Is There Fantasy Appeal In The Cubs’ Potential Replacements For Kyle Schwarber (Soler, Baez & More)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Yesterday the news broke that the Chicago Cubs had lost Kyle Schwarber for the season after he tore both his ACL and LCL in an outfield collision.  Obviously it’s a blow to both the Cubs and fantasy owners, though Chicago does have the depth to help overcome the loss.  Let’s take a look at who is likely to gain AB thanks to his loss and if they are fantasy relevant:

Jorge Soler – Outfielder
There had been rumors that the team was poised to trade him in the offseason, but looking back they are going to be happy they opted to keep the depth.  That said Soler is no guarantee to take advantage of the opportunity.

He’s a .265 career hitter in the Majors, with strikeouts being a significant concern (29.0%).  The fact is that he hasn’t proven capable of making consistent contact against anything but a fastball (Whiff% for 2014 // 2015):

  • Hard – 7.93% // 9.19%
  • Breaking – 23.08% // 23.17%
  • Offspeed – 24.32% // 32.02%

Opponents simply aren’t going to throw him one unless they have to.  Last season he hit .359 with 10 HR against a fourseam fastball, so why even mess with it?  Throw him an offspeed pitch or a breaking ball until he proves he can handle it.

There is also a little bit of question about his power, with an average distance on non-groundballs of 267.718 last season.  Yes it’s easy to get excited about the potential upside and his 27.8% line drive rate last season, but it’s clear he needs to make adjustments if he wants to succeed.  He’s worth the gamble in most formats to stash on your bench, but he’s not a player to view as a savior.

Javier Baez – Infielder
Currently on the DL, Baez is expected to be back soon and could get an extended look.  While he’s generally been a middle infielder throughout his career, he played in 11 games at the hot corner last season in the Majors and could play there with Kris Bryant getting time in LF (or maybe Ben Zobrist shifts out to LF with Baez filling in at 2B).

Of course Baez owns a career 18.5% SwStr% and 40.8% O-Swing% in the Majors, leading to a 38.5% strikeout rate over 289 AB (24.3% at Triple-A last season, 30.0% in ‘14).  There is power in his bat and he also offers some speed, but at this point it’s hard to view him as anything more than an all or nothing bat barring an adjustment in his approach.

Is there 20/10 upside (if not a little bit more)?  Absolutely, but it could easily come with an average well below .250.  Given the potential opportunity and intriguing mix of power and speed, it’s easy to recommend taking the flier and stashing him.  That said, like with Soler it’s hard to anticipate him making a major impact given the questions with his bat.

Tommy La Stella – Infielder
One of the options the team has is to play Kris Bryant in the outfield and utilize an alternative at third base.  That would be La Stella, at least until Baez is deemed healthy, though he’s obviously not a very exciting option as he offers no power and no speed.  Chances are he isn’t going to get enough AB to justify considering him.

Miguel Montero – Catcher
There had been talk about Schwarber seeing some time behind the plate, but obviously that’s not an issue any more.  Montero is still just a backend option in deeper formats, though the extra AB does increase his value slightly.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Heat Maps 

Make sure to check out all of Rotoprofessor’s Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists:

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