Scouting Kyle Schwarber’s Arizona Fall League Appearance by Eric Longenhagen October 24, 2016 Hours before hell froze over in Chicago in Saturday, Kyle Schwarber was added to the Mesa Solar Sox taxi squad and immediately cast into action as the team’s designated hitter that night at Sloan Park in Mesa. His presence in the lineup was significant in a way that’s unusual for the Fall League. Most of the participants here are prospects benefiting from extra developmental time against reasonably advanced minor-league competition. Schwarber, on the other hand, is more or less auditioning for a a place on the Cubs’ World Series roster. When he stepped to the plate on Saturday, it represented his first place appearance in a professional game since suffering a knee injury on April 7. That injury was originally characterized as a “season-ending” one. But the Cubs’ season hasn’t ended yet, and Schwarber remains a candidate to contribute to it. Below are my thoughts on his performance. Schwarber went 0-for-3 with a walk, the 0 consisting of two weak ground outs to the right side and a well struck ball to the right-center-field gap that seemed destined for extra bases off the bat but was robbed by Rockies prospect Noel Cuevas. The least flattering aspect of Schwarber’s evening was his timing. He was out on his front foot against offspeed stuff a few times, which led to some of the evening’s weak contact and he missed a few other hittable pitches. Physically, Schwarber’s bat speed looked fine. His swing lacked explosion during the game, but he was putting a charge into the baseball during batting practice, and I think his in-game issues were probably more a result of ill timing than physical discomfort. If you have a tinfoil hat nearby, you can put it on and wonder if Schwarber was apt to get his weight forward onto his front foot so to avoid putting weight on the rear knee (which is the one in which he tore ligaments), but even when healthy Schwarber is often caught out on his front foot. One of the things that makes him special is his ability to adjust and use his strength and hand-eye coordination to make solid contact anyway. Schwarber didn’t run hard on either of his ground outs, nor on the ball he hit to the outfield (which you can see in the video above), but it doesn’t make sense for him to push his knee in exhibition and if he’s added to the Cubs roster it will be because he’s capable of hitting. After the game, he stood on the field and chatted with the media before walking to a golf cart beyond the outfield with a trainer. He then rode the cart to the Cubs offices, where this ensued. Nobody seems too concerned about that guy’s knee in that video. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think Schwarber is physically or technically back to 100%. That said, he took quality at-bats — despite some mediocre swings — and has quickly regained feel for the strike zone. I think most of the power is already back, he’ll just have to regain his feel for hitting to tap into it. Whether or not he will is difficult to say; I’ll be looking for progress on Monday afternoon when Schwarber is expected to be in Mesa’s lineup once again. I think he’d already probably give the Cubs better at-bats than either Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan have so far this postseason, to say nothing of the potential impact he could have if he finds his timing quickly.