Cougars Insider: Versatile Kyle Schwarber off to another strong start

Kane County catcher Kyle  Schwarber hit his first home run for the Cougars last Friday in his second game playing for the team.  | Donnell Collins/For Sun-Times Media
Kane County catcher Kyle Schwarber hit his first home run for the Cougars last Friday in his second game playing for the team. | Donnell Collins/For Sun-Times Media

The start of Kyle Schwarber’s career in the Cubs organization has been a three-week whirlwind, but that’s exactly the way he wanted it.

He signed quickly for a price below the recommended slot value for the No. 4 overall draft pick, which in turn allowed the Cubs to draft some players later in the draft that many teams felt were unsignable.

He has promptly gotten a hit in every one of his nine professional games, the first five coming at short-season Class A Boise and the last four for the Cougars. He hit five home runs in that span.

“I was really excited about being able to sign quickly and start playing baseball,” Schwarber said. “I wanted to make it quick because baseball is my life and that’s what I want to do. I really wanted to make an emphasis on starting early and getting some experience.”

Many experts believe that Schwarber will not be able to stay behind the plate defensively, assuming that left field will be his eventual position, an opinion shared by a scout from another major-league team on Sunday.

So far as a pro, Schwarber has rotated between catcher, left field and DH to help him get as many at-bats as possible.

But Cougars manager Mark Johnson, an eight-year MLB veteran at catcher, sees his potential behind the plate.

“I’m very excited to work with him,” Johnson said. “Me and (Cubs field/catching coordinator Tim Cossins) saw him in spring training (when Schwarber was still playing at Indiana) and we both thought there was something there to work with [as a catcher].

“He’s not going to just get thrown into left field and just use his bat. He’s a good athlete and he can move around. I think he’s going to be more versatile than people make him out to be.”

Regardless of where he winds up defensively, it’s his bat that has turned him into a folk hero in his short professional career.

He went 12-for-20 with four home runs in five games in Boise, prompting his swift call-up to Kane County. He is 5-for-12 with the Cougars, including a home run to dead center that cleared the batter’s eye on Friday.

Growing up in Middletown, Ohio, as a Reds fan, Schwarber said that he sees a lot of Joey Votto’s approach in his own style. Schwarber focuses on hitting the ball up the middle and being patient, much like Votto.

“I’d like to take that approach from him,” Schwarber said. “He prides himself on getting his pitch, and that’s what I pride myself in too.”

Schwarber joins a Cougars team that is off to a historic start to the season, 48-26 with the Midwest League Western Division first-half title in hand.

The Cougars did that without much in the way of power. Johnson joked that Cubs prospect Kris Bryant had more home runs than his entire team — the tally now stands at Cougars 28, Bryant 26.

And the team’s makeup changes with Schwarber around.

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