The calendar has turned to September, allowing teams to expand their rosters. The Royals have called up a few players to Kansas City - catcher Meibrys Viloria, pitchers Glenn Sparkman, Jerry Vasto, and Eric Skoglund. But the names Royals fans want to see up won’t be getting the call to the show, according to MLB.com writer Jeffrey Flanagan. First baseman Frank Schwindel and pitcher Josh Staumont won’t be getting promoted, due to a roster crunch, says manager Ned Yost.
“Where am I going to play him?” Yost said of Schwindel. “I have [Jorge Bonifacio] sitting on the bench today. Do I want Boni sitting on the bench? No. I don’t have enough at-bats for everyone.
”We thought about [calling up Schwindel]. We looked to see how we could get at-bats for [him]. I mean, I got [Rosell] Herrera sitting on the bench two days in a row. I got Boni sitting on the bench. I got to give this group at-bats. Yeah, I like [Schwindel]. But it wasn’t going to work.”
This explanation doesn’t hold much water. Sure, first base is occupied by Ryan O’Hearn, who should be getting a long look against both righties and lefties as he seems like the most likely candidate to be the 2019 starter. But the five games since the Royals traded away Lucas Duda, they have used five different DHs - Jorge Bonifacio, Alex Gordon, Whit Merrifield, Hunter Dozier, and Ryan O’Hearn. I mean, the Royals were planning on activating Jorge Soler to DH in September until he suffered a setback in his rehab and is out for the year. Why not give Schwindel those at-bats you were planning on giving Soler?
I’m not saying Schwindel has to be the everyday DH, but he could certainly be in that mix. The last two nights have seen Dozier and O’Hearn at DH so the Royals could get Alcides Escobar in the lineup. Alex Gordon is one of my favorite players of all-time and still a defensive force, but there is no reason he has to be an everyday player considering his age and offensive ineptitude. Esky has started three of the four games in September, and Gordon has started all four. Those are at-bats that could be going to Schwindel. Here, I’ll show you how easily he can be inserted into the lineup. Here are the lineups for the last four games.
Royals September lineups
Now here are the same lineups, keeping the young players in the lineup, but with Frank.
Royals September lineups with Frank Schwindel
All that cost were two starts from Escobar and two from Gordon.
The more likely reason Schwindel isn’t being called up is the reason Flanagan provides - the 40-man roster crunch. Promoting Schwindel would mean adding him to the 40-man roster. That’s not the hard part, they could simply put Bubba Starling on the 60-day DL to make room.
The hard part will be at the end of the season, when all the 60-day DL players have to be activated. That includes Jorge Soler, Cheslor Cuthbert, Jesse Hahn, and Nathan Karns, meaning four other players will have to be removed. Two of them will be impending free agents Alcides Escobar and Jason Hammel (once his option is declined). Candidates to be designated for assignment include outfielders Paulo Orlando, Bubba Starling, pitchers Eric Stout, Brandon Maurer, and Andres Machado.
But then you also have to figure in players that need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. It is a guessing game in which the club must figure out who would likely be selected and carried on a roster all season, weighing the calculation of which players can be designated for assignment (DFA’d) and clear waivers now. Josh Staumont is one of the players that need to be added - which could have been a reason to bring him up and add him to the 40-man roster now. But the Royals opted not to, perhaps because of his lack of command.
However, aside from Staumont and pitcher Foster Griffin, are there many players that really warrant being protected? Flanagan mentions Scott Blewett and Arnaldo Hernandez as possibilities, but the Royals would have to think that it is likely a team will take one of those pitchers on their roster all season next year despite lackluster results.
What the Royals could do is activate the four players currently on the 60-day DL (although you could make a strong case for non-tendering Karns and/or Hahn and trying to re-sign them on minor league deals considering their health record), lose Escobar and Hammel, designate those five players mentioned above (Orlando, Starling, Stout, Maurer, and Machado) for assignment without losing much sleep over it, and still have room to add Staumont, Griffin, and Schwindel. If you are really worried about losing Blewett or Hernandez, then weigh whether or not you really think Karns or Hahn will be worth that million or so they’ll get in arbitration. Or whether a guy like Jerry Vasto can clear waivers.
The Royals organization lacks high-upside talent. Who has higher upside, Schwindel or a reliever like Eric Stout? No knock on Eric Stout, but at best he’s a nice lefty reliever. And the Royals have a bunch of those already on the 40-man roster, and they’re all pretty expendable. This is a franchise that will lose well over 100 games, the roster ain’t exactly stacked with irreplaceable talent. If you DFA one and they somehow don’t clear waivers, guess what? You’ve got Brian Flynn. And Tim Hill. And Jerry Vasto. And probably a few other replacement level arms waiting in the wings in the minors.
Under Dayton Moore, the Royals have seemed to be deathly afraid of losing players. And perhaps rightfully so, players like Jose Martinez have flourished away from the organization, making the decision to trade him for nothing to look rather foolish. But in stashing Frank Schwindel away, the team is hoping to keep him - so that they never have to use him. And what kind of message does that send?
Whit Merrifield had to fight and claw his way to the big leagues. He was denied a promotion once, then redoubled his efforts and made himself impossible to ignore. Look, I’ll admit I wasn’t the biggest Whit Merrifield fan when he was in the minors - I’m not the biggest Frank Schwindel fan now. Last year, I saw Schwindel as a 25-year old AAA slugger, the kind who are a dime-a-dozen in the Pacific Coast League, who couldn’t draw a walk to save his life.
Well he redoubled his efforts. He more than doubled his walk rate to a somewhat respectable six percent. And he did it by actually lowering his strikeout rate as well. The power is still there - he exceeded last year’s home run total with 24 this year, and set the Omaha franchise record for doubles with 38.
Maybe Frank Schwindel is just another Kila Ka’ahuie. Another Ryan Shealy. Another Calvin Pickering - sluggers who could never convert their gaudy AAA numbers into Major League success.
Or maybe he’s another Jeff Conine. Or Kevin Millar. Or Dan Uggla. Or Evan Gattis - players who didn’t reach the big leagues until they were on the wrong side of age 26. The point is, this is the kind of season where you figure that out. He’s not getting younger. This is his time. These meaningless games have meaning only to give young players opportunities and chances to fail and learn. You’re 32 games back. Quit playing legacy players from your 2015 championship team, and find out if you have someone for your next championship team.
I don’t know if Frank Schwindel will ever reach the big leagues. I hope he does. Let’s just hope that Royals fans won’t regret it.