What can the Cubs expect out of Frank Schwindel in year two?
With Bruce Levine stoking the dying embers of our ‘Bring Anthony Rizzo Back to Chicago and Put a ‘C’ on His Chest’ dreams this weekend, it seemed like a good time to look at the man who, barring an external addition before Opening Day, will handle the bulk of reps at first base for the Cubs in 2022, Frank Schwindel.
When the Cubs traded Rizzo the day before the trade deadline back in July, if there was one person I did not envy, it was Schwindel, who was tasked with replacing one of the most beloved players the North Side has ever seen. But instead of shrinking away from the challenge, he rose mightily and blew us all away.
Down the stretch, Schwindel raked, slashing .342/.389/.613 – with 43 percent of his hits going for extra bases. He brought home National League Rookie of the Month honors in August and September and on a lackluster Cubs team that was a shell of its former self, he was an indisputable bright spot for fans.
But given the fact he turns 30 in June and this marked his first success at the big league level, his breakout 2021 season, as great as it was, isn’t enough to make me think he can do it again this year. I mean, you hope he can, sure – but you can’t approach it as a foregone conclusion by any stretch.
Chicago Cubs: Frank Schwindel outperformed almost every projection
With the Cubs last year, Schwindel put up a .364 BABIP – which means he’s likely due for some serious regression this season. The league average usually checks in around the .300 mark. How good is that .364 mark? Mike Trout who, at least in my mind is the best player in baseball, has a career .348 BABIP. Schwindel’s 2021 was better in that regard than Trout’s career. So, yeah, it’s probably a fair indicator of what’s to come.
That’s not to say Schwindel can’t or won’t be valuable. But most of the projection models out there have him as roughly a league average offensive presence in 2022. So what are the strong suits in his game that could allow him to find success moving forward?
He makes a lot of contact. The Cubs first baseman struck out less than 16 percent of the time last year (he also didn’t walk much, which could prove problematic should opposing pitching staffs adjust after his monster showing last summer). But, at least in what we’ve seen, Schwindel is all about putting the ball in play, which was refreshing given the game’s trend toward three-outcome players.
Bleacher Nation pointed out recently that Schwindel, along with several of the Cubs’ other late-bloomers last year, wildly outperformed expected results. You can (and should) take a look at that piece, but all the numbers tell us that Schwindel likely isn’t the second coming of Justin Turner – and we should set realistic expectations for him, rather than expect him to replicate his dominance from last year.