As the Chicago Cubs chart a course forward, officially closing the door on the era of the 2016 World Series club, they have a lot of question marks on the roster.
Early offseason moves focused on improving a starting rotation that, last year, ranked at or near the bottom of the league in almost every statistical measure and an outfield that was wildly inconsistent. The addition of veteran catcher Yan Gomes should hopefully put an end to the merry-go-round of backup catchers we saw last year, as well.
Two breakout performers from last summer who still bring a degree of uncertainty can be found at both corner infield spots in Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel. Wisdom brings tremendous power, but a wholly unsustainable strikeout rate. But Schwindel has a bat-to-ball approach that, when combined with the pop we saw from him last year, dare I say, makes his success look sustainable?
Now, don’t get me wrong. He’s probably not going to come out in 2022 and throw up another 155 OPS+ like he did last year (although I’d happily eat crow on that one). But his approach and the numbers that stem from it make me feel pretty good about him being an above-average offensive presence for Chicago this season.
In 2021, Schwindel limited his strikeout rate to just a tick under 16 percent across 239 plate appearances. He was equally strong against both left and right-handed pitching (.913 OPS against righties, 1.076 OPS against lefties) and managed to hit .344 on the nose over the final two months of the season.
Chicago Cubs: Frank Schwindel is a key component on the 2022 team
Those performances led to his receiving National League Rookie of the Month in both August and September, sending him into the offseason with a ton of momentum behind him. When he hit the ball to the outfield, he was near-unstoppable – evidenced by an 1.811 OPS. That performance has earned him high praise from Cubs president Jed Hoyer, who knows that, for his team to surprise some folks in 2022, he’ll need another strong year from his first baseman.
"“I’m not going to make out lineups or anoint different guys at different positions,” he said. “But certainly I’m excited he’s on our team for next year and I think he’ll play a big role.”"
Succeeding Anthony Rizzo on the North Side of Chicago is a tall order. But, at least initially, Schwindel managed to do so with a quirkiness and energy that was infectious. Now, it’s up to him to build on his late-season success from last summer and carry it forward into a full season.