A year after Frank Schwindel came up to the Chicago Cubs and quickly established himself as a cult hero, his days with the organization may be numbered. After struggling virtually all year with a mix of injuries and underperformance, aside from a brief spark of life in May, Frank the Tank has been demoted to Iowa. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time as the Cubs organization may be teeing up potential replacements for him.
Schwindel has brought very little to first base this year aside from his typical good spirits. In nearly 300 plate appearances, he’s posted a pedestrian .229/.277/.358 slash line, good for only a 75 wRC+. By Statcast measures, he clearly lacked the ability to consistently hit the ball hard this year all while having one of the worst chase rates in baseball. That’s not going to cut it at most positions, but especially not at first base where a good bat is a priority.
As far as defense goes, he couldn’t really cut it there either. OAA has him at only -1 which is a definite improvement from last year, but not good enough to justify him sticking around at a typically bat-first position. With everything accounted for, he holds a -1.1 WAR. At that point, the best thing the Cubs could do, for themselves and Schwindel, was to option him.
Cubs: Frank Schwindel will have trouble besting other first base candidates
Unfortunately, the road back to Chicago for a player like Schwindel isn’t easy. Unless he can get white-hot in Iowa, it’s hard to even guarantee him a 40-man roster spot given the number of quality prospects the organization has to protect and intriguing pieces they want to hang on to. He also just doesn’t have the history of success to lean on as the definite heir apparent at first. His hot stretch last year only occurred across 56 games and could’ve easily been an outlier.
The Cubs also have options to replace him. For now, Patrick Wisdom and P.J. Higgins should be able to hold down first, but waiting in the wings are a number of internal options including, most notably, Matt Mervis. He hasn’t missed a beat since his promotion to Triple-A, slashing an impressive .288/.344/.576 in 15 games. More importantly, he’s only 24 compared to Schwindel who’s on the wrong side of 30, setting him up as a more likely long-term piece.
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Schwindel has been such a fun story, but he’d need to really go nuclear in Triple-A to justify a promotion over Mervis. This is without mentioning any of the other prospects that could make their way to Chicago within the next year. To be frank (pun intended), it’s hard to see Schwindel returning to play first when so many other potential options exist. He joins Rafael Ortega, Jackson Frazier, and so many more that are on the bubble of the 40-man roster heading into next year.