Schwarber “ecstatic” after selection

Kyle Schwarber met Theo Epstein in Surprise, Ariz., when Indiana was playing in the Big Ten/Pac 12 Challenge. The Hoosiers catcher talked shop with the Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations and the architect the 2004 and 2007 Boston Red Sox World Series championship teams, and both men came away impressed with each other.

“We had a great meeting because we were both on the same page,” Schwarber said. “We agree about hitting and everything and we just had a good time talking to each other. … He came out and watched me, and then their area scout came out to see us and (the scout) told me, ‘Theo really loves you, so just keep going.'”

Schwarber found out Thursday night exactly how much Theo loved him. The Cubs took Schwarber No. 4 overall in the Major League Baseball Draft, making him the first position player selected behind pitchers Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek and Carlos Rodon.

He becomes the highest drafted player in Indiana history and just the second top-10 pick in Indiana history. The other was shortstop Jim DeNeff, who was taken No. 8 overall by the California Angels in 1966. He’s the first first-round pick at Indiana since 2009 when pitcher Eric Arnett was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers with the No. 26 pick. 

“I was ecstatic and I’m kind of in shock,” Schwarber said by phone Thursday night after watching the draft with family and friends at the clubhouse at Weatherwax Golf Course in his hometown of Middletown, Ohio. “It’s really happened. All the hard work paid off. I just gotta keep going, but I’m very, very, very, very excited right now.”

Schwarber wasn’t drafted out of high school in Middletown and was arguably more highly coveted as a middle linebacker as he was a catcher. The 6-foot, 240-pounder brought with him a lot of raw power and he developed a plate approach that led scouts and draft analysts to refer to him as the most advanced college hitter in this year’s draft.

As a sophomore, Schwarber hit .366 with a Big-Ten leading 18 home runs and 54 RBI, earning first-team All-America honors and leading Indiana to its first ever College World Series. He was pitched around more as a junior, but still hit .358 with a Big Ten-leading 14 home runs and 48 RBI, drawing a team-high 44 walks and striking out just 30 times. He led the Big Ten in runs scored (66), slugging percentage (.659) and on-base percentage (.464).

Cubs scouting director Jason McLeod told reporters in Chicago that he was the No. 2 player on their board behind only Aiken, the No. 1 pick in the draft.

“We felt Kyle was the best hitter hands-down this year in this year’s draft,” Cubs scouting director Jason McLeod told reporters in Chicago in a video posted on ESPN.com. “Really does everything that we like from an offensive standpoint in terms of controlling the strike zone. Hitting for average, hitting for power. Make-up off the charts.”

Schwarber’s personality was also a critical component.

“All of the due diligence that we did with the Team USA coaches, the coaching staff at Indiana, teammates, other teammates on Team USA, everything came back of what type of person he is,” McLeod said. “Certainly, that’s the type of people that we’re trying to bring in to the organization.”

It’s the second straight year that the Cubs have drafted a powerful college hitter. Schwarber joins 2013 first-round pick Kris Bryant, last year’s Golden Spikes Award winner who hit an astounding 31 home runs as a junior last year at the University of San Diego. They also have a power-hitting shortstop in the organization in Javier Baez, who hit 37 home runs in the minors last year.

The left-handed Schwarber thinks he can play off both well if they end up in the majors together.

“It’s going to be great,” Schwarber said. “It’s going to be like another (Sam Travis) and I deal.”

The lone knock against Schwarber going into the draft was that scouts were uncertain whether or not he would be able to play catcher in the majors and that he might have to make a move to left field or possibly even first base in the minors. He said he and the Cubs have not yet had any of those discussions.

“We haven’t even talked about it yet,” Schwarber said. “… Whatever the team wants me to do, I’ll do it.”

11 comments

  1. YESSSSSSSSS!! You and me Harvard…Wrigley Field owners box with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and big…big cigars!!!

  2. Theo has an eye for talent. Only a matter of time before this team takes off, and the pieces are finally in place. Looks like WGN TV might quit broadcasting games, which all but takes away my viewing pleasure.

  3. Almost seems that it’s a conscious decision to shift Indiana’s basketball brand eastward. And with that shifting of the brand will come more energy and focus to lure a greater share of recruits outside of our borders. Very slippery slope when recognizing the amount of programs and the saturation of top basketball schools in the East that we compete for top talent. Is it worth the possible alienation of Indiana high school programs and prospects in so many hotbeds for talent(e.g. Ohio, Chicago, and Michigan)?

    There is no better branding than playing in a Final Four. Playing in Madison Square Garden(while giving IU alum fat cats premium seats in hopes some added donations)is not branding. Winning big games(regional championships and Elite 8/Final Four appearances) that propel you to the forefront of the largest TV audiences in March is the only branding that matters.

    I do believe we are witnessing a conscious effort to sell Indiana to the Establishment. The Establishment loves nothing more than an AD that obviously believes “Because it’s Indiana” doesn’t include or thoroughly trust the lure of Bloomington in the eyes of top Indiana talent.

    I see the rebranding as a loss of confidence in Crean’s local appeal. The local top talent have gained a full understanding of the empty salesmanship at indiana that replaced the true basketball acumen. They’ve seen the specialized and role players underperform, transfer, and treated like dinner’s leftovers rather than utilized and formulated into essential components of diverse winning teams.

  4. …and prospects in so many [other nearby] hotbeds for talent(e.g. Ohio, Chicago, and Michigan)?

  5. Reports from inside the Cubs is that Schwarber has agreed to $1M under the slot (1.4) that slot was $4,621,200, so Schwarber got the 6th slot value or about two spots above his best projected spot, ($3.1 Rockies at 8) so he made out at $500K

  6. Good for him. Look forward to watching him play! That’s if WGN continues to carry games that is.

  7. Got news for you. WGN both radio and WGN America (cable outside of Chicago market) will no longer carry Cubs or Sox after this year. Got to get MLB.tv or move to Chicago market.

  8. Ben-

    I’m sure you can find a site that will live stream a Cubs game. Without the colorful Harry Caray(and if you go many years back, Mr. “HEY! HEY!,”Jack Brickhouse) WGN broadcasts are quite boring anyway.

    I’m also doubtful that the termination of a nationally syndicated WGN Cubs broadcast is really going to happen. There’s a lot of positioning and power-playing tactics going on between networks and cable/internet providers. This is likely a way the new owner of the Cubs is trying to bully and negotiate up the cost to the cable companies. Big 10 Network did the same thing with some of the cable providers in the Indianapolis area.

    Maybe WGN will become an internet entity and Cubs viewing will be a purchasable product(much like buying a newly produced Netflix show).

    Technology is moving too fast for any media product distributed to secure/protect its sole rights of ownership. The wars will likely continue between those companies producing the content and those delivering the content.

    What I find most sad is the lack of truly unique broadcasters and entertaining color commentators that were so identifiable and bonded to the hearts of fans and teams they covered. They have been replaced in the booth by overly schooled statisticians, grammatically and politically correct stuffy robots, that bring zero fun and emotional investment. It’s not been the same WGN Cubs broadcast without Caray and Brickhouse.

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