Schwarber joins surging Almora at Daytona

GENEVA, Ill. -- On Monday afternoon, Kyle Schwarber, the Chicago Cubs' first-round pick in June, was talking about just getting comfortable in his new surroundings not too far from Wrigley Field.

"Being at Indiana and losing on a walk-off in the [NCAA] regionals," Schwarber said after Single-A Kane County lost to Beloit 3-2, "then four days later being drafted by the Cubs, then going out to Chicago two days after that to get a physical done and the next day fly out to Boise and spend five days there. Now I'm finally trying to settle down. It's been great, and I love it."

About three hours later, Schwarber got a phone call to start packing again. The Cubs promoted him from low Class A to high Class A in Daytona. There he'll join Albert Almora, one day after the Cubs' 2012 first-round pick hit for the cycle in a 5-for-7 performance.

Schwarber hasn't done that yet, but he has done just about everything else at the plate since being drafted in June. He batted .361 with a .448 on-base percentage, four home runs and 15 RBIs in just 23 games at Kane County. That's not unlike the immediate success of 2013 first-round pick Kris Bryant after he was taken No. 2 overall. The difference is Schwarber has a head start on his career as he signed a contract -- and started playing -- immediately after being drafted. Bryant nearly waited until a mid-July deadline.

"I'm getting a little taste of it right now," Schwarber said. "It's great to play every day. I'm thankful to the Cubs for giving me a chance to get to my ultimate goal, playing professional ball at the highest point."

He got one step closer Monday, which was one of his worst days as a pro. Schwarber went 0-for-4 against Beloit. Watching him at the plate, you wouldn't know he was the fourth overall choice in the amateur draft. But that was just one day.

"It happens," he said. "O-fers are going to happen. I have to realize that. Can't be too negative on yourself because that will hurt you sometimes. ... It's a little bit rougher on me because I pride myself on my hitting. But this is a new ballgame here."

Schwarber didn't mention many specific differences between college and the pros. Maybe that's why he's hitting a combined .408 between his time in the Midwest League at Boise and Kane County.

The Cubs believed he "was ready for the competition in the Florida State League," according to one official. The biggest remaining question is about his defense: Where will he play long term?

"I love catching," Schwarber said. "If they want me to do something else, [that's fine]. Right now it sounds like I'm going to get a lot of reps at catcher."

At Kane County, he played nine games at catcher, eight in the outfield and was the designated hitter for six. In other words, it's still not determined where he fits in and won't be until at least this offseason. The Cubs have said a decision will be made at that point, but Schwarber is aware a good hitting catcher is a nice commodity to have at the major league level.

"I realize that, and I want to get better defensively," he said. "But the outfield isn't foreign to me."

Maybe the biggest surprise for Schwarber so far is how his teammates have treated him. It isn't always easy being the new guy in town, let alone one who is an instant millionaire the moment he's drafted.

"I thought it was going to be a lot different," he said, "being the new guy and especially being picked first. It could have been a different story for everyone."

He won't have the problem of being the only first-round pick on the team anymore, as Almora has been just as highly touted since being taken sixth overall in 2012. Schwarber and Almora have been described as potential future leaders due to their personality (Schwarber) and high baseball IQ (Almora). Now they'll play together.

Almora started out slow this season as the Cubs asked him to do a little more at the plate -- much like they asked Starlin Castro last season. Once Almora settled back in, the numbers have gone in the right direction. He is batting .383 in July and has doubled his season home run total with three homers this month.

Schwarber has kept track of it all from a distance. Now he'll get a closer look. Asked how much he keeps up with the other top picks and promotions within the organization, including Arismendy Alcantara's recent rise to the big leagues, Schwarber said: "They're being good role models for all of us. Shows what hard work does."