PHOENIX – Joe Maddon didn’t hesitate when asked if Kyle Schwarber can help the Cubs this season.
It’s been less than a calendar year since the Cubs drafted the Indiana University catcher/outfielder with the No. 4 overall pick, but Schwarber is killing it at Double-A Tennessee after dominating three different levels last season.
“Yeah,” Maddon said three times. “He’s a very, very mature at-bat, and he’s doing better behind the plate, too, from what I understand.
“You ask him, he’ll tell you he can. And that’s a big part of it, too. He’s really confident.”
This came up during the manager’s pregame media session on Sunday at Chase Field, seeing how the Cubs are positioned for the future and looking ahead to a six-game homestand against the Washington Nationals and their dominant rotation and the Kansas City Royals and their lockdown bullpen.
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At a time when seemingly every new advancement favors pitching and defense, and 97-mph relievers are standard items, Theo Epstein’s front office keeps collecting big bats, trying to build an overwhelming lineup for Wrigley Field.
Schwarber is getting on base 43 percent of the time with Tennessee, generating 10 homers and 26 RBI with a 1.030 OPS through 39 games.
“He’s definitely, definitely got the hitting chip,” Maddon said. “Every time I look up at the scoreboard at home, it’s like: Schwarber went 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs. Even if it’s 1-for-5, it’s like a game-winning RBI.”
At the age of 22, Schwarber is older than Addison Russell and only 14 months younger than Kris Bryant, and the Cubs have already fast-tracked those infielders into everyday players.
Schwarber grew up outside Cincinnati and could have played Division I football as an All-Ohio linebacker coming out of Middletown High School. Cubs officials love his energy and intensity and hope his athleticism and enthusiasm will allow him to stay behind the plate.
“That’s a work in progress as a catcher, but he’s getting better,” Maddon said.
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At the very least, Schwarber appears in line for a promotion to Triple-A Iowa this summer and a potential September call-up.
“It’s possible,” Maddon said. “Anything’s possible.”
A reporter asked: How about Schwarber being a left-handed bat off your bench in the playoffs?
“I’ll take it,” Maddon said with a smile.