Cubs News & Notes – 12/10/16: Schwarber Leads Off, Fowler “Cards Can Win World Series,” Heyward Working in Arizona

You have to admit, there have been an awful lot of surreal-type moments over the past month or so. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Donald Trump is the President-elect, and Dexter Fowler just signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Of the three, the only one I could’ve reasonably believed in March of last year was that the Cubs would win the World Series, and that hadn’t happened in 108 years. So, that tells you something about the unbelievability of the other two. And no, I won’t talk politics beyond simply noting the outcome of the election, which, for me, is already too much politicking.

  • With Dexter Fowler gone, the Cubs will need to determine who will fill his role in the lead-off spot. Joe Maddon notes that they may look no further than Kyle Schwarber. “Schwarber is not a bad name,” noted Maddon. “Kyle is not a bad name at all” (CSN). Fowler had an OPS of .840 – the second best of his career – in 2016, while Schwarber posted an OPS of .842 in his rookie year of 2015. It’s not at all inconceivable that Schwarber would lead off.
  • Another name to consider for the lead-off spot in the Cubs’ lineup – and one that may actually make more sense – is Ben Zobrist. His 2016 OPS was a sparkling .831 and while it’s believed that Maddon prefers Ben to bat fourth in the lineup, behind Anthony Rizzo as protection for him in the order, it’s entirely possible that Schwarber could bat in the fourth spot too. For a young player, Schwarber has excellent discipline at the plate, which will let Joe move him around the order. In 2015, he had a 13.2 BB%. Compare that to Zobrist who walks 15.2% of the time and it’s easy to see either Ben or Kyle batting lead-off. Expect Joe to play them both based on match-ups.
  • As I mentioned above, Dexter Fowler as a Cardinal seems like a bad dream, and yet it’s true. What’s also true is that he said he thinks the Cardinals can win the World Series in 2017. “I feel like this team has a chance to win a World Series,” Fowler said. “That was a big part in coming here, because winning is addictive” (Sun-Times).
  • I guess Fowler has to at least try to convince himself that the Cardinals can really win the World Series in 2017, right? Let’s not be fooled though, this move was about Dex getting that last big payday, the biggest of his career, before heading off into the sunset. Of course he’s going to say all the right things to the press, you wouldn’t expect him to say anything to the contrary. I mean, I guess every team technically has a chance to win the World Series.
  • It’s well known that Jason Heyward had a rough year at the plate in 2016. His .631 OPS was the worst of his career by nearly 100 points. If you think that’s the new norm for Heyward going forward then I have a bridge in New York City I want to sell you. Jason is going to improve, that much I’m sure of. He’s off to a good start, having bought a home in the Phoenix, Arizona area so he can spend the offseason working with Cubs’ hitting coach Eric Hinske on improving his swing (CBS Chicago). This is exactly the type of thing you’d expect to see from a leader like Heyward and it’s what will lead him to invariably boosting his offense next season, giving the Cubs one more weapon at the plate. Just what the rest of the league was hoping for, I’m sure.
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