From the moment he was drafted, the assumption has been that Kyle Schwarber would have to move from behind the plate in order to maintain a major league roster spot. While he disproved that belief by coming up to Chicago as a catcher, the slugger’s final disposition remains to be seen. Willson Contreras‘s ascension to the starting role means that War Bear won’t be serving in more than a backup role and he’s shown that his bat needs to be in the lineup more frequently than Miguel Montero‘s.
So where does that leave him? Speaking during a lengthy photo session for New Era that included donning a fedora and holding a faux-jito (presumably) while chewing angrily on a cigar, Schwarber reiterated his desire to resume catching duties to some extent next season.
“I’d like to see have the opportunity,” the World Series hero offered. “If it comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But I’m going to fight. They have a plan. I’m going to follow the plan, but I’m going to stick to my guns.”
Even if you knew nothing about this young man prior to this past October, you could have drawn the conclusion that he’s a very determined SOB. Normal people don’t come back from a torn ACL suffered earlier in that same season. Normal people don’t go 7-for-17 in the World Series. That Schwarber did both speaks to his determination and his unwillingness to allow expectations to determine his fate.
I had speculated shortly after the injury that being able to remain with the Cubs while rehabbing his knee in the team’s new clubhouse would be good for Schwarber emotionally and psychologically. The physical aspect is important too, but he could have done the same workouts in Mesa. Having the chance to experience last season’s run, to observe it all and truly be a part of it, was surely invaluable to Schwarber’s comeback.
The almost supernatural patience displayed by the de facto rookie when DH’ing in Cleveland was no doubt fostered by his time on the pine. Rather than watch from afar in Arizona, Schwarber had been right there in the mix all season and was not overcome by the moment. Even so, I can’t stop looking back at that and wondering how he didn’t jump out of his shoes at every pitch that got near the plate. Hell, I was getting jumpy just watching him.
Wait, I thought we were talking about him wanting to catch. Sure, we’re getting to that. But I guess since you asked, I may as well take the conversation in that direction. While developing a skilled approach at the plate and having skills behind it are mutually exclusive, there’s something to be said for really immersing oneself in the nuances of the game. Just as Schwarber had the opportunity to watch Ben Zobrist and others to see how they hit, he was able to pick the brains of Montero and David Ross to learn about catching.
Knowledge alone is nothing without the ability to transfer it into action, just as the opposite is true. But give me a choice between a stump who knows his craft and a freak athlete with no discernible aptitude and I’ll choose the former pretty much every time. Thing is, War Bear is neither a stump nor a freak, and his skillset resides in somewhat of a proclivity purgatory.
That’s where the work comes in. That, and having a relatively low standard of excellence to meet in order to find a little playing time. Contreras can’t catch every game and Montero will serve as the primary backup, which leaves only cursory duty for Schwarber. Maybe you’re different, I just don’t have much in the way of expectations for a team’s third catcher. So the Cubs can continue to bring him along as such without taking away from his time in left or asking much of him as a backstop.
The team has remained coy on the matter, saying only that Schwarber would be working out as a left fielder and that his workload as a catcher has not yet been determined. Not that there’s much else to say. It’s a pretty unique situation, but I think it makes all kinds of sense for them to consider him behind the plate.
Said strategy would effectively open up another roster spot, with Schwarber taking on Ross’s role while serving primarily as a left fielder. Maybe that’s how they work out the whole six-man rotation thing. If nothing else, letting him catch keeps one of your best hitters happy. I’m not talking about catering to the needs of an entitled prima donna, more like rewarding hard work and throwing the dude a bone, for lack of a better term.
What it comes down to is that I don’t really care where Kyle Schwarber plays as long as he’s displaying that incredible approach and launching dingers off the video board in right.