Last month, former IU catcher/home run specialist Kyle Schwarber was taken fourth overall in the MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. Schwarber left IU one year early to pursue a pro career, and with his recent play in the minors, this decision seems to be paying off.
Schwarber was first placed out west, going to the Boise Hawks of the short-season single-A Northwest League. He wasted no time making an impact there, batting 12-for-20 with four home runs and a ridiculous 1.975 OPS in only five games with the Hawks. This performance was enough to fast-track Schwarber to the Kane County Cougars, the Cubs' single-A affiliate based in the Midwest League, located in Geneva, Illinois. After 22 games with the Cougars, Schwarber is batting .380 with four homers and 15 RBIs, and has a 1.100 OPS. Though his numbers have cooled off a bit in July compared to his fast start in June, he still seems to be reaching base in every game with the Cougars, where he has been batting third in the lineup and has rotated between playing catcher, left field, and designated hitter.
As the No. 4 overall draft pick, Schwarber is the latest piece in the Cubs' long-term development plans. Under the watch of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, the Cubs seem to be taking the long road when it comes to rebuilding. Though not as radical as what Sam Hinkie and the Sixers are doing in the NBA, the Cubs seem to be content with trading away current top players for prospects, along with developing players who over the long run will make for a star-studded team and maybe finally bring a World Series back to the North Side after 106 years.
And despite Schwarber's dominance in the minors right now, don't expect him to be batting in Wrigley right away. Even the most sure-fire MLB prospects will spend at least a year in the minors honing their skills. As an example, when I lived in DC, the Nationals selected Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper as No. 1 overall picks two years in a row. Even though both guys were the clear-cut top picks of their draft classes, they both still spent at least a year in the minors (almost two years, in Harper's case) before they got to the nation's capital. As for Schwarber, his development in the minors will also likely depend on what position he ends up playing. He played catcher at IU; however, if the Cubs are particularly interested in his hitting abilities, they may eschew his catching skills in order to get him to The Show more quickly. Regardless, I'd be surprised if Schwarber is in Wrigley before this time in 2015.
A cursory glance at Hoosiers who have been picked in the MLB Draft shows that while IU has had several players drafted over the years, only a few of them have made it to the pros. However, with Schwarber, Sam Travis, Dustin DeMuth, and Joey DeNato all starting their minor league careers, perhaps at least one of these guys could follow in the footsteps of former Hoosiers, such as Kevin Orie and Mickey Morandini, and become major leaguers.
UPDATE: As of last night, Schwarber has been promoted to the high class-A Daytona Cubs, who play in the Florida State League.