Cubs see something big in Schwarber

CHICAGO -- The naysayers will definitely be out when it comes to the Chicago Cubs' early-round draft picks. But their first-round pick, catcher Kyle Schwarber from Indiana, and second-round pick, pitcher Jake Stinnett from Maryland, might be the most easily signable top two picks for any team in baseball.

This means the Cubs can save some money and potentially use it elsewhere. And when director of scouting Jason McLeod declares Schwarber the "best hitter -- hands down -- in this year's draft," those are hard words to ignore.

Maybe the Cubs think they took the left-handed version of Kris Bryant, their up-and-coming slugger who went No. 2 overall last season. As much as pitching wins games, there's still a price for power these days.

"It lines up perfectly because he is hitting from the left side, and we don't have many of those players," McLeod said Thursday. "We feel this is an impact bat that can hit in the middle of the order."

That makes sense, but the question remains whether Schwarber is really as good as McLeod believes. McLeod flatly said his team would have taken Schwarber ahead of pitchers Carlos Rodon and Tyler Kolek. However, Rodon could be fast-tracked to the majors for the White Sox, while it's the Cubs who are desperate for pitching, which makes it hard to believe they would have bypassed Rodon for Schwarber.

But Bryant gives the Cubs some currency: They claimed he was the best hitter in the draft, and he's proving as much in the minors this season. Gaining the two best hitters in the draft in back-to-back years can only be a good thing -- whether for production at Wrigley Field or for use in trades down the line, presumably for some pitching.

Maybe that's the way the Cubs are going about their rebuild. McLeod said that picking as high as they have lately demands taking impact players. That said, he admitted they were "enamored" with high school lefty Brady Aiken, who went No. 1 to the Houston Astros, so pitching was on their minds, but after Aiken it was all about Schwarber.

"Everything came back [to] just what type of person he is," McLeod said. "That's the type of people we're trying to bring into the organization."

The same could be said about other hitters in the draft, such as Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto, on whom the Cubs passed. The bottom line is almost no one had Schwarber rated this high. He isn't the sure thing Bryant looked to be, but the Cubs get the benefit of the doubt because of their seemingly brilliant choice of Bryant over a pitcher in last year's draft.

The problem might be where Schwarber plays. More than one scouting report said first base might be his best option, as it's doubtful he'll remain at catcher. If he does stay, he becomes a valuable commodity; hitting catchers are hard to find. Otherwise, he'll move to left field, where he doesn't project to be one of the better players defensively.

But, as McLeod said, the Cubs drafted him for his bat. If he hits, they'll find a place for him and prove the naysayers wrong.