Cubs pick Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber in first round
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter June 5, 2014 6:49PM
Updated: June 5, 2014 10:28PM
The Cubs got the kind of left-handed power hitter the organization lacks when they selected Indiana’s Kyle Schwarber with the No. 4 overall pick in the first round of the amateur draft Thursday night.
At least as important, they got him for the right price.
Once the consensus top three pitchers in the draft went off the board — including the Cubs’ top-rated player, left-hander Brady Aiken — the team went to their alternate plan of selecting a hitter willing to sign for less than the $4.6 million allotted for the No. 4 pick.
The Cubs will use the money saved to make more aggressive selections as the three-day draft continues Friday.
“Certainly, you do your due diligence, talking about signability and getting an idea of what they’re looking for and what you’re hopeful to get a player to sign for,” said Jason McLeod, vice president of scouting and player development.
“We expect this to be a very quick process and getting him out and playing in the organization. And there’s a good chance we’ll get to spend some money elsewhere.”
Schwarber, who said he learned of the Cubs’ possible interest just this week, wouldn’t offer a timeline for signing during a conference call Thursday night.
“Right now I’m really embracing the moment,” he said. “That’s what Theo [Epstein] told me to do, Embrace the moment and take your time.’’’
McLeod said the Cubs were “enamored” with Aiken, the California high school pitcher taken first overall by Houston. “But Kyle was No. 2,” he said.
Most draft analysts projected the 6-0, 240-pound Schwarber as closer to a middle to lower first-round pick. And insiders say there was significant debate over several players in the final hours leading up to the draft. GM Jed Hoyer said one such meeting Wednesday lasted three hours.
But Schwarber, 21, is a mature, athletic, powerful hitter that fills a need in the organization as a lefty hitter.
“We felt Kyle was the best hitter, hands-down, in this year’s draft,” McLeod said. “He really does everything that we like from an offensive standpoint, from controlling the strike zone to hitting for average and hitting for power. And he has makeup off the charts.”
McLeod projects him as a middle-of-the-order hitter. Where he plays in the field is less clear.
A catcher in college, his defensive skills are not rated nearly as high, and he could wind up in left field. But McLeod said a move like that won’t be made immediately.
“He certainly has the mentality and the makeup to [catch],” McLeod said. “We’ll let that play out. We feel he’s a really good, underrated athlete that could certainly move to an outfield position in the corner. His bat is really, obviously, why we drafted him.”
Said Schwarber: “I really have a passion for catching. But whatever the Cubs are wanting me to do is what I’ll do.”
He was an all-state linebacker at Middletown (Ohio) High School and was recruited by some Big Ten schools.
Schwarber, who hit .366 with 18 home runs (third in the nation) for Indiana as a junior, is expected to start his career with short-season Class A Boise after he signs and could get promoted before the end of the season depending on how he performs.
“It’s just been an awesome last couple days,” said Schwarber, whose first trip to Wrigley Field came as a member of USA Baseball’s national college team last summer. “I fell in love with the place right away.”
Cubs select Maryland RHP with 2nd-round pick
In the second round, the Cubs took another likely discount player with the No. 45 pick Thursday night in University of Maryland senior Jake Stinnett. A 6-4, 215-pound, power right-hander who opened the season as Maryland’s closer, moved into the rotation before the end of the season.