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Kyle Schwarber could return for World Series

Being injured isn’t a fun way to spend your season. Coming back in time for the World Series though? That could be the best possible outcome for Kyle Schwarber.

Chicago Cubs v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Way back in April, the Chicago Cubs lost a key piece of their outfield when Kyle Schwarber collided with teammate Jorge Soler while attempting to field a ball. The news was just about as bad as it gets, as Schwarber tore both the ACL and LCL in his left knee and was deemed ‘out-for-the-season.’

Luckily for Schwarber and the Cubs though, their season will end up being longer than that of 28 other teams. With the first game looming, and just a short while to officially name World Series rosters, the Cubs are limited for time on whether to include a player that hasn’t played all season on their roster.

The 23-year old Schwarber does represent an tantalizing addition to a roster that has had its share of offensive struggles at times this postseason. Although they did end up scoring 26 total runs over six games against the Dodgers in the NLCS, the Cubs were also shut out for 18 consecutive innings at one time; a feat that would have been more difficult to maintain with a healthy and productive Schwarber in the lineup.

The former-catcher-turned-outfielder posted unbelievable numbers in his rookie campaign in 2015. Over 273 plate appearances, Schwarber hit 16 home runs and even stole three bases while hitting 32 percent better than league average by wRC+.

However, over that same time frame, Schwarber did struggle as a fielder, costing his team 3.4 runs of production while spending the majority of his time in left field.

That’s part of what could make Schwarber so valuable to the Cubs during the World Series though. With games 1, 2, 6, and 7 in Cleveland—an AL park—the designated hitter rule will be in effect. While the Cubs have no shortage of hitters capable of filling a DH spot, adding one of Schwarber’s abilities could push then even further.

Schwarber just underwent a rehab start with the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League, where he had four plate appearances and took one walk while registering outs on balls in play the other three times. Christopher Crawford of ESPN discussed the performance with a scout:

"The timing is just a little bit off. But that's to be expected; this guy hasn't played in a game since April. He still showed quality bat speed, he appeared to recognize pitches well, and he's always a threat with the long ball. As talented as this young man is, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he's ready to contribute with the bat in a couple of days."

Since the American League won the All-Star game, that means Cleveland will have home field advantage, hosting four of the seven total World Series games, including the first two. That makes the decision to include Schwarber on the roster a relatively clear one. Schwarber is eligible to DH for the first two games and, if manager Joe Maddon or any medical staff see anything they don’t like about Schwarber’s performance or rehabilitation in those first two games, he can be removed from the roster with virtually no penalty. After all, the likelihood of using him while at Wrigley is likely reduced to whether or not he’d get any pinch hitting duties, as starting him in the field might be deemed too risky after such a catastrophic leg injury.

In the worst case scenario, the Cubs decide that Schwarber isn’t needed after playing at least some portion of the first two games. Schwarber is transferred to the disabled list, the Cubs are able to make a corresponding roster move—likely opting for a bullpen arm as David Ross and Willson Contreras are much too valuable to exclude in the first pace for Schwarber. Per postseason roster rules, Schwarber would be ineligible to rejoin the roster for the following series as well if he were moved to the DL. However, as this is the World Series, there is no series that follows.

Meanwhile, in the best case scenario, the Cubs have an additional premier bat to play with in their lineup—capable of batting anywhere except likely leadoff—heading into the most important seven-game series that the franchise has played in over seven decades.

If the Cubs had home field advantage in the World Series, perhaps this would be a more difficult choice. But, with the first two games following the designated hitter rule, the Cubs should be heavily motivated to include Schwarber in the lineup so long as he is healthy.