This season was always going to be a bit of an experiment for the Chicago Cubs. Despite all the verbal proclamations to the contrary by Jed Hoyer and Tom Ricketts, it’s exceedingly clear that the point of this year was never going to be to compete in the standings. Rather, the goal was and still is player evaluation, finding out who can contribute to the team in the medium and long term.
Who can be a part of the — say it with me — Next Great Cubs Team?
Today’s Tuesday Trends will check in on three players who came into 2022 under the microscope.
Frank Schwindel’s odds of staying up: It’s been a heck of a ride for Schwindel. After being sent to Iowa prior to the Cubs’ series last week in San Diego, the hands of fate (and a minor COVID outbreak requiring several players to go to the IL) necessitated him staying up and joining the team in that series against the Padres.
How’s it been going since then? Well, it’s been a mixed bag, but, unlike the early part of the season, it hasn’t been a total disaster. While he is still hitting just .220/.262/.348 over the course of the season, he’s been significantly better over the last week, slashing .231/.310/.538 with two home runs. That OBP certainly leaves quite a bit to be desired, but the total represents a “playable” offensive output that is an improvement on his overall numbers.
Perhaps most encouraging, Schwindel has struck out only four times in his last 29 plate appearances. That 13.7% strikeout rate is much better than his season-long 22.1 K% and is more in line with his 15.8% mark last year. If Schwindel has any hope of regaining last year’s form, maintaining a low strikeout rate will be a critical part of his path forward.
Ian Happ‘s quest for an All-Star appearance: Happ just keeps on hitting. After two extra-base hits, including a towering home run, Monday night in Cincinnati, Happ’s overall line sits at .286/.399/.399.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 24, 2022
Happ’s numbers have been strong all season and the power is really coming on lately as he’s slugging .652 over his last seven games. He has never appeared in an All-Star Game, but this year undoubtedly represents his best shot.
Rafael Ortega‘s role on the team: It’s getting increasingly difficult to make the case that Ortega should continue to hold a spot on this roster. Like many players on this team, he was brought back to see if he could follow up on his success in a limited sample size last year and thus far he just…hasn’t.
Ortega is hitting .211/.315/.305 on the season, but it’s has fallen to .130/.259/.130 over his last 27 plate appearances across seven games. His primary tool is supposed to be his ability to hit right-handed pitching, which he largely did last year and hasn’t at all this year. A .221/.333/.326 slash against righties just isn’t going to cut it.
With Clint Frazier due back soon from an appendectomy and Jason Heyward returning from the COVID list, it’s hard to see how Ortega maintains a spot.