Kyle Schwarber is the second-best catcher-eligible player you could draft. Of this, there's no debate.
The debate is how far he's behind Buster Posey. Going by Head-to-Head points per game, which is my favorite metric for comparing players since it reduces the sum of their contributions to one number while normalizing opportunity, not much at all. Schwarber averaged 3.07 last year to Posey's 3.12. And if you're more Rotisserie-minded, his 16 home runs in 69 games translate to about 37 over a full season.
But just as important as a player's potential is his potential for failure. And while Posey's is as low as it gets for someone who plays such a physically demanding position, having been one of the game's most reliable hitters from the moment he set foot in the big leagues, Schwarber has a cornucopia of red flags.
Of course, there are risks in drafting any second-year player, as I've already chronicled with respect to Carlos Correa, but for Schwarber, it goes much deeper than that. His flaws began to reveal themselves the more time he spent in the majors. Lost in the excitement of all the home runs is the fact he hit .246, which is not good by any standard, but unless he learns to make more consistent contact, you shouldn't expect any better.
His 28.2 percent strikeout rate would have been the seventh-highest if he had the at-bats to qualify, and that seemingly not-so-lucky .293 BABIP was mostly a product of such a high percentage of his batted balls leaving the yard. It's easy to say "well, he hit .246 last year and still was a stud" if you expect all the other numbers to translate, but just how sustainable is that home run pace if he's so often beating himself?
It kind of reminds me of how so many of us, myself included, were predicting 35-plus home runs for Evan Gattis as a full-time DH for the Astros last year, which would make him golden as a catcher-eligible player, but what we failed to acknowledge by simply expanding his part-time numbers is that with increased exposure comes an increasing chance of being exposed. It's not a simple math problem.
Of course, Gattis had a completely unorthodox rise to prominence while Schwarber is a former fourth overall pick and top prospect, boasting a pedigree that's arguably too good to fail, but he's also getting drafted in Round 3 in some leagues. He doesn't have to fail to disappoint in that spot.
And then there's that other thing Schwarber doesn't do so well: hit left-handed pitchers. He batted just .143 (8 for 56) against them last year, which isn't so uncommon for a young left-handed hitter. Most teams don't have the means to counteract it, so they suffer through, hoping for growth along the way. But the Cubs already didn't have a place to play Javier Baez, a young right-handed slugger they not so coincidentally have been transitioning to the outfield, and then they went and re-signed Dexter Fowler, bumping Jorge Soler, another right-handed slugger, from the starting lineup.
Soler is in theory just as big a part of the Cubs' future as Schwarber, so don't they have every reason to keep both engaged? And wouldn't the most logical solution be to platoon them? Give Schwarber only part-time at-bats, and that's a big advantage he loses over the rest of the catcher crop. He could survive it better at that position than others since real-life catchers tend to sit every five days, but it's still going to mean fewer at-bats than most -- and even fewer if his defense in left field becomes a major liability.
No doubt, he's a talented hitter with a bright future and, again, my second-favorite catcher-eligible player behind Posey, but they don't belong in the same discussion. While Posey is, to me, a late second-rounder, Schwarber is more like a fifth-rounder in two-catcher Rotisserie leagues or a seventh-rounder in one-catcher Head-to-Head.