Twenty-eight year old rookies on non-contending teams tend not to generate a great deal of attention. Maybe free agents from Japan who are technically rookies might get some publicity, but guys like Ryan Schimpf? Not so much.
Nevertheless, the San Diego Padres second baseman has had a debut worth noticing. Schimpf has recorded just 115 plate appearances as a major leaguer, but has already produced nine homers and .371 isolated-slugging mark — or, about 40 points higher than David Ortiz’s league-leading number right now. Will it continue? Of course not. But it could be an interesting exercise to figure out exactly how Schimpf got here.
In 2009, Schimpf was on a Louisiana State University team that won the College World Series. That team included future major leaguers Louis Coleman and DJ LeMahieu — as well as first-round picks Mikie Mahtook, Jared Mitchell, and Anthony Ranaudo. Schimpf was taken in the fifth round by the Blue Jays in 2009 and given a low-six-figure bonus. He hit pretty well in the New York-Penn league.
At the conclusion of the 2009 season, Schimpf, a 5-foot-9 second baseman with some power, drew a Dustin Pedroia comp from Baseball America, who ranked him as the Blue Jays’ 16th-best prospect in the organization:
He has a short stroke and surprising power for a guy his size. He projects to hit lots of doubles, and the Jays think he could produce 15 or more homers per season. He should also steal 15 or more bases annually with his tick above-average speed. Schimpf is reliable if not spectacular at second base. He has a fringy arm and needs to get a better feel for the position, starting with turning double plays. He could open his first full pro season in high Class A.
That was the last time Schimpf ever appeared in Baseball America’s organizational rankings. He started the next season in Low-A and didn’t really distinguish himself, recording a .240/.332/.418 line over 395 plate appearances. He walked a lot (10% BB rate), but also struck out a lot (24% K rate), and when he did receive a promotion to High-A that August, he struck out in 27 of 74 plate appearances. This left him off the radar as a 23-year-old in High-A and, radar-wise, that’s basically where he has been the last half-decade.
To recap his seasons briefly:
Started the season on the disabled list and, in 228 plate appearances at High-A, hit a lot of homers (10), walked a lot (10%), and struck out a lot (23%).
Spent most of the season at High-A before earning a promotion to Double-A, hit a lot of homers (22), walked a lot (13%), and struck out a lot (22%).
Spent all season in Double-A, where he hit a lot of homers (23), walked a lot (15%), and struck out a lot (26%).
Now 26 years old, went back and forth between Double-A and Triple-A. Hit a lot of homers (24), walked a lot (11%), and struck out a lot (25%).
Again moving back and forth between Double-A and Triple-A, hit a lot of homers (23), walked a lot (12%), but didn’t strike out nearly as much (18%).
Unfortunately for Schimpf, his worst performances during 2014 and 2015 came when he was in Triple-A. He still walked a lot and hit a decent amount of homers, but his batting average was below .200, his on-base percentage was below .300, and modest power was not enough to make his line resemble anything decent. Then, this past offseason, the Padres picked him up, and sent him to Triple-A. The power and the walks carried over — and were also complemented by a fantastic BABIP. Schimpf hit .355/.432/.729 with 15 homers in 190 plate appearances before earning a call up.
As you might have deduced from the minor-league recap above, Schimpf is a three-true-outcomes hitter, homering, striking out, and walking in a large percentage of his plate appearances. First restricting the minimum plate appearances to qualified batters, these are your season leaders in three-true-outcome percentages through Sunday.
Schimpf is at 48.7% on the season, and if you lowered the bar to Schimpf’s 115 plate appearances, you would find a handful of other players on the leaderboard like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Miguel Sano, but the three-true-outcome approach is generally how Schimpf is getting this done. What’s remarkable at the moment is his home-run percentage. For players who’ve recorded at least 100 plate appearances, here are the home-run-percentage leaders through Sunday:
Over the last 20 years, the only players to record more than nine homers in his first 31 games, per Baseball Reference Play Index are: Mike Jacobs, Trevor Story, Jose Abreu, Chris Davis, Albert Pujols, Jeff Francoeur, and Shane Spencer. Schimpf didn’t even hit a homer until his 14th game, and his nine homers in July lead Major League Baseball.
It’s a remarkable start, and even if it doesn’t continue like this (it won’t), Schimpf has come up and been a player worthy of more playing time. Heading into the season ZiPS and Steamer had Schimpf projected for a wRC+ of 88 and 86, respectively. Those numbers are now 95 and 100, respectively, for the rest of the season.
Now for the bad news. Schimpf is hitting a ton of fly balls and a ton of those fly balls are leaving the yard. The chart below shows a few of Schimpf’s batted-ball percentages as well the league average and league leaders for qualified batters this year.
|Nolan Arenado||Jake Lamb||David Ortiz|
Schimpf isn’t going to be able to keep this up, but he does have power to all fields — and if he can keep his strikeouts manageable, say under 30%, he can be a league-average player with 20-plus-homer pop from second base. The ceiling might not be high, but he’s raised his floor as much or more than anyone in baseball over the past few months.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.