It’s hard to make a big difference in a short stint, but the latest Cubs rookie to grace the roster has already made a significant impact. I’ll go out on a limb and say that he’s better than a replacement player. In other words, he’s got a positive schWAR.
Kyle Schwarber already showed us that his bat was MLB ready on Wednesday night, going 4-5 with a triple, 2 RBI, and 2 runs. Of course, I could have gotten hits off of the likes of Shaun Marcum the way he was throwing. And then there was that dribbler against the shift with DH Ryan Raburn putting in emergency relief duty.
But make no mistake, Schwarber is legit. When the Cubs went contrary to popular opinion and chose the IU product with the 4th selection of the 2014 draft, they cited his advanced plate approach. Oh, there was also the matter of his monstrous power and ability to use all parts of the field. That was all on display Thursday night.
In his first trip to the plate to face the Indians’ Danny Salazar, Schwarber quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole after fouling off a 95 mph fastball and looking at a 79 mph curve. He then took an 85 mph change for a ball. Then, protecting the plate, he adjusted to another changeup that was coming in low and pushed it through the hole on the right side for a single.
That was good stuff, but his second at-bat was a thing of beauty. Once again, Schwarber fell behind 0-2 on a couple four-seamers but once again he stayed patient, taking a slider and a pair of fastballs to even the count. The second take was on a check swing and you could see the young catcher’s strength as he easily held up short.
Salazar had been in the 90’s with all of his pitches in the AB, working both outside and inside, and he was dialing things up as it went along. The sixth pitch he threw to Schwarber clocked in a 96 and was on the outer half of the plate, but the rookie proved that he can handle a major league fastball.
Schwarber simply took what the pitcher gave him, took his step from that open stance, and just whipped his bat through the zone to drive the outside pitch into the bleachers in left-center, where it was caught by a dude wearing an Athletics shirt. I don’t love wearing another team’s gear to games but I do love Schwarber’s compact swing.
He keeps his hands at or just below shoulder level and there’s virtually no load, enabling him to be very quick through the zone. He’s a big man, but he’s just so smooth up there at the plate and it’s really something to behold. I’ve been watching that home run swing over and over and I love how he was went with the pitch; you can actually see his recognition of it.
The Cubs have remained adamant about their intent to send the kid back down when this AL stretch is done, regardless of how he performs, but Schwarber is sure doing his best to make everyone question that decision. He does need more seasoning defensively though, and he can really only get that in the minors at this point.
But I think we can all agree that the bat plays and that he will be back if and when the Cubs find themselves still in the hunt down the stretch. The Cubs could have Bryant, Rizzo, Soler, Schwarber, Castro and Russell all in the lineup in September. That is going to be a scary proposition for opposing NL pitchers, to be sure.
Here’s the video of that home run. I dare you to watch it just once.