By Todd Johnson
Some call him “Babe Ruth.”
Some elicit “Schwarber Smash!”
Me, I don’t have a signature call. “Schwarber!” works just fine for me.
In 2016, Kyle Schwarber saw action in only two regular season games. Then, in a Roy Hobbs-like moment, he came on to DH in the World Series and reminded us of all we missed after those first two games. In five games, he hit .412 with a .500 OBP with 2 RBIs and a double.
In 2017, Schwarber will turn 24 and hopefully will begin a wonderful and healthy season out in left field for the Cubs. He still is rehabbing his knee in which he tore two ligaments. I think, for now, his catching career will be on hold due to that injury. Ideally, he could catch one pitcher per rotation, but that is up in the air for now.
In 2015, we caught a glimpse of what Schwaber “might” become. The vicious short stroke produced prodigious power. Even though his average during that regular season was not great at .246, a .355 OBP belied a better eye than average. While he did hit 16 HR in 69 games that season, it was the postseason where he hit 5 HRs in just 9 games that made him a legend. The 2016 World Series helped, too.
What lies ahead for 2017 is a bit uncertain.
I can only make a guess. It all depends on the strength of his knee.
I would like to seem him play 4-5 games a week getting rest once a series. Maybe, if that knee is strong, he gets a catching start. That’s a best case scenario.
He plays 4-5 games a week getting a rest once a series. He never picks up a catcher’s mitt all season long. So, in 120 games, he could rip out 30 HRs, 75-80 RBIs and I would be fine with that. I think most Cub fans would be, too.
Is that going to be sufficient?
I don’t really know if there’s a choice. We know the bat will be fine. The gingerly nature with which he ran in the World Series is still a major concern. But here’s the thing about that: That was in November and he will have had 3.5 more months of rehab when spring training begins. That’s a vast amount of work for him to put in. I know he is going to out-rehab anyone. That’s just in his nature.
I think he should be able to do the “realistically” version and I would be happy to see him out in left field 4-5 times a week. Sure, the “ideally” version of Schwarber would be great, but I don’t think the Cubs’ brass is going to risk that knee for catching once every five games. Who knows, the knee might be stronger than before. There are still over two months between now and spring training.