When’s Kyle Schwarber getting here?
Too soon? Schwarber became part of The Plan on Thursday night when the Cubs grabbed the Indiana catcher/outfielder with the No. 4 overall pick in the amateur draft. That means his day-to-day performance will be microblogged, with all the box scores overanalyzed and each home run mentioned on Twitter.
Schwarber visited Wrigley Field for the first time last summer and took batting practice with Team USA. He got a taste for it, even though it might be impossible for an outsider to fully comprehend the enormous expectations placed upon this farm system.
“I fell in love with the place right away,” Schwarber said. “The scenery and the history of it all – it’s awesome. We watched them play the Cardinals and the fans were great.
“They’re really excited about the future.”
After a long internal debate – and with the three big-name pitchers off the board – the Cubs decided to find a position for the 6-foot, 240-pound left-handed hitter later and look for arms deeper in the draft by cutting a deal below the $4.6 million slot.
By late Wednesday night, there were indications the Cubs had backed off Schwarber and would go in a different direction. Less than 24 hours later, Jason McLeod said the Cubs had Schwarber at No. 2 on their board after Brady Aiken.
The vice president of scouting and player development also admitted Schwarber – who’s being advised by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management – will be a quick signing who will give the Cubs some financial flexibility to pursue pitchers in later rounds. Taking Maryland senior right-hander Jake Stinnett at No. 45 should also create some more leverage.
“We were enamored with Brady Aiken, but Kyle was No. 2,” McLeod said. “We expect this to be a very quick process. (We’ll) get him out playing in the organization and there’s a good chance that we will get to spend some money elsewhere.”
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The Houston Astros made Aiken – a 17-year-old lefty from San Diego – the first prep pitcher to go No. 1 overall since the New York Yankees took Brien Taylor in 1991.
The Miami Marlins selected another prep pitcher at No. 2 – Tyler Kolek’s Texas roots and 100 mph heat had drawn comparisons to Kerry Wood. The White Sox grabbed North Carolina State lefty Carlos Rodon at No. 3, preventing the Cubs from taking a polished fast-track starter.
“We thought Kyle was the best hitter, hands down, in this year’s draft,” McLeod said. “He really does everything that we like from an offensive standpoint in terms of controlling the strike zone and hitting for average and hitting for power. Makeup off the charts.”
Schwarber met with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein during spring training, working out at Cubs Park when the Hoosiers came to Arizona for the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge.
Schwarber has been described as a monster – he became an all-state linebacker at Middletown High School in Ohio – but there are questions about where he will play defensively and if he can stay behind the plate.
“He’s certainly got the mentality and the makeup to do it,” McLeod said. “He’s got the will to do it. We’ll let that play out. We feel he’s a really good, underrated athlete that can certainly move to an outfield position in the corner. His bat is really why we drafted him.”
Schwarber hit .341 during his three seasons at Indiana, putting up 40 homers and 149 RBI in 180 games. He’s a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award given to the top Division I catcher in the nation.
Schwarber could move faster through a system already stocked with potential middle-of-the-order hitters like Kris Bryant, who’s leading the Southern League in the Triple Crown catergories. Last year’s No. 2 overall pick is making Cubs fans and the Chicago media wonder what else he has to prove at Double-A Tennessee.
“Kris Bryant has kind of set the bar high,” McLeod said. “Really, we need to step back and look at some reality. I don’t want people to think he’s going to be at Double-A doing what Kris is doing at this time next year.”
Even if Schwarber profiles like a possible designated hitter – and seemed to be a reach at No. 4 – he shouldn’t be a long-term project. That’s good news for an organization that spends a lot of time talking about the future.