It was about this time last year when "The Legend of Kyle Schwarber" really started to pick up steam.

Schwarber was hot off the heels of setting the Cubs franchise mark with five postseason homers — including a monster shot onto the top of the right-field video board — and kicked off spring training by smashing a fan's windshield with another blast during batting practice.

A year ago, it seemed hard to believe Schwarber's legend could grow.

But, of course, it did.

Schwarber's return to the Cubs' lineup in the World Series last fall after six months off seemed more like something out of a Disney movie than real life.

"What Schwarber did is the stuff of legend," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said, before calling the slugger "superhuman" in the next breath during a session at Cubs Convention.

"As much as we even talk about it," Cubs VP of player development and scouting Jason McLeod said, "it might even be years from now until we can fully even appreciate it."

So what will Schwarber do for his encore in 2017?

For starters, he's ready to become the "fastest leadoff man in the league," (which he promptly followed with a fart noise to convey the sarcasm).

With Dexter Fowler now wearing Cardinal red, Joe Maddon is looking for a new "you go, we go" leadoff man and has thrown Schwarber's name into the ring this winter.


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Schwarber is not what anybody would think of as a "typical" leadoff man — he only has 10 steals in 232 career professional games (including playoffs) — but he does have a .353 career on-base percentage in the big leagues and a .429 mark in the minors.

"Whatever works, man," he said. "I just want to play. It's just another spot in the lineup.

"It doesn't change my approach at all. I'm gonna take it the same way every time."

Schwarber has started just two big-league games in the leadoff spot, spending almost all of his time in the two-hole (51 games).

But while Schwarber isn't a traditional leadoff hitter, don't count out his extreme competitiveness. Even after missing six months with a devastating knee injury and still not cleared to even play the outfield, Schwarber stole second base in the World Series and tried to stretch a single into a double.

He was still rehabbing that knee over the winter and admitted he doesn't know what the future holds for him defensively. He's always been outspoken about his desire to catch, but he also understands that already-difficult path just got even tougher when he shredded his knee in Arizona last April.

"We'll see. It's a daily process and whatever they want me to do, I'll do," he said. "I want to catch, obviously, but given the circumstances, you gotta be able to be flexible and work with some things. 

"I want to do it still. I'm not gonna give up on it. But if they want to go a different direction, I want to do what's best for the team."

Theo Epstein's front office feels a strong link with Schwarber and they understand he's not a typical case in any facet.

So nobody on the Cubs has ruled out Schwarber catching in 2017 or beyond. Not publicly, at least.

"Kyle is one of the most confident young men I've ever been around," McLeod said. "We've told the story in the past about how when Theo and I interviewed him in 2014 — February of that spring season — this kid comes up to the office in Mesa so confident, so comfortable in his abilities. It was unlike any interview that I've ever had with a player.

"And then doing what he did last year, it's freak of nature stuff. You can't be away for six months and step into the World Series against Cy Young caliber pitching and do what he did.

"... He's a very special player. He's a special person."