Maybe left field is the spot for Cubs to add a contact hitter

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber has been improving, but he hit a slump at the plate this season. He hit just .188, with 11 home runs and 24 RBI.

    Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber has been improving, but he hit a slump at the plate this season. He hit just .188, with 11 home runs and 24 RBI. AP File Photo

 
 
Updated 10/18/2020 8:08 AM

Kyle Schwarber set his own expectations high by belting 5 home runs in the 2015 playoffs, including the renowned "Schwarboard" shot that landed on top of the Big Board in right field.

At the time, people might have been carried away to the point of suggesting a player comp of Babe Ruth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Now at the end of the 2020 season, the comparison for Schwarber might be former Cubs draft pick Daniel Vogelbach, another husky power hitter who doesn't make much contact.

Don't take those players comparisons too seriously. They're not meant to be accurate, just an illustration of Schwarber's reputation as a hitter and potential Cubs legend.

So far, Vogelbach is a mere one-year wonder, with 30 home runs in 2019. There's a longer track record of success for Schwarber, along with an upward trajectory in his stats until 2020 happened. Schwarber hit just .188, with 11 home runs and 24 RBI in the shortened season. He went 0-for-4 with 3 walks in the wild-card series.

It's been obvious for a few years that the Cubs need more contact hitters in their lineup and left field is a potential spot for one. They could make room by either trading Schwarber or making him a full-time DH.

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The Cubs might have been on the right track by adding veterans Cameron Maybin and Billy Hamilton at the end of this season. They needed some veterans who could help manufacture runs with versatile hitting and aggressive baserunning. Maybe that pair, or similar players, would be the right fit in the Cubs outfield.

At the same time, management can't ignore Schwarber's improvement. In 2019, he hit career-highs with a .250 average, 38 home runs and 92 RBI.

For three straight years, from 2017-19, Schwarber's production increased and his strikeout rate dropped. For all the failures of the Cubs offense in recent season, MLB still puts heavy emphasis on power hitters to counter the rising number of rifle-armed pitchers.

According to baseball-reference.com, Schwarber actually fared better against power pitchers this year, hitting .222. His home runs were spread evenly among all types of pitchers.

The NextGen stats tell a mixed story. Schwarber ranked 15th in all of MLB in average exit velocity at 92.8 piles per hour. His hard-hit swing percentage was just slightly above average, ranking 118th in the league at 14.5 percent. Still, he hit the ball hard more frequently than Kris Bryant, Javy Baez or Anthony Rizzo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It's also worth noting Schwarber was not charged with an error in left field this season. He's not a great outfielder, but he has gotten better. For the second time in three years, he finished in the top five in the NL in outfield assists.

So while left field might be a good place for a contact hitter, it's still a tough call on whether Schwarber has a better chance at bouncing back than Bryant, Baez or Rizzo. All four of those players are set to become free agents after next season.

The same questions apply to all four players -- can he rebound in 2021 and what could the Cubs get back in a trade?

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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