Updated: Oct 11, 2020
On Mondays, we talk about Minor League Baseball. With the cancellation of the Minor League Baseball season, we are reviewing the development of Cubs players, as they matured through the farm system.
Kyle Schwarber was a first round pick and a big time prospect. He was a solid college hitter, and considered to be a safe bat-first pick. He was drafted in 2014, right after college and played a half season of A ball. He was immediately a high ranked prospect, coming in at 19th (Baseball America), 49th MLB, and 77th Baseball Prospectus.
2015 was a meteoric rise for Schwarber. He started in AA, and mashed. Then went to AAA for 17 games, also mashing there. As the Cubs were in a division race, he was called up June 16th, just a year after being drafted.
Here's a look at the raw numbers:
Schwarber's development was a little uneven. He basically has a full season's worth of games at the minor league level, but scattered across 3 years. There were the two half years in '14 and '15. Then there was the injury in 2016, which was a lost year. Kyle struggled in 2017, and was sent back down for adjustments.
Schwarber's always been a solid hitter. He showed unreal power at the minor league level (.619 SLG), which translated to a lesser degree in the bigs (.488). In the minors, Schwarber was an on base machine with a .334 BA and .432 OBP. That hasn't quite translated at the big league level, with a .235 BA and .339 OBP, nearly 10% worse.
After nearly 2000 big league plate appearances, Schwarber strikes out 28% of the time. In the minors, that was 21.2%. Walk rates are similar 12.9% to 14.4%. Schwarber's always known how to take walks, but the lack of extra contact has had his MLB numbers lagging a bit.
That did start to change last year, as Schwarber hit for a career high .250 batting average. Not that a batting average determines all, but it led to a career high .871 OPS. In what was basically his 3rd full big league season, Schwarber hit his stride and became a 120 RC+ player. That 120RC+ was 52nd in all of baseball. He became a middle of the order hitter on nearly any team in the majors.
Schwarber is playing in his age 27 season. If he can continue to reduce strikeouts and keep upping his contact, we will be in great company. Could Schwarber have 140RC+ in him? Perhaps!