Offensive catchers who aren’t a trainwreck behind the dish defensively are hard to come by. In fact, you could argue that there are only a handful that can hit while playing good defense and being a guy pitchers want to throw to. Kyle Schwarber has stated that he wants to continue working on his craft as a catcher. That’s great, in today’s game you can never have enough positions. I just wish he would find one before trying to maximize his talents at the most difficult and taxing position on the diamond.
I laughed in the face of anyone who said the Cubs should trade Kyle Schwarber because he’s a DH. You simply don’t trade that hitting talent before it even reaches its potential. However, the concerns about where Schwarber is going to play defensively are real. He lost an entire year of development in the outfield, though considering his poor play was the reason for his injury we can’t say he may have improved from 2015 to 2016. He needs a position, and the easiest position to play while not being the most athletically gifted besides first base is left field.
At some point players do become too slow to play the outfield which is why Schwarber’s shelf life at the position is shorter than most. The only way he’s going to become an average left fielder is through reps. Taking the correct angles and playing with a no-doubles mindset are things that can be learned and also prevent a player from costing their team wins. Learning to play left at Wrigley Field comes with it’s own unique challenges, whether it’s the wall deepening in the corner, the bullpen mounds or the godforsaken basket hanging over the wall. He’s only played 43 games in the outfield at this point in his career, so there’s no way he can master these challenges without getting reps at the position.
Schwarber saying he wants to continue to develop as catcher is fine, but right now that’s not where his focus should be. He needs to find a way into the lineup every day without giving Joe Maddon heart palpitations when the ball is hit his way. With first base occupied, he needs to focus his time and reps on left field. I don’t mind if he sprinkles in catching drills to remain in tune with his backstop mentality, but considering he’s already had a knee surgery I’d rather his future position be elsewhere. Or the MLB could stop being stupid and just make the DH a league-wide rule.