Little will be at stake for either team when the KC Royals begin a three-game visit to the Cubs and Wrigley Field Friday afternoon. Their almost identical and disappointing records—52-68 for Kansas City, 54-69 for Chicago—mean both clubs’ 2021 seasons will end far short of the playoffs.
But don’t look for this Royals and Cubs series to be boring. Its pitching suddenly better, Kansas City just missed sweeping a four-game series with the Astros. Chicago has a new look after dealing away eight players—Kris Bryant, Craig Kimbrel, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Jake Marisnick, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin, and Joc Pederson—before the July 30 trade deadline passed.
And the Cubs boast a new sensation at first base. Royals fans know him well.
Frank Schwindel is on a tear.
Yes, the same Frank Schwindel whose good minor league career in the Kansas City organization placed him squarely in the conversation to succeed Eric Hosmer at first base for the Royals. And the same Frank Schwindel who the club suddenly released before the 2019 campaign was even two months old.
Schwindel actually made Kansas City’s Opening Day roster that season, and was in the lineup for the club’s first game, but a 1-for-15 start forced him back to the minors and the Royals DFA’d him in May.
He caught on briefly with Detroit and Oakland, making it to the big leagues only for a few games with the A’s, then found himself with the 2021 Cubs via a waiver claim last month.
Schwindel spent almost two weeks at Triple-A Iowa until Rizzo’s trade to the Yankees opened up first base at Wrigley Field; Chicago called him up July 30, and he’s been the regular first baseman since.
Do the KC Royals have reason to be wary of Frank Schwindel this weekend?
The simple answer to this question is “Absolutely.” Schwindel’s bat is ablaze. He’s slashing .390/.429/.729 and has four home runs and 15 RBIs in 17 games for the Cubs. His OPS+ is 208, his BABIP .442, and he’s hitting .318 with runners in scoring position.
And through Wednesday’s games (the Cubs didn’t play Thursday) Schwindel hasn’t made an error in 120 chances.
So it is that the Royals have every reason to take heed of Chicago’s new first baseman. He’s hitting everything in sight and clearly still has the bat and power that enabled him to club over 20 homers four times, and hit .270 or better five times, for Royals’ minor league teams. Kansas City simply can’t take him for granted.
The KC Royals need to be careful with Frank Schwindel this weekend. They’ll face him and the Cubs in 1:20 p.m. CDT games Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Wrigley Field.