Indiana has never been much more than a basketball school in terms of producing professional athletes. There are obviously notable exceptions here and there, but no program has been able to churn out talent consistently like the basketball program.
One of the men who may end up being a trend setter for Indiana baseball is Chicago Cubs catcher Kyle Schwarber. As a sophomore, he led Indiana to the College World Series with a slash of .366/.456/.647 with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs, helping the Hoosiers to a 49-16. His junior year was much of the same as he hit .348/.456/.643 with 13 home runs and led IU to a 44-15 record.
After his junior year, the Cubs drafted the catcher fourth overall and Schwarber would sign on June 11. Three days after signing, in his first game in single-A ball, he slugged a homerun. His first hits in AA, AAA, and MLB were all triples, and his ascension to lasted just 1 year and 2 days from his first single-A game, which is abnormally fast for those who don't follow baseball.
Across two different stints in the MLB, Schwarber has swung a hot bat, forcing the Cubs to keep him in the big leagues despite not having a pressing need for a third catcher on the roster when fully healthy. But just how well is Schwarber hitting?
Through 35 games (as of Wednesday morning), Schwarber has hit 9 home runs, knocked in 30 runs, is slugging .595, and has an OPS of .995. For some reference, his current pace (no matter how unsustainable it might be) for 162 games would see him hit 42 home runs with 139 RBIs, 167 total hits, and 171 strikeouts (gotta work on that, Schwarbs).
Not that the list is particularly long, but Schwarber already has the 5th most home runs of any MLB player to come out of Indiana University. He's four home runs away from overtaking Josh Phegley for fourth and 23 home runs from taking second from Mickey Morandini.
Obviously, there is a sample size problem whenever you look at Schwarber's numbers, but there are some comparisons that can be made in his brief time in the league. Compare these two stat lines, for example
Player A - .310/.400/.595, 9 HR, 30 RBI, 4 2B, 37 SO, .390 BAbip, 1.550 WPA
Player B - .273/.391/.445, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 5 2B, 46 SO, .380 BAbip, 2.108 WPA
Player A is, obviously, Schwarber, while Player B is the first 35 games of Kris Bryant, fellow highly-touted Cubs rookie. While Baseball Reference's database is a little tricky to sort in terms of a player's stats through their first 35 games (and by a little tricky, I mean damn near impossible to navigate and sort), we can compare Schwarber's stats with some of the better rookie seasons from power hitters to get a sense of his start.
All stats listed are through the player's first 35 games of their rookie season.
Mark McGwire - .267/.393/.707, 15 HR, 30 RBI, 2 2B, 31 SO, .229 BAbip, 0.943 WPA
Mike PIazza - .326/.376/.535, 7 HR, 23 RBI, 6 2B, 28 SO, .368 BAbip, 1.255 WPA
Albert Pujols - .361/.425/.707, 12 HR, 39 RBI, 8 2B, 23 SO, .356 BAbip, 1.019 WPA
Barry Bonds - .256/.377/.512, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 13 2B, 38 SO, .318 BAbip, -0.297 WPA
I won't bore you with many more comparisons because the point is made, Schwarber is swinging his bat really, really good right now. Like historically good. His OPS is higher than Piazza and Bonds, while his OBP is higher than Piazza's.
His batting averaging for balls in play is higher than any other player, meaning balls he puts into play are not being turned into outs. His win probability added, or more change in probability by an offensive player in a game, is higher than any player aside from Bryant.
The sample size is obviously small and really all this means is that Schwarber is hot at the beginning of his career. But considering he's just 22 years old and just 35 games into his career, these are really good omens for the projection of his career.
Now we just sit back and hope the Cubs don't Cub too hard and screw up Schwarber's career too badly.