The Cubs are making another bold, aggressive move, promoting top prospect Kyle Schwarber from Double-A Tennessee for what amounts to a crash course in The Show.
Schwarber will join the team on Tuesday at Wrigley Field, though the 22-year-old catcher won’t start against the Cleveland Indians. The Cubs will then need a designated hitter for five road games against the Indians and Minnesota Twins, and Schwarber is a huge left-handed bat with 31 homers and a 1.043 OPS through 129 career games at four different minor-league affiliates.
The plan is for Schwarber to join Triple-A Iowa after this weekend’s interleague series in Minnesota, but the experience should set him up to at least be a September call-up, if not a contributor during a pennant race.
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It’s been a meteoric rise for Schwarber, last year’s No. 4 overall pick out of Indiana University. He had been hitting .318 with 13 homers and 39 RBI through 57 games at Tennessee.
“Kyle has had a tremendous developmental year so far behind the plate, with the bat and as a leader,” team president Theo Epstein wrote in a prepared text message. “His next step is to continue his development as a catcher at Triple-A.
“First, however, he is going to join the major-league team for six days to contribute as a designated hitter, as a bat off the bench and as a third catcher.
“He will also use the time in the big leagues to experience first-hand all that goes into being a major-league catcher. Regardless of how this week goes, Kyle will head to Triple-A after Sunday’s game.”
Manager Joe Maddon wanted Schwarber in the conversation when the Cubs discussed their options for last week’s interleague series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, calling it “a perfect window of opportunity.”
The Cubs didn’t promote Schwarber at that point, and there are legitimate questions about whether he will stick at catcher or eventually move to left field.
But it can’t hurt being exposed to veteran catchers Miguel Montero and David Ross, the team’s scouting/video infrastructure and the speed of the game at this level. And Schwarber has kept that door open, showing enough improvement during offseason workouts and big-league camp.
“With all the work he’s done,” farm director Jaron Madison recently told The Des Moines Register, “we’re more certain than ever that he’s going to stay behind the plate long-term. We’re committed to that right now.”
In an entertaining season that has already seen the big-league debuts of mega-prospects Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, this news broke with a tweet from Daniel Vogelbach, the Tennessee first baseman and a Southern League All-Star:
Congrats to my bash brother @kschwarb12 on the call to the show. Gonna miss my boy but couldn't be more happy for a better dude. Go ball out
— Daniel Vogelbach (@DanielVogelbach) June 16, 2015