Who’s got next? Maddon says Kyle Schwarber could help Cubs this season

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Another home run for Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs’ top hitting prospect still in the minors.

PHOENIX – It took third baseman Kris Bryant just 22 months and 181 games to get to the big leagues after the Cubs drafted him No. 2 overall in 2013.

Could catcher Kyle Schwarber, last year’s No. 4 overall pick, get there even faster?

Asked if the left-handed slugger could help the Cubs this year, manager Joe Maddon didn’t hesitate, saying, “Yeah. Sure. He has a very, very mature at-bat. He’s doing better behind the plate, too, from what I understand.

“You ask him. He’ll tell you he can. And that’s a big part of it, too. He’s really confident.”

Maddon said he wasn’t anticipating a move involving Schwarber, who’s abusing Southern League pitching for Class AA Tennessee right now. Nothing’s planned, and there’s no place on the 25-man roster for him, anyway, unless he camps on the bench.

But a September debut when rosters expand is a reasonable thought, Maddon said.

“It’s possible. Anything’s possible,” he said.

Schwarber, 22, is hitting .296 at Tennessee and ranks second in the SL with a .430 on-base percentage, second with 10 homers, first with a .600 slugging percentage and first in OPS.

In 111 career games through Saturday, Schwarber was hitting .328 with 28 homers and a 1.051 OPS.

“Every time I look up on that scoreboard back home, it looks like Schwarber had a 3-for-5, home run, three RBIs,” Maddon said. “And even if it’s 1-for-5, it was like, `game-winning RBI’ or whatever.

“And I got to know him in camp. He’s definitely got the hitting chip. And he knows he can.”

Catching is the bigger work-in-progress with the Indiana University product, but team officials say they’re gaining confidence in his long-term projections at the position.

What can he do for the Cubs this year? Short-term injury fill-in? September callup?

Lefty bat off Maddon’s playoff bench?

“Sounds good to me,” the manager said. “I’ll take it.”

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