In the year of the prospect, Kyle Schwarber's name is one that is mentioned with the biggest boppers that came up from the minors in 2015. The one caveat with the 22 year old is that he doesn't seem to have a defensive home on the diamond, and by many measures would be a liability in the field. Schwarber is currently slated to man left field for the Cubs, but may be stuck in a platoon with fellow phenom Jorge Soler, with recent addition Dexter Fowler taking over time in center and Jason Heyward manning right. Typically a player like Schwarber could be slotted at first base, or even potentially third with some work, but both of those spots are also taken, one by NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant, and the other by all-star Anthony Rizzo.
So what to do with the combination of Soler and Schwarber? The best approach may be to keep both of them and just enjoy the amount of depth permeating from the roster. Another option could be to move one of these players to shore up other areas on the roster, or to fill some gaps in the minor leagues. FanGraphs now ranks the Cubs' system 17th in baseball after the promotions of Addison Russell, Bryant and Schwarber last season, leaving them with two players in the top 100, according to Baseball America.
On a recent episode of the FanGraphs' podcast, they mentioned the possibility of a trade, and put the odds at 60/40 that Schwarber would be the one moved. Now, like most people, when I hear something like this I immediately think of how they could fit with certain teams (or the team you root for). With Schwarber it seems likely that if he were to be moved, an American League club would be willing to pay a higher premium to get his bat in their lineup without the consequences of his fielding to worry about. The Astros are certainly a team that would have some interest if he were to become available, too.
Last season Evan Gattis, 29, played in 153 games and hit .246 with a .285 on-base percentage, smacking 27 homers and driving in 88. In 69 games Schwarber hit 16 bombs and drove in 43, batting .243 with a .355 OBP in the process. With Schwarber, the Astros would get a boost in power production at those rates, and while his batting average was just a bit below that of Gattis, a 70 point swing in on-base percentage would be a big difference in the Houston lineup. Even after appearing in 84 fewer games, Schwarber tallied a 1.9 WAR, even with his poor defense, while Gattis was right at replacement level with a 0.0 WAR.
Schwarber is more prone to the strikeout, as most power hitters are, but his baserunning metric (BsR) was higher than Gattis' by a small margin, and base running could become a bigger facet of the Astros offense with small upgrades like this.
The problem here is that the 22 year old won't come cheap, and the general manager Jeff Luhnow would also have to move Gattis in another deal to clear space for Schwarber, but at least on paper this seems like a great fit.
- Be sure to listen to this week's Astros Turf podcast where we talk with Jayne Hansen of "What the Heck Bobby?" about the Astros farm system!