Jean Segura's play had never really left an impression on me. His best season in the big leagues came with the Milwaukee Brewers at a time when the Cubs were at rock bottom. That year was 2013 when Segura was an all-star and slashed .294/12/49. Solid numbers for a shortstop 23-year-old shortstop on a 74 win team, but nothing eye-popping. Last night in Arizona, Segura did two things that I will remember for a very long time. The first, a home run to right field on John Lackey's very first pitch as a Cub, which was alarming. The second was when Segura did this and the game got downright scary.
Segura's inside the park home run would turn out to cost the Cubs more than a run in a game in April, it'd cost Kyle Schwarber his sophomore season. Schwarber tore both his ACL and LCL ligaments in his left leg on the play and will be out for the rest of the 2016 season. Schwarber's and Dexter Fowler both were going all out to get the ball and there was little they could have done to avoid colliding. As a Cub fan, I'm disappointed that we won't get to see the growth of Schwarber as a hitter and behind the plate this year but I'm excited to see how the Cubs overcome this loss.
The front office's main goal this past offseason was to build the depth required to be a World Series contender. By signing Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward to free agent deals and resigning Dexter Fowler, the Theo Epstein and his team created a wealth of viable options in the outfield. Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, and Matt Szczur are all great options currently on the roster to fill the new void in left field. When Bryant or Zobrist move to the outfield, Tommy LaStella can come in and play both third and second base as needed. Soler will likely get the majority of the reps in left and could, if he gets on a 2015 playoffs vs. the Cardinals-like tear, take all of the playing time.
Another player who could step up big in the absence of Schwarber is Javier Baez. Baez, who is currently on the disabled list nursing a thumb injury suffered sliding head-first into first base trying to beat out a ground ball and then got hit in the head by a pitch during his rehab, is due back soon and could be ready for a breakout season. Baez has the talent to potentially be a 30-plus homer guy has shown signs of putting it together will be a force if he can add just a little bit more contact skills to his ferocious swing. Baez also makes the team defense stronger. If the bat is there, the ideal lineup becomes.
Schwarber was also of value due to the versatility he brought to the ballpark. On the days when he wasn't set to play left field, he was lined up to be the personal catcher for Jason Hammel. Hammel and Schwarber worked together all spring training and seemed to build a good battery. Miguel Montero and David Ross will step up and catch Hammel in Schwarber's place. Should Montero or Ross get hurt for any length of time, look for Tim Federowicz to be the first man called up to the big leagues. The Cubs also have number one ranked catching prospect Willson Contreras waiting in the wings. Contreras should be ready to come up sometime in the second half.
Even without Schwarber for 2016, the Cubs will be a strong offensive team. They will lose a bit of power, but could gain some on base and contact skills depending on the lineup card is filled out. The defense will also likely be improved without Schwarber behind the plate or in left field. The Cubs roster is filled with options to pick up the slack. This team was engineered to handle the injuries and it will prosper without one of its most exciting pieces. Enjoy this homerun from the 2015 division series and hope for a speedy recovery for Kyle Schwarber.
Published on 4/8/2016 5:20:55 PM