CHICAGO – Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Cubs' first-round pick, No. 4 overall, in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft.
The pick: Kyle Schwarber, catcher/outfielder, Indiana University, 6-foot, 240 pounds.
His stats: Schwarber hit 18 home runs in 2013 then followed that up with 14 in 2014 while hitting .358. His on-base percentage rose in each of his three years at Indiana, landing at .464 his junior season. He walked 44 times while striking out 30 his final year at Indiana. He registered a .992 fielding percentage and threw out 16 of 43 runners this past season.
His background: Schwarber, a native of Middletown, Ohio, was a second-team all-state linebacker his senior year in high school and led the Greater Miami conference in hitting with a .474 batting average.
ESPN draft guru Keith Law’s take: In a draft light on power-hitting bats -- particularly in terms of college prospects -- Schwarber might have the most raw power of any prospect in the class, showing plus-plus power to right field thanks to tremendous lower-body strength and strong wrists. He transfers his weight well and has the type of raw power that could produce 30-plus homer seasons if he's able to play every day. He shows good feel at the plate, and a willingness to work pitches and get on base via walk, but doesn't have elite bat speed, and there's a lot of swing-and-miss in his bat as well.
What it means: He could have a similar trajectory to the one Kris Bryant is on, as both were college juniors when drafted. That means time at rookie ball as well as Class-A later this summer. It’s yet to be determined if he’ll play outfield or catcher, though the Cubs need players at both positions.
“We feel he’s a really good, underrated athlete that could certainly move to an outfield position, in the corner,” Cubs director of scouting Jason McLeod said. “His bat is obviously why we drafted him.”
The decision: The Cubs claim Schwarber was No. 2 on their board after pitcher Brady Aiken, the left-hander who went first overall to Houston. That’s how highly they think of Schwarber’s bat.
“We felt Kyle was the best hitter -- hands down -- in this year’s draft,” McLeod said.
The Cubs are loading up on bats, especially with their high draft picks, as they can be game-changers. And the fact that he's lefty is a huge need, too.
“These last three years we’ve been picking so high,” McLeod said. “When you’re picking up that high in the draft, you have a chance to get a talented, impactful player. That was no different this year.”
Signability: McLeod made it clear that Schwarber shouldn’t be a tough signing and it would leave the Cubs with extra money to spend elsewhere in the draft. He was selected higher than most mock drafts indicated so the Cubs could get him at their price. Those selected right after him could get more.
“We expect this to be a very quick process and get him out and playing in the organization and spend some money elsewhere,” McLeod said.
Schwarber’s reaction: He was at a golf course with friends and family Thursday when he got the news. He said he realized in the past few days that the Cubs had serious interest in him when area scout Stan Zielinski reached out recently. Schwarber met with Cubs baseball operations president Theo Epstein in February during a college trip to Arizona.
“Right now, I’m really embracing the moment,” Schwarber said on a conference call. “The Cubs organization has a very rich history and I got a taste of it when we were there with Team USA this past summer. That was the first time I was at Wrigley. I fell in love with the place right away."
Schwarber said he loves to catch, but he’s open to a position change if the Cubs ask. Epstein told him to enjoy the moment -- and at the proper time they’ll talk about signing a contract.