Cubs’ Frank Schwindel earns 2022 opportunity after breakout

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  • Chicago Cubs
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  • Frank Schwindel
    Frank Schwindel
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Schwindel earns 2022 shot after breakout with Cubs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

As Frank Schwindel mania swept the North Side of Chicago last summer, the Cubs first baseman assessed his new big-league opportunity.

“I'm playing first base for the Chicago Cubs," Schwindel said in September after he capped off a ninth-inning Cubs rally with a walk-off single vs. the Pirates. “You can't beat it.”

You would be hard-pressed identifying someone who beat Schwindel’s performance over the final two months of the 2021 season — which has him in position to get an opportunity with the Cubs in 2022.

“Frank is going to be a big part of our team next year,” Cubs president Jed Hoyer said of Schwindel after the season. 

That already looks like it means more than when Hoyer said it as the season came to a close.

The Cubs have more roster building left to do after the lockout, but they already look more competitive than the 2021 group in which Schwindel was a rare feel-good story in a feel-bad finish to the season.

The Cubs bolstered their rotation this winter with the additions of Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley. And Schwindel, a rookie in his age-29 season in 2021, has earned a chance to build off his performance in 2022. 

But how do you evaluate his 2021 campaign, or know who he is as a player after two months in the big leagues?

At the very least, you couldn’t have asked for more from him than what he gave the Cubs following their trade deadline selloff. 

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Schwindel did everything you could in two months, from winning NL Rookie of the Month in August and September to finishing third among Cubs position players in fWAR despite only logging 56 games.

He slashed .342/.389/.613 with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs with the Cubs, finishing sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting while leading all qualified rookies in OPS.

He outperformed the guy he replaced at first base offensively and posted similar numbers as eventual NL MVP Bryce Harper, obviously in a smaller sample size.

“That was a lot of fun to watch,” Hoyer said of Schwindel. “Watching the way he played, the energy he had, the way he grinded his at-bats, the ability to hit for power without striking out much was really special. 

“I couldn't be more happy for him in his situation to go out and prove it the way he did.”

Schwindel, who turns 30 in June, has 70 career big-league games under his belt, with brief stints in the past with the Royals and A’s before the Cubs claimed him off waivers last July.

Over the course of a full 162-game season, it’s impossible to expect him to match his 2021 level of production, one reminiscent of a typical Mike Trout offensive season.

But beyond the numbers, there was a lot to like about what he showed with the Cubs.

Schwindel kept his strikeouts down (15.1 percent), put the ball in play consistently (78.6 percent contact rate), and hit the ball hard and for power.

He was serviceable at first base after taking over for Gold Glove winner Anthony Rizzo, and the likely addition of a universal DH through ongoing labor negotiations gives the Cubs added lineup options.

Whether Schwindel approaches last season’s numbers, he’s at least earned a shot at being an everyday big leaguer, and he’ll get that chance come spring training.

Said Hoyer: “I’m not going to make out lineups or anoint different guys at different positions, but certainly I’m excited he's on our team for next year and I think he'll play a big role.”

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