When pitchers and catchers report to Mesa in just over three weeks, Kyle Schwarber will be among the backstops in camp working with the pitching staff. Along with Miguel Montero and David Ross, Willson Contreras, Tim Federowicz, David Freitas and Schwarber will get a jump start on Spring Training before the position players report on Feb. 23.
Schwarber has been working hard on his conditioning this off-season to help with his defense in the outfield. Schwarber is expected to spend a majority of his time in left field during the upcoming season. The Cubs still consider Schwarber a catcher and catching coach Mike Borzello has noticed the improvements he’s made as a receiver.
With Schwarber working as a catcher and as an outfielder in his second big league camp, he figures to have very little spare time on his hands this spring.
Mike Borzello recently explained to Carrie Muskat what he’s seen from Schwarber and what a typical day could be like for him during Spring Training.
Borzello thinks Schwarber will be a catcher in the morning. Schwarber will work with the pitching staff, catch side sessions and work on catching drills. The rest of the day, according to Borzello, will be spent with the outfielders.
Borzello worked with Schwarber in Tampa a week before the Convention. Borzello and Schwarber focused on “receiving, blocking, footwork, everything” for two hours a day. Borzello liked what he saw in Florida. And his comments about Schwarber to Carrie Muskat were very interesting.
“Everyone has a different opinion on where they think he should be, for whatever reason. Selfishly, I think he’s capable of being the leader of this team at some point. I think he has that kind of makeup. I think he has that kind of personality. He cares about the right things. I know I’m a catcher, but I feel this is the best position for the leader to be. That’s why I think him being behind the plate would be the best thing. But we’ll see how it all plays out.”
“He’s going to be a left fielder/catcher,” Borzello said to Carrie Muskat. “I still need him to continue to work as if he’s going to be an everyday catcher, because when you sporadically play behind the plate, you kind of lose that rhythm unless you continue to work.”
The Cubs want to ensure Schwarber’s bat is in the lineup as often as possible. Schwarber has adjustments to make offensively in his second season in the majors, especially against left handed pitching. Schwarber hit .246/.355/.487 in 69 games in the majors during the regular season with six doubles, a triple and 16 home runs for a .842 OPS.
Counting his time in the minors, majors and nine games in the post-season, Schwarber had 149 hits during his first full year in pro ball (153 games). And 63 of those 149 hits went for extra bases … 23 doubles, three triples and 37 home runs.
The Steamer Projections has Schwarber putting together a .261/.345/.474 line with 21 doubles, two triples and 25 home runs for a .819 OPS in 546 plate appearances. And ZiPS is projecting a .250/.337/.496 line for Schwarber with a .833 OPS that includes 22 doubles, four triples and 32 home runs.
One of the many Cubs Storylines of the Spring will be the progress of Kyle Schwarber’s defense in both left field and behind the plate.