As I write this we are still awaiting an update on the results from Kyle’s MRI. I’d like to start by stating that our concern lies completely with Kyle Schwarber on a personal level. Understanding and trying to somehow empathize with him is what is most important here. He, as a person and player, must be going through a lot right now. He’s a competitive guy who really wants to be a part of this team. And, for him as a baseball player, that’s easy to understand. We can see it already, just three games in, that this is a special team with incredible potential. It’s why we predicted this team would win 105 games, it’s why other baseball players were literally lining up, foregoing bigger contracts elsewhere, to play for this team. Kyle wants to play for this team and that is what is most important.
The current word on Kyle is that there is more concern over the knee than the ankle. If it is the knee the biggest risk is an ACL or MCL tear. We just don’t know yet but will provide an update as soon as we hear. We have heard he’s heading to the DL.
No update yet on #Cubs Schwarber but he is headed for DL.
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) April 8, 2016
The positive for the Cubs, if there is one, is their depth and flexibility of their position players. There are a lot of options.
One obvious option, which is likely to happen immediately, is putting Jorge Soler or Matt Szczur in left field. Robbie Ray is pitching tonight for the Diamondbacks and he’s a lefty, so I expect to see either Jorge or Matt in the lineup tonight.
The next step is looking at what is best over a longer term, depending on how long Kyle is out. There are a number of really good options here too. While Javier Baez is on the disabled list (DL) it will open up the likelihood that the Cubs could call up one of several guys from the minors, assuming Kyle ends up on the DL as well. It’s not know when Javier will return. The consensus seems to be soon but Joe feels that Javier needs more time by taking it slow and getting more at-bats. Joe may not necessarily still believe that.
In any situation, there’s no question that Tommy La Stella and Matt Szczur stay on the big league team. That’s an ongoing assumption I’m making.
Option #1 – Bryant and/or Zobrist play more outfield
If the Cubs want to use Kris Bryant and/or Ben Zobrist more in left field, that would be a scenario where they’d bring up another infielder to cover for them. The obvious call-up options, such as Munenori Kawasaki or perhaps Kris Negron, with Kawasaki likely being the choice, would be good moves and Munenori is a left-handed bat to replace the loss of Schwarber’s left-handed bat, albeit with far less power.
A more provocative call would be to bring up Jeimer Candelario. He’d jump from AA to the majors but I honestly believe this is a perfect time to get Jeimer up to the majors so he can get some quality playing time early in the season. He proved his potential in 2015 A/AA play hitting .277/.339/.431 and this spring he hit .350/.381/.675. So the guy can swing a bat and he’s at least an average defensive player, if not better. You could argue this move is too early but I’d counter by saying that experience at the big-league level will help both him and the club a lot in the long term. Oh, not to mention he’s a switch hitter which adds flexibility for Joe with the line-up.
Option #2 – Call up an outfielder from minors
Another option is to bring up an outfielder and keep Bryant at third base. My top two picks under this scenario are John Andreoli or Albert Almora. Neither of these guys have been to the majors and both of them have shown their potential, similar to Jeimer, at the minor league level and in spring training.
Almora is a natural center fielder but you should be able to shift him to left field or at least get him in the outfield mix. His offense has been what is holding him back but last year at AA Tennessee he hit .272/.327/.400 but with little power adding just six home runs.
John Andreoli looked good last year at AAA Iowa where he hit .277/.372/.401 and five home runs. He also looked fantastic this spring going .270/.341/.649 with four home runs (and yes, we all realize small sample sizes, spring training isn’t supposed to matter, etc.). It was encouraging to see him hit for a little more power in the spring, so there’s a chance he could translate that to major league power but I wouldn’t bank on it.
The down-side to bringing up either Almora or Andreoli is that both are right-handed batters and, after losing Schwarber, you’d like to insert another left-handed bat back into the lineup.
Those are the options as we see it. We’d like to see Jeimer come up but believe that’s a much less likely scenario than bringing up Munenori Kawasaki. We’ll let you know as soon as we find out more.