on thinking about any of that stuff because it’s not under my control. My control is just go out there and play hard.”

Almora went onto clarify that, as a competitor, of course he wants to be out there every single day, but in the end, getting the team a ‘W’ is all that matters.

You can hear a lot more from Almora’s interview on The Score right here, but I’m gonna switch gears a bit, because these first couple responses got me thinking about the Cubs’ everyday lineup – in a broader sense – as it relates to two guys in particular: Almora and Kyle Schwarber.

As players who were both taken in the top ten of their respective drafts, Almora and Schwarber have always borne pretty big expectations among Cub fans. The former has an elite glove in center field and can already kill lefties, while the latter is an absolute masher whose offensive ceiling is truly as high as anybody on the team.

Of course that’s really only half of both stories. Almora has struggled against right-handed pitchers throughout his career (outside of a nice stretch at the end of last season (fingers crossed)), and hasn’t quite learned to accept his walks enough yet; while Schwarber has, at times, struggled against southpaws and, as recently as last season, was forced down to the minors to recalibrate at the plate.

On almost any other team, both guys might get an immediate shot at establishing their value right out of Spring Training in 2018 (despite whatever’s happened in the past), but the Cubs aren’t every other team. They also happen to have a ton of equally interesting young guys like Ian Happ and Javy Baez, as well as valuable and versatile veterans like Ben Zobrist. And while there’s long-term value in allowing someone like Schwarber or Almora the time to get a foothold in, the Cubs are also trying to win games next year.

And, so, platoons might happen whether we would want to see them or not.

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Now, before we get too far down the wormhole here, I want to be clear that Almora and Schwarber will not be platooned together or even equally (at least, not directly). Almora is likely to draw a significant chunk of the starts in center field and probably every one against left-handed pitchers, while Kyle Schwarber will get a majority of the starts in left field and most of the games against righties.

But here’s the thing, even if both players show enough to establish themselves as sure-fire, everyday guys, the Cubs will run into challenges.

Consider that, if Schwarber is in left and Almora is in center, then all three of Javy Baez, Ian Happ, and Ben Zobrist are left to divvy up time at second-base. You might be fine letting Zobrist turn into more of a true bench player anyway, but you’re obviously not going to just cut the legs out from Baez or Happ like that.

So, in the end, the most logical way to incorporate everyone, while still trying to win in 2018, is probably going to include maximizing matchups. It might hurt developmentally (fewer chances for Almora against righties and Schwarber against lefties), but it’s all a giant balancing act.

And although the purpose of this post was mostly academic, we can leave with a bit of a concrete estimate of what some of these platoons might look like.

For example, against quality left-handed starters, you might see:

C – Contreras
1B – Rizzo
2B – Baez
3B – Bryant
SS – Russell
LF – Happ/Zobrist
CF – Almora
RF – Heyward/Zobrist

Bench: Schwarber, La Stella, Back-up catcher, and one of Zobrist/Happ/Heyward.

And against quality right-handed pitchers:

C – Contreras
1B – Rizzo
2B – Baez/Zobrist
3B – Bryant
SS – Russell
LF – Schwarber
CF – Happ
RF – Heyward/Zobrist

Bench: Almora, La Stella, back-up catcher, and one of Zobrist/Baez/Heyward.

No matter what, you’re going to leave at least one young, talented, break-out worthy position player on the bench. It’s just the reality of the roster (at least, absent a roster-shifting position player trade, but Theo Epstein isn’t expect that at this point).

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami