Why Kyle Schwarber should give up Catching
If the season were to end today the Chicago Cubs would be heading to the playoffs for a wildcard showdown with their division rival Pittsburgh Pirates. As it stands right now the Cubs own the fourth best record in the National League at 35-29 and boast a +16 run differential. The Cubs are not a pretender they are in fact a good team and one that should keep any club that has to face them in the playoffs up at night. Recently another one of their stud prospects Kyle Schwarber made his way up to the big league club and is in the midst of a six-game audition. With a home run, triple, four-singles, five runs, and four RBI in just 10 at-bats I think they should change his position and keep him up.
In baseball it has been proven time and time again that it is in your best interest to be strong defensively especially up the middle. Sacrificing offense at catcher, shortstop, and center field in favor of a stellar glove has been happening for about 100 years now and with good results. As we have begun to realize the catcher position may actually be the most important of all from a defensive standpoint since they are required to call the game and frame the pitches which makes them for all intents and purposes the on the field leader in preventing opposing offenses from scoring.
If you have a weak defender in center or shortstop you can theoretically help minimize that deficiency by surrounding him with other strong defensive players at third base, second base, left field, or right field. The catcher on the other hand is completely on his own behind the plate with no one to help him. If he isn’t adept at framing pitches, blocking balls in the dirt, or throwing out runners that is on him and him alone. The more we understand the impact of the catcher the more willing teams should be to sacrifice offense for defense at this key position.
Kyle Schwarber will never be a plus catcher defensively at his position. Since being drafted Schwarber’s carrying tool has been his bat and it will continue to be in the future. Schwarber was drafted fourth overall in 2014 and has slashed .333/.432/.610 with 31 home runs in 130 career games in the minors. Based on what I have seen so far his advanced feel for hitting is showing no signs of slowing at the big league level and it seems like a no brainer for the Cubs to install him as their left fielder of the future.
Sure there is a huge advantage to having a plus offensive player at a position where they are few and far between but with a lineup that would could theoretically look like this:
It seems like having Montero handing the pitching staff is not only the smart move but the logical one. In this lineup the cubs would have just two major league starters in the field who are older than 25—Fowler and Montero. In the Cubs system they have both Billy McKinney and Albert Almora who could potentially fill in at center field if they decide to let Fowler go after this season. The Cubs also have Miguel Montero and David Ross on the roster who according to StatCorner.com rank as the 8th and 5th best pitch framers respectively in baseball thus far this year.
When looking at the list of pitch framing studs names like Francisco Cervelli, Chris Iannetta, David Ross, Jason Castro, and Rene Rivera stand out as excellent framers who do not carry a premium price tag. These plus defenders are not going be expensive in free agency or exceedingly difficult to find. The same could be true when speaking about center field defenders, just look at the Red Sox who are sitting on Jackie Bradley Jr. in their minor league system by all accounts one the best center field defenders in all of baseball. You can’t tell me it would take much to acquire him.
Why continue to let Schwarber waste his at-bats in the minor leagues when his best outcome is to be a below average defensive catcher at the major league level? The Cubs contending window has already started and with the strong core they have built it makes sense for them to plan on being strong defensively at catcher and center field because the rest of their offense is just so good. Schwarber is just as likely to give back any advantages he has created with the bat when he is behind the plate showing off his sub-par defense. He is here for the bat so let’s get him in left field where he can swing it.