Kyle Schwarber

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Kyle Joseph Schwarber
(Hulk)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Catcher Kyle Schwarber was selected by the Chicago Cubs and scout Stan Zielinski in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft with the fourth overall pick, out of Indiana University. He was considered a bit of an overdraft at the time and when he soon signed for $3.125 million, his bonus was well below the projected amount for his draft slot. He made his pro debut with the Boise Hawks and also played for the Kane County Cougars and Daytona Cubs that first season, combining for a batting line of .344/.428/.534 in 72 games, with 18 doubles, as many homers, 55 runs scored and 53 RBIs. Obviously on a fast track to the majors, at the start of the 2015 season, he was with the AA Tennessee Smokies where he hit .320 in his first 58 games, with 13 home runs and 39 RBIs. On June 15th, Cubs President Theo Epstein announced that he would be called up to Chicago the next day to serve as the team's designated hitter during a six-game string of interleague games on the road.

His debut came in a home game, however, as he took over on defence for catcher Miguel Montero in the 9th inning of a 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians on June 16th; he struck out against Marc Rzepczynski in his first big league at-bat. He started for the first time the next day and had a great game, going 4-for-5 in a 17-0 demolition of the Indians. His first major league hit was a triple off Shaun Marcum during a six-run 2nd inning, and he scored 3 runs and drove in 2 that night. He then hit his first major league homer on June 18th, a two-run blast off Danny Salazar in a 4-3 win over the Indians; he also had another hit in the game to start off his career 6 for 10. He finished his six-game stint with the Cubs at .364 then went back to the minor leagues, which allowed him to be the starting catcher for the United States team in the 2015 Futures Game. He went 1 for 3 in the game, but his hit was a two-run triple off Jarlin Garcia that broke a 1-1 tie in the 3rd inning and sent the U.S. to a 10-1 win. He was named winner of the Larry Doby Award as the game's Most Valuable Player. He was then called up by the Cubs on July 17th, as they planned to have him share catching duties with veterans Taylor Teagarden and David Ross after starter Miguel Montero was placed on the disabled list with a thumb injury suffered just before the All-Star break. In his first game as a starting catcher, on July 17th, he went 3 for 4 with a double, then on July 21st, he had the first multi-homer game of his career when he connected twice, a two-run shot in the 9th and a game-winning blast off Nate Adcock in the 13th to give the Cubs a 5-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds. In a statistical quirk, his first 18 major league hits came in road games before he hit a single at Wrigley Field on July 26th. His arrival seemed to coincide with the Cubs catching fire. He was at the center of things when the Cubs won 13 of 14 games in late July and early August, including another two-homer game on August 13th, when he drove in 4 runs in a 9-2 beat-down of the Milwaukee Brewers. He finished the season with a .246 average, but with 16 homers and 43 RBIs in only 69 games. He started the Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in right field and batting second and was one of the offensive heroes, driving in Dexter Fowler from second base in the 1st, then homering against Gerrit Cole with Fowler again on base in the 3rd inning as the Cubs ended up 4-0 winners. He continued to hit well in the NLDS, going 5-for-10 with a pair of homers as the Cubs upset the St. Louis Cardinals. He was limited to two hits when the Cubs were swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS, but both of these were long balls as he secured his place as one of the brightest young stars in the game.

On April 7, 2016, he was injured in an outfield collision with Dexter Fowler, as both players were trying to catch a ball off the bat of Jean Segura of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The ball fell between them for an inside-the-park homer and he had to be carted off the field. At first, the Cubs thought they had escaped the worst, as x-rays indicated that there was no ankle fracture, but an MRI the next day showed that Schwarber had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, putting him out for the season. He had only played two games, going 0 for 4, before the injury. In a surprise move, however, Schwarber was able to play a couple of games in the Arizona Fall League that October, and given the Cubs had made it to the World Series, facing the Cleveland Indians, he was eligible to be added to the roster for the Fall Classic. He was inserted at DH for Game 1, played in Cleveland, and hit a solid double to the wall in his second at-bat. He then drove in a pair of runs in Game 2, proving he had not lost a step. He went 7 for 17 in the series, with 1 double, 2 runs and 2 RBIs, making a major contribution to the Cubs' first championship since 1908.

Schwarber began the 2017 season as the Cubs' lead-off hitter and starting left fielder, but he struggled to maintain a decent batting average. He was only at .165 at the end of May while the Cubs were playing below .500. On June 3rd, he had been moved to the 9th spot of the order when he hit his first career grand slam, off Mike Leake of the St. Louis Cardinals, giving the Cubs a 5-3 win. It was just a temporary blip, though, as on June 21st, he was still hitting only .171 with an OBP below .300 and slugging percentage of .328 in spite of 12 homers and 28 RBIs. That is when the Cubs decided to send him down to AAA. His confidence-boosting trip to Iowa resulted in his hitting .343 in 11 games, with 4 home runs and 9 RBIs. There was little point in letting him destroy AAA pitching much longer and on July 7th, he was called back to Chicago. He hit a lot better over the second half - .253 with 17 homers - to finish at .211 with 30 homers and 59 RBIs in 129 games. He did not do much in the postseason either, going 3 for 17 with 1 homer and 1 RBI as the Cubs lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the NLCS stage.

In 2018, Schwarber was a lot more consistent, playing 137 games and hitting .238 with 26 homers and 61 RBIs. His OPS+ was a solid 117. He was exclusively a left-fielder by that point but did not start the Wild Card Game against the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field on October 2nd. He came in as a pinch-hitter for P Pedro Strop in the bottom of the 9th inning with one on and one out and the score tied a 1-all, but he struck out against former teammate Wade Davis. The Cubs eventually lost the game, 1-1, in 13 innings. He was back as the Cubs' regular left-fielder in 2019 and on July 28th had a tremendous day against the Milwaukee Brewers, hitting a three-run homer and a grand slam to lead Chicago to an 11-3 win. The grand slam ball traveled 473 feet, making the longest four-run homer of the statcast era.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Carrie Muskat: "Schwar, what is he good for? Cubs have ideas: Team's No. 1 Draft pick in 2014 projected to catch, play OF", mlb.com, January 26, 2016. [1]
  • Carrie Muskat: "Schwarber to get time behind plate this spring", mlb.com, February 15, 2017. [2]
  • Carrie Muskat: "Fitness, cooking crux of Schwarber's offseason: Cubs slugger making a 'lifestyle change' ahead of 2018 season", mlb.com, January 10, 2018. [3]
  • Bob Nightengale: "New kid on the block: Kyle Schwarber puts jolt into Cubs offense", USA Today Sports, August 13, 2015. [4]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Kyle Schwarber becoming a Cubs legend in World Series", USA Today Sports, October 27, 2016. [5]
  • Mike Petriello: "Schwarber's future shows many possible paths", mlb.com, February 2, 2018. [6]
  • Joe Posnanski: "Cubs' belief in Schwarber could pay off big: After rough 2017, slugger retooled swing, body during offseason", mlb.com, March 20, 2018. [7]

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