Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Schwarber Needed at Catcher, Unless there's a Catch

Kyle Schwarber is going to catch because he has to catch. Unless… there’s a catch (sorry, couldn’t help myself). The Cubs first round pick in the 2014 draft carries a big left handed stick and questions about where he can play on the field. That doesn’t sit well with Schwarber. And the Cubs are glad it doesn’t.

"It really fucking pisses me off when people say I can't catch."

Taken out of Indiana University with the 4th overall pick, the Cubs left some draft experts scratching their head. They wondered how can Theo choose another bat for a system that already has Baez, Bryant, Soler, Almora and Alcantara but no top end pitching. Schwarber quickly put those critics to bed with a breakout first season in the Cubs organization that saw him rise to high A-ball and crush opposing pitchers to a .302/.393/.952 slash line.

All the preseason prospect rankings took notice as well. Landing in the top 100 of every list and reaching as high as 19 on the list composed by Baseball America. Schwarder has an elite bat and it comes from the left side. That is invaluable around the league, but unheard of at the catching position. Given the Cubs’ wealth of young bats it benefits both the Cubs and Schwarber to stay put on defense, that is, until he has to.

The Cubs currently have seven infielders in the “system” and only four spots for them. Rizzo is stuck at first along with Russell and Castro penciled in for short and third. The hope is Baez will pan out at second and if he doesn’t, Alcantara might. Then there’s the third base conundrum. Mike Olt is likely to get the start at third to begin the season. Olt has been very steady in spring and looks more comfortable and confident than we’ve seen of him in a Cubs uniform. Kris Bryant is the crown jewel of the system and could take over third base as soon as late April. However, Bryant’s destiny may be in left field because Jorge Soler is entrenched in right and neither Bryant nor Schwarber can play center.

If everything goes according to plan, there is nowhere for Schwarber to play but catcher. And the Cubs are willing to wait on his bat to make it happen. Schwarber has shown an impressive amount of work ethic and determination to improve his receiving abilities. That’s a big reason why the Cubs “reached” to grab him at four. They love his makeup and leadership. From a personality standpoint, he is everything they want in a catcher.

However, there is one catch, as mentioned earlier. The collectivebargaining agreement expires after the 2016 season. With interleague play underway every day of the regular season, there is no doubt the players union will be pushing for a national league designated hitter. A DH in the national league evens out the rules and puts 15 more high priced players without a defensive home into the union’s coffers. Do not overlook the power of the MLBPA in this regard.

If this change happens, then the Cubs can rest easy and use Schwarber as their version of David Ortiz (sorry for the Red Sox comparison, but it’s just so damn relevant). But if the ‘ol boy’s club of Major League Baseball is able to ward off these changes, then the Cubs will need Schwarber to catch, and need it badly. 

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