A slugger who some thought had a shot at succeeding Eric Hosmer with the KC Royals just found a new home.
Frank Schwindel played only six games for the KC Royals, a minuscule number considering the talk in some circles that the power-hitting first baseman had what it took to replace Eric Hosmer when Hoz headed for San Diego after the 2017 season.
Schwindel certainly had the bat, or so it seemed from his minor league career. An inconspicuous 18th-round draft choice in 2013, he played 64 games for the Royals’ Idaho Falls Rookie team after signing and slashed .300/.336/.431 with six homers. He split 2014 between Class A and Advanced A and clubbed 22 homers with 75 RBIs; he hit .286 in A ball but, in 16 games at Advanced A, trailed off to .246. The following season wasn’t good—while the Royals headed to the World Series, Schwindel hit only .252 with seven homers between High A and Double A.
He put himself back on the KC Royals’ map in 2016 with 20 homers and a .270- average at Northwest Arkansas, then played for the Naturals and Triple A Omaha the next season and had 23 homers and slashed .329/.349/.541. The talk of replacing Hosmer, who was playing out his Kansas City days that season, grew to more than a whisper.
Schwindel solidified his power bona fides in 2018 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs at Omaha; although his average dropped to .286, he was in the KC picture. But so was Ryan O’Hearn, who took full advantage of a late July callup to Kansas City by taking over first base and hitting 12 homers and .262 in 44 games. That didn’t squelch talk of Schwindel becoming the new Hosmer, but O’Hearn had the edge.
Nevertheless, Schwindel rode a good 2019 spring training to first base on Opening Day in Kansas City. He went hitless, then watched from the bench as O’Hearn played the next two games at first and Lucas Duda played one; Schwindel pinch-hit for O’Hearn and spelled him at first in the fourth game. He played four more games in the next several days and started at first three times; when his sixth game ended, he was 1-for-15.
Just as suddenly as he’d made the Opening Day lineup, Schwindel found himself optioned back to Omaha. Worse yet, Kansas City released him when he was on the Storm Chasers’ disabled list; he signed with Detroit and soon regained his stroke with nine homers, 33 RBIs and a .327 average in just 28 games with Triple A Toledo. Schwindel made the Tigers’ Player Pool in 2020 but didn’t make it to the majors.
Three impediments—Hosmer, Lucas Duda and O’Hearn—blocked Schwindel’s path to first base at Kaufmann Stadium. Perhaps he would have beaten O’Hearn to the job had the Royals not kept Hosmer for one last run for the playoffs in 2017, then signed Duda to play first in 2018, the first of his two ill-advised runs with the Royals. O’Hearn’s breakout half-season later that year put the writing on Schwindel’s wall. There just wasn’t a spot for him.
So, where is Schwindel now? With the A’s, who recently signed him as a minor league free agent. It’s another new home, another new beginning, but it looks like it could be Kansas City all over again; this time, it’s Matt Olson and his power standing in Schwindel’s way. Although he hit just .195 this season, Olson slugged 14 homers, which extrapolates to almost 38 over 162 games, hit 36 in 2019, and has 103 in less than five full seasons with Oakland.
Although he’s spent some time behind the plate and dabbled in the outfield, Schwindel is essentially a one-dimensional, single position player. Perhaps he and his power can find a bench role with the A’s: he could backup Olson, DH a bit and pinch hit. Time will tell how “Frank the Tank” fits in.
Frank Schwindel has another chance to make it to the major leagues. Let’s hope he does…but doesn’t exact any revenge on the KC Royals.