Cubs: Everything depends on Frank Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom
By Jake Misener
Virtually every prediction model foresees a great deal of losing on the North Side in 2022. Fangraphs pegs the Chicago Cubs for a dismal 71-91 finish in the standings, as a new era dawns in Wrigleyville.
I don’t disagree with that – but there is a slim path forward that could end up with Chicago playing in the 12-team expanded postseason field. The margin for error is about as small as possible, but if everything goes right, there’s a chance the Cubs could make some noise while their recent prospect haul works its way up the ladder.
We know the starting rotation has to improve. The signings of Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley should go a long way toward solidifying things on that front. Infield defense will be key, and Andrelton Simmons and Nico Hoerner will play key roles behind the staff. But even with the addition of superstar Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki, the offense has a lot of questions surrounding it – perhaps none bigger than what level of production we’ll see from Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom.
After Jed Hoyer sent a pair of franchise icons (among others) packing at the deadline in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, Wisdom and Schwindel quickly found themselves playing a critical role for the Cubs last summer – and they did not disappoint.
Schwindel ran off back-to-back National League Rookie of the Month awards in August and September, batting .344 with an OPS that sat around the 1.000 mark over the season’s final two months. That sums up what his game is all about: hitting. He doesn’t walk a lot, but puts the bat on the ball constantly, turning that contact into some eye-popping numbers in 2021.
As for Wisdom, all he did was break Bryant’s Cubs rookie home run record – slamming 28 home runs in just 375 plate appearances. Keep in mind it took Bryant 650 plate appearances back in 2015 to hit his 26 long balls; so what we saw last summer was really something special. The only problem with Wisdom? He struck out in a staggering 40.8 percent of his trips to the dish – a wholly unsustainable mark.
Chicago Cubs hoping Patrick Wisdom, Frank Schwindel are the real deal
So are these guys late bloomers or were their second-half surges an aberration? It looks like we’re poised to find out in 2022 given Hoyer did nothing to supplant either Wisdom at third or Schwindel at first. At least to start the year, the Cubs are going to let these two ride and see where things wind up.
If Wisdom can cut down the strikeouts without sacrificing too much power and Schwindel can keep shooting the gaps on a nightly basis, this offense will be much more serviceable. Add in Suzuki, Ian Happ and Willson Contreras and you have the makings of a team that can put up some crooked numbers.
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But without production from this duo, this is a lineup that lacks depth and pop – and the team will struggle, as expected, for much of the 2022 campaign.