Kyle Schwarber has been promoted. The Cubs 4th overall pick in this year's draft will report to Advanced Class A Daytona after unleashing hell upon Midwest League pitchers over the last few weeks. Schwarber's final triple-slash line at Kane County ended up at a cool .361/.448/.602 with 4 homers and 8 doubles in just 23 games.
Needless to say, his performance has already earned him consideration as a top 50 prospect in the game.
I've seen Schwarber play 4 games at Kane County, and I've been impressed with him (unfortunately, I've only seen him play the field in one of those games, so the fielding portion of this report is going to be a little light). I think he's going to be a fine hitter, but I don't think he profiles as anything more than a first-division starter down the road.
Let's dive in and take a look at the strengths and faults of the big man out of Indiana.
Kyle Schwarber sets up in a stance that inevitably draws comparisons to the great Jeff Bagwell, who also assumed a deep crouch in the batter's box. It doesn't look too comfortable, but hey, it works for him, and he gets out of into and into the rest of his swing with ease.
Schwarber's swing is relatively simple. He's got a small leg kick during which he quietly brings his hands back into a loaded position. From there his hands fire with his hips and take a direct route to the ball, sweeping the bat through the zone on a path that often stays in the zone for a long time.
The simplicity of Schwarber's swing (and his strength) allows him excellent control over the barrel of bat, as he demonstrates by barreling up almost everything he swings at.
Altogether, it is a quick swing tailored to generate as much contact as possible.
Schwarber is a big kid with a bunch of raw power, but I don't think that's going to manifest itself in the form of 30+ HR seasons. As I alluded to above, Schwarber's bat often takes a flatter path through the zone than you would expect from a power hitter. This is great for making contact, but hitters like this wont be generating a ton of lift on the balls they put in play. Instead, they hit hard line drives all over the field.
Schwarber's shown that he's plenty capable of putting balls over the fence, and I do not expect that to disappear as he moves up the ranks. I do however think that he's more of a 20-25 HR guy (home runs of the line-drive rocket variety) who also sprays doubles all over the field.
Schwarber's been praised for his eye at the plate so far, but if I'm being totally honest, I don't know how much we can glean from his walk rate. MWL pitchers were terrified of him and stayed outside against him as much as they could. To his credit, Schwarber did lay off his fair share of close low-and-way pitches, which gives me hope he'll maintain his reputation as a patient hitter.
For me, watching how Schwarber reacts to good pitching in Daytona and higher is going to be fascinating. Pitchers are going to challenge him, throw some quality strikes, and keep him off balance. Good off-speed stuff is rare in the MWL, but when Schwarber has seen it (from Alex Reyes, for example) he's had some trouble recognizing it, whiffing badly with his weight way out in front of the ball.
In Daytona, he's going to face guys who effectively throw off-speed pitches in sequence, and that may give him some trouble.
Overall, though, Schwarber's approach looks exactly as good as you would expect a Top-5 pick out of college to be - he knows what pitches he can drive, which ones he's better laying off, and has been punishing mistakes.
Unfortunately, I've only seen one game where Schwarber played in the field, and he was not tested out in left field. If his footspeed holds, I can see an adequate defender in left field.
He's a fringe-average runner right now (and it plays up on the basepaths as he is a very smart runner) but Schwarber is large. I have trouble seeing him being anything more than a well-below-average runner in his prime, especially if he keeps doing some catching on the side.
I'm not in love with Kyle Schwarber, but I think he can hit for a strong average and above-average power numbers. Guys like Schwarber need to hit, though, because they have so little value from other parts of their game.
The bat legitimately looks like a .280+/20+ HR hitter, and that guy will play almost anywhere in a lineup, but the lack of defensive options really limits their prospect status and how they'll fit into future lineups. If he were playing anywhere else in the field I'd probably be going nuts over him, but his ceiling really is muted as a LFer.
That said, I do think Schwarber, thanks to his quick swing and mature approach, has an excellent chance of rising through the system quickly and establishing himself as the starting LFer (and a good one) in a few seasons' time. In the meantime he'll continue to tear up A ball pitching..
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