Before last season, I had no clue who Ryan Schimpf even was. To be fair, that can also be said about several other players on the San Diego Padres. Once Schimpf entered the scene with the Padres, though, he quickly made an impression. Many late bloomers have a “flukey” vibe to them. Schimpf, however, may be something despite having some outliers in his profile.
Schimpf entered the season as a career minor leaguer who had never really done anything of note — or at least not without being much older than the average player at the level. That said, he created an opportunity for himself early on in 2016. After completely flopping in AAA in 2015 in the Blue Jays organization, Schimpf started the season there in 2016 with San Diego. Schimpf lit El Paso on fire. In his 51 games with the Chihuahuas, he hit .355/.432/.729 with 15 home runs, 17 doubles, and was a 2.7 bWARP player. He generated career bestss in HR rate, wOBA, wRC+, SLG, OBP, and AVG. This was clearly absurd enough for the grizzled minor league veteran to get the call up to the big leagues. It also helped that the Padres were something of a mess, and that it’s not as hard for someone like Schimpf to make the big leagues in that kind of environment.
Schimpf was called up for the June 14th game against the Marlins. From then on, He was essentially an everyday player for the Padres. He also mashed. In the bigs, he hit .217/.336/.533 with another 20 home runs, 17 doubles, .368 wOBA, and a 129 wRC+. Also, He would finish the year with a .315 TAv, which placed him eighteenth among batters with more than 200 plate appearances. Keep in mind, too, that he did all of this over 89 games and 330 plate appearances. If we normalize that to 600 PAs, he would sit at 5.3 bWARP, 4.4 fWAR, and 3.3 bWAR. Not bad for a guy who debuted at 28.
Digging into his batted ball data, you can once again swoon over Schimpf. Generally, you want to hit the ball in the air. He was crazy good at that. Schimpf managed to maintain a 0.3 GB/FB rate over the season, which is insane. The launch angle you want to sit at to maximize your offensive profile is around 25°. Against RHP, Schimpf basically built his house and enrolled his kids in school there.
Almost all of his hits were at an angle between 10° and 30° and even his outs rarely dipped below 10°. Against LHP, he was even more extreme, which makes sense given the small sample.
This doesn’t do a whole lot of good if you can’t hit the ball hard, but Schimpf can. He sat at a 91.5 mph average exit velocity, which was good for 58th in baseball among players with at least 90 batted-ball events. That put him ahead of the likes of Daniel Murphy and Corey Seager. He’s not as good as them, but that’s good company to have. However, as Eno Sarris detailed in the article above, he also posted an extreme outlier season for flyball rate. Looking at his launch angle breakdown, it should be no surprise that he sits in a less than sustainable area. It’s probably something we can expect to regress. His ability to sit there so consistently is a great sign though.
It’s also worth noting that Schimpf took his bat out to Dinger City for a nice seafood dinner on Opening Day.
Schimpf isn’t without his warts in other areas. Over his 330 plate appearances, he only had 60 against left handers, so ring the sample size bell. In his limited exposure to left handers, Schimpf had an extreme contact problem. He only registered a 50 percent contact rate against lefties, against whom he hit a paltry .157. However, he did maintain his lumbering trend against lefties with a .275 ISO. He is also a near non-factor to steal. After recording 7 steals in 2012, Schimpf has failed to record more than three in a single season. Also, his defense isn’t much to inspire you. Over his 580 2⁄3 innings at second base, he was a -9 DRS player. He performed well at third in limited action at the position, and that’s where he’s played each of his games this season.
Over a full season, we certainly can expect to learn more about Schimpf. We already know that he can hit for power. In addition to that, he can play both the keystone and the hot corner. But, the aforementioned issues with his sustainability against lefties and with his fly ball rate loom over his season. His contact rate is obviously abysmal, but with that sample, we can only really say that it might be a concern. Even if lefties prove to be his kryptonite, he may very well be an extremely valuable platoon player, especially given that he’s on the strong side of the platoon. If not, the places where we expect him to regress can work to offset each other. If Schimpf can improve his performance against lefties, that gives him more space to let his batted ball profile normalize. Overall, it seems like there’s a variety of routes to Schimpf at least being an average player.
The Padres are going to be bad this season. There may be a lot to hope for on the roster with guys like Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe roaming the outfield. Schimpf is one of the few “now” players on the squad. If he can manage to sustain his performance, he can be a source of excitement for both Padres fans and the front office.
Anthony Rescan is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyRescan.