Chicago Cubs' Schwarber looking to build off big second half of 2019 season
Officially on the job as new manager, David Ross met with the media right before the Cubs Convention in January and immediately stressed the positives of a team that ended the 2019 season on a negative note.
Talking more in generalities, Ross did mention some players by name. Kyle Schwarber was on the shortlist.
"Kyle Schwarber was a really good player in the second half," Ross said. "He turned the corner."
In the first half of 2019, Schwarber hit .227/.320/.457 and had 18 home runs and 43 RBI while striking out 100 times in 304 at-bats.
In the second half, he slashed .280/.366/.631 and had 20 homers and 49 RBI while striking out only 56 times in 225 at-bats.
Add it all up, and the 27-year-old left fielder finished first on the Cubs -- and tied for seventh in the National League -- with 38 home runs. Schwarber tied for 18th in the NL with 92 RBI.
Heading into the new season, Schwarber is aiming for consistency at the plate. He's been a streaky hitter since joining the Cubs in June 2015, just over a year after he was the No. 4 overall pick in the draft out of Indiana University.
Moving out of the leadoff spot should certainly help his cause.
Under former manager Joe Maddon, Schwarber started 97 games hitting at the top of the lineup, and he slashed .215/.310/.462 while striking out a staggering 123 times in 381 at-bats.
Ross is moving Kris Bryant to leadoff this season, and Anthony Rizzo is going to hit second.
Javier Baez likely settles in as the Cubs' regular No, 3 hitter, and look for Schwarber to bat cleanup.
In 18 career games hitting fourth, Schwarber slashed .393/.441/.787 with 5 home runs, 12 RBI and 17 strikeouts in 61 at-bats.
Drafted as a catcher, Schwarber has been a fixture in left field for the Cubs and he's been anything but a Gold Glover.
That sparked steady trade talk going back to his debut season, and any American League team needing a designated hitter was viewed as an instant match.
Schwarber has steadily improved his defensive play and has become a serviceable left fielder.
There is still a chance he'll be moved if the Cubs aren't contending in July, but Schwarber has had a lot of practice blocking out rumors.
"It's a lot easier for me because it's happened to me so many different times," he said. "I've been in a lot of different things. For people that go through it the first time, it's definitely difficult to not keep you mind on it. It's something new, it's something you can always be thinking about.
"For me, I'm a Chicago Cubs until I'm told differently."