(670 The Score) Despite the Kyle Schwarber lead-off hitter experiment failing in 2017, Cubs manager Joe Maddon hasn’t ruled out trying it again in 2018.
“I know there was a lot of stuff written about that,” Maddon said at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday. “It was only failed in the sense that Kyle had a tough time last year. He could’ve hit one through nine and still had a tough time last year. It was just not his year, though he rebounded really nicely.”
Schwarber served as the Cubs’ lead-off hitter until he was dropped from that spot last May 20, at a point in time when he was hitting .182 with a .305 on-base percentage. Schwarber struggled nearly the entire season, necessitating a trip to Triple-A Iowa in late June for a few weeks. He hit .211 with 30 homers, 59 RBIs and a .782 OPS for the season.
The Cubs don’t currently have a full-time lead-off hitter, and Jon Jay has hit free agency. Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ would seemingly be candidates in addition to Schwarber.
Addressing the lead-off position isn’t a priority at the Winter Meetings, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said, as acquiring more pitching is the focus.
“I don’t know, I haven’t really drawn a lot of conclusions with that yet,” Maddon said. “We still got to see what the team’s going to look like in its entirety. Schwarber absolutely could lead off if he’s hitting like Schwarber and he’s accepting his walks and he’s got his .250-plus batting average. His on-base is going to be 100 points over his batting average. I really believe that. So I definitely would consider that once again, but I want to see who all the available candidates are first.”
Schwarber has dropped about 25 pounds this offseason.
“It was really amazing in a good way to see,” Maddon said. “He’s in arguably the best shape of his life. It starts right there.”