In one year, the perception of Kyle Schwarber has changed so much that he’s gone from a reach at the No. 4 overall pick to someone who might help the Cubs as soon as this season.
But it doesn’t sound like you’ll see Schwarber in the lineup as the designated hitter on Tuesday night at Comerica Park, where the Cubs will open a two-game interleague series against the Detroit Tigers.
“There’s been no discussion other than the draft over this past week,” said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president who runs scouting and player development. “That’s all I can say.”
McLeod joined the conference call on Monday night to discuss Ian Happ, the University of Cincinnati outfielder/second baseman the Cubs selected with the No. 9 overall pick, continuing a first-round run on polished college hitters that includes Kris Bryant (2013) and Schwarber (2014).
Bryant is a leading candidate to become the National League’s Rookie of the Year, while Schwarber is killing it at Double-A Tennessee, hitting .324 with 12 homers, 37 RBIs and a 1.024 OPS.
Looking ahead to this stretch of seven games in 13 days in American League stadiums, Joe Maddon wouldn’t rule out the idea of promoting Schwarber for this “perfect window of opportunity.”
The Cubs manager wanted to discuss all options with Theo Epstein’s front office, and Schwarber would be a big left-handed bat already looking like a potential September call-up.
McLeod knows the Chicago media jumped on that story. It’s interesting to compare that buzz to the national skepticism that surrounded the Indiana University catcher/outfielder at this time last year, wondering if Schwarber would really stick behind the plate.
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“It goes back to us trusting our evaluations,” McLeod said. “Obviously, Kris Bryant’s been very good, and Kyle’s been very good. We’ve used the same process going into the draft this year.
“(Kyle’s) off to a great start. All we want him to do is focus on what he’s doing in Tennessee.”
The Cubs made a below-slot deal with Schwarber, giving him a $3.125 million signing bonus and creating more financial flexibility to acquire pitching later in the draft.
McLeod pointed to a recent highlight on MiLB.com, showing Schwarber throw out Byron Buxton, a mega-prospect for the Minnesota Twins.
“It’s funny,” McLeod said. “After that clip went up, I had a lot of writers who were doubting him last year (with) the pick tell me: ‘OK, we were wrong.’ So that always feels good. But right now, the focus is just Kyle being in Tennessee and continuing to improve. And we’ll see what happens down the road.”