MIAMI — At some point this season, the Cubs think their farm system could give them another big bounce with Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez.
In theory, that could happen as soon as next week, when the Cubs will need a designated hitter for their two-game interleague series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The Cubs have also started looking ahead to those five consecutive road games against the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins (June 17-21).
“Of course, all those guys are options,” manager Joe Maddon said Monday at Marlins Park. “There’s no doubt. (But) I don’t know where we’re going to go yet.”
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Schwarber — the Indiana University catcher/outfielder the Cubs drafted No. 4 overall at this time last year — looks more like a September call-up than an immediate-impact player.
It would be out of character for Theo Epstein’s front office to rush Schwarber and have him skip Triple-A Iowa, even though he’s crushing pitching in the Southern League, where he’s getting on base 45 percent of the time.
Schwarber is hitting .327 with 12 homers, 31 RBIs and a 1.087 OPS through 45 games at Double-A Tennessee, numbers that compare favorably to Kris Bryant’s red-hot start last season, when he became the industry’s consensus minor league player of the year.
“That’s easy conjecture,” Maddon said. “We haven’t talked about Schwarber yet.
“We have some ideas and some thoughts. We’ll see how it plays.”
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Maddon got denied after lobbying hard for Baez to make the team out of spring training, calling him an elite infielder with a strong arm, good instincts and game-changing speed. There’s a feeling inside the organization that Baez could help strengthen the team’s up-the-middle defense.
Baez took an extended leave of absence in April to deal with the death of his younger sister, but he’s said to be in a better frame of mind now. He seems to be addressing those swing-and-miss issues, striking out 32 times in 30 games with Iowa while hitting .306 with five homers, 21 RBIs and an .876 OPS.
The Cubs will need to see the pitching matchups first and factor in the injury updates from projected bench players like Chris Denorfia (hamstring) and Tommy La Stella (oblique) and take into account what makes big-picture sense for Schwarber and Baez.
But this youth movement didn’t stop with Bryant’s “Welcome to The Show” Wrigleyville billboard or Addison Russell’s promotion in late April.
“Javy’s doing better,” Maddon said. “I hear a lot of really good things about him. That’s the beauty of what we got going on right now. There are different (guys). It’s not just this one shining light. You got several, so you try to make your best bet.”