Finding feel-good stories when it comes to this Chicago Cubs team in the second half hasn’t been easy, but first baseman Frank Schwindel is doing everything he can to make his presence felt and keep fans engaged down the stretch.
The 29-year-old rookie has filled an unenviable role with seeming ease – replacing Anthony Rizzo, who was traded to the New York Yankees a day prior to the deadline in late July. He acknowledged as much upon joining the Cubs in comments to the media.
"“He’s an unbelievable player — Gold Glover, All-Star,” Schwindel told NBC Chicago earlier this summer. “He’s one of the most liked guys in the city … “I’m going to do the best I can and hopefully the fans like me even half as much as him someday.”"
At least for now, he’s certainly one of the most-liked Cubs players thanks to what he’s managed to do in his first extended taste of big league action. In 221 plate appearances entering action Thursday, Schwindel is batting .358/.407/.642 and showcasing an approach that blends hitting the bejeezus out of the ball (he ranks in the top 14 percent of the league in max exit velocity) and limiting strikeouts.
His breakout performance puts the Chicago front office in an interesting spot. Do you go out and look to sign a first baseman this offseason – perhaps even looking at a reunion with Rizzo? Or do you bet on Schwindel for 2022, a season in which few believe the Cubs will be ready to contend?
Chicago Cubs: Fluke or not, first base belongs to Frank Schwindel right now
The latter seems most likely – especially with Alfonso Rivas also factoring into the mix. If Schwindel were to falter, manager David Ross has other options internally. But if you’re asking The Athletic‘s Keith Law – you shouldn’t expect much from Schwindel, whose performance was dubbed a ‘wild fluke season’ by the longtime baseball writer in his latest piece looking at end-of-season awards possibilities.
There’s certainly been nothing fluky about what the former 18th round pick’s performance this year, but Law’s label once again makes us all wonder if Schwindel is a flash-in-the-pan or just a guy who figured it out later than most.
The good news for the Cubs, like I said, is that they have nothing to lose by rolling the dice with Schwindel heading into camp next spring. He’s done more than enough to earn that opportunity and, if this summer has taught us anything, Schwindel isn’t one to waste those.