Another player that figures to be a big part of the team moving forward made his big league debut Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. The Cubs quieted the weeks of rumors and speculation and called up top prospect Kyle Schwarber.
Kyle Schwarber joins Kris Bryant and Addison Russell as the third highly touted prospect from the system to receive The Call this season. Bryant was expected up by this point of the year, but in the spring not many believed Russell and/or Schwarber would be in the majors by the middle of June.
The Cubs are happy with the progress Schwarber has made this season, offensively and defensively. Theo Epstein explained to the beat writers Tuesday that the plan with Schwarber was to promote him to Iowa around this time, basically the same timeframe as Kris Bryant a year ago, right around the Southern League All-Star Game.
Epstein labeled Schwarber’s call-up as a “pit stop” on his way from Double-A Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs think he will benefit from the week in the majors, especially from the game planning standpoint and what it takes on a daily basis to prepare as a catcher.
Joe Maddon said several times Tuesday that Schwarber will be able to get all of the firsts out of the way, so when he is back up he does not have to go through them again. Schwarber could be, and is expected, to be recalled later in the season.
Kyle Schwarber was at David Ross’ side Tuesday on his first day in the majors. Schwarber is eager to learn and David Ross is willing to be a teacher. Schwarber has exceeded the Cubs expectations but as Epstein pointed out “there’s a long way to go.”
From the reports Tuesday, here is what the Cubs are saying about The Schwarber Plan:
• Kyle Schwarber will be optioned to Iowa following Sunday’s game regardless of how he performs offensively.
• The Cubs are committed now, more than ever, to Schwarber being a catcher and are convinced he can handle the position.
• According to ESPN, Cubs “might switch their thinking” after Schwarber has reached “a certain amount of games behind the plate” at Iowa.
• ESPN reported if Cubs feel Schwarber could help them offensively in August or September, he could see time in the outfield. The Cubs want to develop him as a catcher but at the same time not wear him down. Epstein explained, “He needs to develop as a catcher. We may reach a point this year, whether it’s in September or earlier than that, where he’s caught enough for the year and then we can mix in some different possibilities, and then maybe he’s a factor for September up here.”
• According to Comcast SportsNet, the Cubs “hinted” at Schwarber playing left field when he has caught enough games. The Cubs are monitoring his workload.
• The Cubs believe in Schwarber’s bat and think he can help the team win games at the Major League level.
Kyle Schwarber said he was surprised as to how calm he was stepping on the field for the first time. He did not like his at bat, that lasted only three pitches, but told the beat writers “it can only go up” from there. Schwarber admitted it was good to get a couple of firsts out of the way Tuesday.
If everything goes as the front office thinks it will for the rest of the month and in July, by the end of the season the active roster will have five players that began the year as the top five prospects in the system, and only one of those five had Major League service time.
Seemingly changing course with Kyle Schwarber with his development plan points to the front office believing the Cubs have a very good shot at making it into baseball’s post-season tournament. Which sets up for a very interesting six weeks leading up to the trade deadline.
“We’re certainly in contention. We can’t take that for granted,” Theo Epstein said to the beat writers. “So whether it’s a minor league signing here or putting a prospect in a certain role there to help the big league team, those are things that you do when you’re in contention and have a relevant season.”