Throughout the off-season, we will highlight players and staff weekly who stopped through Iowa on their way to making history with the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs. Today, we take a look at Kyle Schwarber.
Kyle Schwarber, C/OF
Drafted: By the Chicago Cubs in the 1st round (4th) in the 2014 draft
MLB Debut: June 16, 2015
Iowa Cubs Career (2015): 17G, .333 (20-for-60), 7R, 7DBL, 1TRPL, 3HR, 10RBI, 7BB, 23K
Kyle Schwarber has donned a major league uniform in just 85 games - just over half of a big league regular season. When it is put into perspective, it's shocking what the 23-year-old has been able to accomplish on the main stage in such a short period of time. From his towering blast in the 2015 NLCS at Wrigley Field, to his miraculous recovery from knee surgery in 2016, Schwarber has been a delight to Cubs fans and teammates alike.
Drafted by the Cubs out of the University of Indiana fourth overall in the 2014 draft, Schwarber began his career with Advanced-A Daytona and never faltered with the leap in competition. The rookie suited up at all three Class-A Cubs' affiliates in 2014, hitting a combined .344 (90-for-262) with 18 home runs and 53 RBI in 72 games.
Schwarber made the jump to Double-A Tennessee in 2015 and still didn't bat an eye. Through June 15, the then-22 year old swatted .320 (63-for-197) with 13 long balls and 39 RBI. He added 42 walks compared to 49 strikeouts and managed a .438 on-base percentage. There was something special about this kid, and Chicago wasn't willing to wait any longer to see if the magic was real. One year and a half into his professional career, Schawarber made it to the main stage.
The Cubs No. 4 prospect (as rated by Baseball America) debuted on June 16 as a defensive replacement at Cleveland and was set down on strikes in his only at-bat. No harm done. He took his first start the following day as the designated hitter and exploded, going 4-for-5 with a triple - the fourth of his career - three runs and two RBI. The kid could hit.
He remained with the Cubs through June 21, going 8-for-22 with six RBI through his first eight games. On July 22, Schwarber was re-assigned to Iowa for the first time.
His dominance continued and through 17 games with the I-Cubs, Schwarber batted .320 (20-for-60) with 11 extra-base hits. On July 10, he boarded a plane back to Chicago for good.
His rookie campaign was laden with accolades. He became the sixth Cub since 1914 to notch six hits in his first two major league games and the first Cubs since at least 1914 to record a pair of four-hit games within his first 11 big league games. He was also the first Cub in history to power 16 homers within his first 52 career games. Schwarber ended the regular season with a .246 average (57-for-232) with 52 runs, 6 doubles, one triple, 16 homers and 43 RBI.
The Cubs went on to the postseason and Schwarber was a central piece of the thrill. Through nine postseason games, Schwarber swatted five home runs, including this unforgettable moon shot from Game 4 of the NLDS against St. Louis.
In total, he went 9-for-27 with eight RBI.
Schwarber opened the 2016 season on Chicago's Opening Day roster and was projected to spend most of his time in left field, while honing his catching skill under the veteran guidance of David Ross and Miguel Montero. Regrettably, his season was cut short after an outfield collision with Dexter Fowler in the second game of the season. Schwarber missed the entire regular season with torn ACL and LCL ligaments in his left knee, along with a severely sprained left ankle.
Though he was kept from the field for the remainder of the regular season, Schwarber worked tirelessly to get back to baseball. With hard mental and physical effort, he was cleared by doctors to begin swinging in October. On the 22nd, he joined the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall league for a rehab assignment and went 1-for-6 with a double in two games. His timing couldn't have been better. Entering the World Series, the Cubs needed a reliable bat to DH against Cleveland. Schwarber was the perfect fit.
Skepticism surrounded Schwarber's return. Was it too soon? Could he perform on the biggest stage after missing the entire season? His bat did all the talking. Schwarber doubled to right in his second at-bat in Game 1. In five postseason games, he went 7-for-17 with three of the hits coming in Game 7. "The Hulk" was back.
Following the World Series victory, Schwarber continued to rehab as he worked toward clearance to play defense. Though he still keeps a close watch on his left knee, he entered spring with full health.
Now, four days shy of his 24th birthday, the hero of Cubs' October enters just his fourth professional season in 2017. He is anticipated to take on left field duties in Chicago, while working in behind the dish as well.