As Kyle Schwarber joins the Nationals for the 2021 MLB season, he's a name that Nationals fans may have heard plenty, but not really know a ton about.
He'll always be a part of Chicago baseball lore for his comeback from a torn ACL to help the Cubs win the 2016 World Series, but what do those in D.C. need to understand about their newest outfielder? NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan joined the Nationals Talk Podcast to fill everyone in.
Before even getting to the type of player Schwarber is, Kaplan had to touch on who he is as a person. Seeing his impact on the team and community in Chicago, Kaplan views him as one of the best guys around.
“As a clubhouse guy, he’s the best," Kaplan said. "You’re not going to find a better person than Kyle Schwarber.”
"He is accessible, he is honest. If the game goes well he’ll stand there and answer your questions. But if the game goes badly or he doesn’t play well, he’ll still stand there and answer your questions," Kaplan said. "No matter how tough things get he loves pressure. You saw him in the 2016 World Series."
Schwarber spent his years in Chicago giving back to the community and consistently being a positive force within the Cubs clubhouse. In Washington, that type of personality and culture was crucial for the Nationals run the World Series in 2019, meaning the outfielder will mesh well.
Now, when examining what he'll do on the field for the Nationals, Kaplan explained that it all begins with the bat. More specifically, the power the left-hander possesses.
“As a player, you’re going to get a guy that, he can break a game open with one swing, man," Kaplan said. "I don’t care how hard you’re throwing. He can take 100 miles per hour and hit it nine miles.”
Yet for as big as his home runs are, the misses loom just as big for Schwarber. That's where Kaplan sees this biggest downside. Consistent contact is not what Schwarber has demonstrated throughout his six-year career.
That has been evident in his batting average, a stat that Kaplan believes is important when it comes to Schwarber. He hit .250 in 2019 thanks to a strong second half but has also put up seasons of .211 and .238. In 2020, he hit just .188 and never found a groove.
So while the mammoth Schwar-bombs will be very fun to watch, Kaplan admits that fans could be scratching their heads at times wondering why that type of production isn't always there.
“For some reason, he has just not been as good as we had hoped in terms of a contact guy. Again, he can hit 45 bombs for you, he could strike out a bunch, there’s going to be times where he rolls over ground balls, you’ll be like ‘really, you couldn’t just hit it the other way?'" Kaplan said. "So that will be frustrating.”
As for his fielding, one of the biggest knocks on his game, Kaplan has seen the catcher-turned-outfielder work tirelessly at his craft. Mistakes are still made and he won't be Gold Glove-caliber guy, but he's more than capable of being a solid defender.
“As an outfielder, he works incredibly hard to be incredibly average," Kaplan said. "But he’s better than people give him credit for.”
All in all, the Nationals are getting a guy that will have his ups and downs on the field. The power will captivate, and the lack of contact will frustrate. Yet where Schwarber is most consistent is in his attitude. He'll show up each day ready to work and do what it takes to help the team win.
That will make him an easy player to root for.
"This is an awesome, awesome dude," Kaplan said.