Scouting Kyle Schwarber’s Arizona Fall League Appearance

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.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

newest oldest most voted
RyanL
Member
RyanL

I keep seeing this idea that Schwarber will be able to be a better offensive contributor than Coghlan or Soler. While I don’t disagree, I feel like the Cubs FO would just be setting themselves up for a bad situation. If Coghlan or Soler strikes out in an important situation that costs them the game, it’s baseball, and stuff like that happens. But if Schwarber strikes out in an important situation, it’s all the FO’s fault.

I guess I just think the FO is putting themselves at unnecessary risk of criticism. Unless Schwarber is just murdering baseballs in AFL why open yourself up to that risk?

Not trying to rock any boats, I just don’t think that is a road I’d want to go down if I were in their position.

Sonny L
Member
Member
Sonny L

This might be more of an issue of either Soler or Coghlan had a recent history of success. Also I can’t imagine any FO making World Series roster decisions with PR in mind…well the Red Sox, but no team who cares more about the games than the ‘TV show’

JediHoyer
Member
JediHoyer

Coghlan hit a rope off jansen that Turner made a diving catch on. Don’t have statcast data but I would venture a guess it was the hardest hit ball off him all postseason. Both he and soler had 128 Wrc+ since the all star break f.y.I. postseason not included.

typhill
Member
typhill

Is there anyone in that fanbase that wouldn’t want Schwarber back? I don’t see the downside, if anything I’d argue the opposite of your point. Everyone knows Schwarber is a better hitter than those guys, so if they mess up in a big moment it becomes “why are they even hitting when we could have had schwarber”. I doubt there’s any backlash unless he clearly doesn’t look ready to come back, and the cubs wouldn’t bring him back if he didn’t at least appear ready to hit.

RonnieDobbs
Member
RonnieDobbs

For the Cubs, this decision is not about the fanbase. He sounds like he would have the impact of adding Billy Butler to the roster. A liability in all facets of the game except maybe one pinch hitting at bat, which is anything but a guaranteed success considering his health.

AlabamaShake
Member
AlabamaShake

Ronnie – Did you forget that there is a DH in at least 2 and maybe 4 games?

RonnieDobbs
Member
RonnieDobbs

He can’t run. Is that really a guy that you want out there? You might have to immediately burn another bench guy as a runner if he gets on base. For me, that is not really what I would want out there. He could be good for a pinch hit late in a game.

In any case, we will see him for sure given recent news! I hope he is healthy enough to contribute, but it is not a given.

swingofthings
Member
swingofthings

Schwarber is expected to DH

output gap
Member
Member
output gap

The Indians had two lefties on their ALCS roster. Sure, one is Andrew Miller. But it’s not hard to imagine Schwarber being better than Soler vs the righties.

Brians Sticky Sock
Member
Brians Sticky Sock

This front office doesn’t care about criticism because it doesn’t mean anything. They make the best baseball move and they’re right more often that they’re wrong.