I think Ryan Schimpf is my favorite player. He takes the word extreme to an entirely new level, ranking at or near both the top and bottom of various statistical categories, for the better and for the worse. That’s what makes him such a fascinating hitter. He debuted with the Padres in 2016 to excellent results over about a half a season’s worth of plate appearances. He was a new breed of hitter – a five true outcomes type, as his plate appearances generally ended with either a walk, strikeout, fly out, pop-up, or home run. The approach worked that season, but failed miserably in 2017. His performance earned him a demotion to the minors, and ultimately a ticket out of San Diego.
The Rays took him off the Padres hands yesterday, giving us some hope that the team will give the soon to be 30-year-old another chance at regular at-bats. Between the Majors and Minors, Schimpf has played at least one game everywhere on the diamond except center field. He even pitched an inning at Triple-A in 2015!
As it currently stands, the Rays would likely roll with Matt Duffy at second base and Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop, with veteran Evan Longoria at the hot corner. But Duffy recorded just eight minor league plate appearances all season thanks to his slow recovery from a heel injury and posted just a .292 wOBA back in 2016. Hechavarria has never posted a wOBA above .298 and his contributions are solely with the glove. And Longoria is on the trade block and may very well get moved.
So, there is a real path to significant playing time here. But can Schimpf take advantage? Let’s focus on what he does best — hit for home run power and take walks. Though the sample size is small, he just posted a 16.5% Brls/BBE, which ranked eighth best among hitters with at least 30 batted ball events. That was no fluke, as he ranked fifth in 2016 with a near identical Brls/BBE. The park switch actually helps, as Petco Park was one of the worst parks for left-handed home run power last year, and while Tropicana Field also suppresses lefty homers, it doesn’t do so by nearly such a degree.
Aside from the power, Schimpf has also displayed excellent plate patience. Both his O-Swing% and Swing% are well below the league average, which has boosted his walk rates. However, his passiveness extends to pitches inside the strike zone, so although he doesn’t swing and miss often like his strikeout rates would suggest, he has still been called out on strikes far too frequently to become a real offensive threat. But the strong walk rate helps to offset low batting average and makes him a little more acceptable at the plate.
Those walks are mighty vital given his crazy batted ball profile, heavy on the fly balls and pop-ups. Because of his tendency toward low BABIP batted ball types, he has posted just a .219 BABIP during his short MLB career and we can’t expect that mark to improve dramatically. It means he’ll have far more value in leagues that count OBP, rather than batting average.
Assuming he makes the big club out of spring training and he’s not just an afterthought, there’s playing time opportunity and a real skill that could lead to fantasy value. He’ll cost little, too, making him the true definition of a sleeper in deep leagues.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.