MINNEAPOLIS – As anyone within a satellite signal of the Cubs knows by now, catching prospect Kyle Schwarber is headed back to the minors after Sunday’s game, mostly because his catching skills aren’t nearly as ready for the big leagues as his bat.
That said, at least one guy at Target Field Friday night was impressed with the catcher the last time he saw Schwarber behind the plate.
Twins rookie center fielder Byron Buxton, Baseball America’s No. 2-ranked prospect, behind Kris Bryant, was thrown out by only two catchers this season before getting called up from AA Chattanooga Sunday – and one of them was Schwarber earlier this month.
The play created an immediate buzz in baseball circles.
“I felt like I got a great jump. He just threw a bullet,” Buxton told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune before Friday’s game – in which both were in opposing lineups again. “And I’m like, `There’s no way I’m getting around this one.’ Right to the bag, right where I slide. The ball was there.
“And I know I was at least halfway there before he got the ball. It didn’t even touch [his] glove, that’s what it seemed like.”
“I thought I had him once before,” Schwarber said. “It’s cool. It’s a feather in your hat. He’s one of the best base stealers in minor league baseball – now in the major leagues.”
After the quick throw on the close play, Buxton is seen on video of the play looking back toward the plate in apparent disbelief as he leaves the field.
Maybe that’s because he had trouble believing it was the same catcher he’d seen earlier in the season.
“I stole on him before, and I got in pretty easy,” Buxton said. “This time it was completely opposite. Great throw, great arm.”
That’s one of the things Cubs’ player development officials point out when they talk about the improvement Schwarber has made behind the plate even since spring training.
He still has a lot to upgrade defensively before he’ll be considered a candidate to stick long term in the majors.
But he seemed to have at least one big admirer in at least one big part of his catching game.
“Unbelievable,” Buxton said.