Scouting reports on Frank Schwindel have always highlighted one problem: He can’t hit secondary pitches well.
Former Astros scouting director Kevin Goldstein expressed concerns about Schwindel’s ability to hit breaking pitches. In his late September 2021 FanGraphs post, Goldstein wrote:
“Schwindel absolutely obliterates fastballs but struggles against anything offspeed, so expect a steady diet of secondary pitches against him for the remainder of the season, if not his career. He also remains an overly aggressive hitter, which is frequent for high-contact types with his kind of plate coverage, so fewer strikes are likely as well. Adjustments will need to be made, but he feels like a productive everyday first baseman going forward, though with a smaller window than most due to his age and the kind of toolset that tends not to age gracefully.”
Yet in 2021, Schwindel produced positive run value against all secondary pitches. Indeed, he generated seven runs against sliders and five runs against curveballs. In fact, per 100 pitches, Schwindel produced more scaled runs against curveballs (RV/100: 5.4) than 4-seamers (RV:3.2).
Schwindel’s run value against breaking pitches wasn’t a fluke. By plotting exit velocity as a function of zone location in the figure below, we see that he hit secondary pitches all throughout the strike zone harder (i.e., greater than 90 mph) than league average — even pitches low in the zone.
Clearly, Schwindel didn’t struggle against secondary pitches as scouts suggested. Whether this continues is a fair question, though. Major league pitchers have an enormous wealth of resources to rapidly adjust to hitters.
Schwindel will inevitably face different types of pitching attacks, but for now, concerns that he can’t hit secondary pitches should be eased due to his success last season.
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