He has been tearing up the highest level of minor league pitching for more than a calendar year now, but Frank Schwindel doesn’t show up on any list of top prospects within the Kansas City farm system.
The Omaha first baseman does, however, appear among the Pacific Coast League leaders in home runs and RBIs and on the PCL’s roster for Wednesday’s Triple-A All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio.
Schwindel and right-handed pitcher Trevor Oaks will represent the Storm Chasers in the annual midseason contest pitting the top players in the PCL against the stars of the International League.
“There’s a lot of great players that have been in All-Star games. And these rosters are stacked,” the 26-year-old Schwindel said. “It’s an honor to be picked amongst these guys. That was special.”
Schwindel participated in the All-Star skills contest Tuesday at Huntington Park and won the situational hitting competition, which included three of the top batters from each of the leagues.
The slugger from St. John’s, named the top hitter in the Royals organization last summer after batting .329 with 23 homers and 97 RBIs over two levels, entered the All-Star break with 15 homers and 58 RBIs.
And with a hot stretch from mid-May through June, Schwindel boosted his batting average to .270 after an awful April that featured a 1-for-19 beginning and a .208 mark at the end of the month. He even reached .298 at one point.
“After that April I had, I was a little down,” he said. “I was coming off a really good spring training, and I was trying to do a little bit too much in the first month. But then, I’ve been locking it in since then.
“It happens to everybody. It happens to the best hitters in baseball. It’s tough trying to stay positive through that, but I’m here for a reason. Everybody has just got to get through it in their own way. And I just kept swinging, and good things happened. I just put some hot streaks together and go from there.”
In the 182 games he’s played for the Chasers since his promotion to Triple-A last summer, Schwindel has batted .299 with 32 homers and 130 RBIs. He’s been pacing the Omaha offense in the season’s first half.
Oaks, meanwhile, has been the star of the pitching staff. The 25-year-old former Dodgers farmhand returned from a short stint with Kansas City, where he made a July 4 start, in time for the All-Star Game.
How, and if, the PCL will use him Wednesday remains to be seen. But Oaks (5-3) enters the contest as arguably the hottest pitcher in the league. In his past seven Triple-A starts, he’s allowed only three total earned runs. Oaks, who has consistently thrown strikes in that stretch, leads the PCL with a 2.00 ERA.
Omaha manager Brian Poldberg said his starter, acquired in a three-way offseason trade by the Royals that involved the Dodgers and White Sox, has gotten back on track after spending time early on in the Kansas City bullpen. That isn’t unusual, he said, for a starting pitcher who has spent time as a reliever.
“He would go for extended periods (with Kansas City) where he didn’t get in a game,” Poldberg said. “When we get them back, we’ve got to start over, build them back up and get them back out there. His history is a guy that throws strikes and gets them to make contact. And he was out of sync a little bit.
“Once he came back down and got going consistently as a starter, and got his pitches built back up, he’s just been as consistent as anybody. … He’s comfortable. He deserves every bit of being (a PCL All-Star).”
Oaks, like Schwindel, is happy with the midseason honor, although he passed the credit for his big first half to his teammates and coaches. He said Omaha catchers Cam Gallagher and Parker Morin have done well with pregame scouting reports, and pitching coach Andy Hawkins has been keeping him on track.
“When I came in the dugout, he kind of challenged me. ‘I want you to spot up with your fastball a little better and try to use some sinkers to get some outs here,’ ” Oaks said. “And the last couple of outings that I’ve had, I’ve had some good success with my slider and cutter. It was good to have him kind of push me along and show me that you’ve got to establish your fastball still and get those ground balls.”
Oaks has mastered it lately. He hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in a Triple-A start since May 9.