When Ryan Schimpf was signed as a free agent back in November of 2015, it hardly drew notice. The journeyman infielder was 27 at the time and had never sniffed a major league roster. His signing was seen as a depth move, and he didn’t get any consideration in spring training since he was buried on the depth chart by Yangervis Solarte, Cory Spangenberg, Alexi Amarista, Adam Rosales, Jemile Weeks, Nick Noonan, and probably some more names I’ve forgotten. Little did we know that the guy nobody noticed would make a big impact on the Padres’ season.
Before Toronto selected Schimpf in the 5th round of the 2009 draft, he had a hugely successful career at Louisiana State University. In that powerhouse program, he was a standout, earning an impressive list of awards: SEC Player of the Week (May 12, 2008), 2008 SEC All-Tournament Team, 2008 NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team, 2009 First-Team All-Louisiana, SEC Player of the Week (Feb. 23, 2009), 2009 LSWA Louisiana Hitter of the Year, 2009 ABCA All-South Region Second Team, 2009 College World Series All-Tournament Team, and 2009 Second-Team All-SEC. He certainly wasn’t an unknown kid coming out of the draft. Here’s his draft preview video:
Through seven years in Toronto’s minor league system, Schimpf was consistently very good, but not quite good enough to make it past AAA. He stalled for a year each at the single-A, double-A, and triple-A levels, although he was named to MiLB.com’s organizational All-Star list each year from 2012-2015. Even though he was named the MVP of the 2015 New Hampshire Fisher Cats, his time in the Blue Jays organization had run its course, and he was released in November of 2015.
After breaking camp with the El Paso Chihuahuas, Schimpf was given the starting job at third base. His April fell in line with his career norms, batting .263/.295/.544 with four home runs. The power was evident, but he was only warming up. He caught fire in May, hitting .338/.416/.691, and finally forced the Padres’ issue in June, as nobody could ignore his ridiculous .512/.615/1.049 line for an astounding 1.664 OPS through eleven games. His dominance won him the PCL Player of the Week award on June 5th. He was called up to the big league team on June 15th.
Ryan Schimpf’s hot hitting tore through the month of July. The rookie second baseman smasked Padres rookie records on the way to a .269/.387/.705. That’s an OPS of 1.092. His nine homers were a padres record for most in one month by a rookie (breaking Jedd Gyorko’s old mark), and he led the league in homers, slugging percentage, and extra base hits.
All this talk about power only tells a part of the story. Since being installed as the daily starting second baseman, he’s played solid defense at the keystone. By the eye test, he has every bit as much range as Jedd Gyorko did. Capable at second and third base, his lefty power at the plate mixed with excellent strike zone discipline may have earned him a job beyond this season.
Schimpf joins Khalil Greene (April and August 2004), Xavier Nady (May 2003), and Josh Barfield (July 2006) as the fourth Padre to win the Rookie of the Month award.