What a day for Patrick Wisdom, the 29-year-old reserve fill-in, who is stepping up because the Cubs are without so many guys on the positional side. He singled and homered twice, with a big smile in the process.
Through 16 plate appearances, Wisdom is hitting .467/.500/1.133 (334 wRC+) with three homers. It’s really been quite fun to watch.
Wisdom also lodged a strikeout on the day … taking a 3-2 pitch that was about four inches off the plate. So between that should-be walk and that one he crushed last week that the wind blew back 75 feet, if you were just eyeballing his performance, rather than his numbers, you could argue Wisdom has been even better in his small sample.
So then the question I hear a lot: is Wisdom actually A Guy, or is he just on a flukey streak? And if he’s A Guy, how does a 29-year-old who is good not break out in the big leagues long before now?
To that second part, I certainly have thoughts, but I’d be derelict in my duty if I didn’t admit that, much more often than not, short-term pop-up guys like Wisdom eventually fade and fade hard. We’ve seen it before, we’ll see it again, pitchers and scouts adjust, baseball is hard, etc.
But I would *also* be derelict if I didn’t point out that Wisdom’s experience and trajectory aren’t quite the same as some other 29-year-old you might’ve seen pop for a couple weeks. For one thing, this isn’t his first big league experience. He had the same kind of stretch like this as a part-time/bench guy with the Cardinals over 32 games back in 2018. That year, after developing along a normal path for a 2012 compensatory draft pick (52nd overall), Wisdom was raking at Triple-A as a third baseman before getting that taste of the bigs at age 26. Not all that unusual for a dude who might become A Guy.
After the season, the Cardinals had a full set of corners and also had designs on acquiring Paul Goldschmidt to put them over the top at first base. Anticipating there wouldn’t be a spot for Wisdom (who can play the corner outfield spots, but has very limited experience there and I don’t get the sense that he’s expected to be particularly good at it), the Cardinals traded him to the Rangers for Drew Robinson, a more traditional outfield prospect at a similar age/experience/upside level. With the Rangers, Wisdom stayed at Triple-A most of the year, getting BABIP’d and behind a surprisingly large volume of corner infielders and outfielders who stayed health that year.
Just like that, Wisdom was a minor league free agent, and the Cubs jumped on him before the 2020 season. Then the pandemic happened, and although he got time at the alt site (Cubs were impressed), we didn’t really get to see much of him during the big league season. It was just kind of a lost year.
So, that’s how you get to 2021, with the Cubs retaining Wisdom, letting him continue to work, and watching him once again rake at Triple-A before this big league opportunity presented itself. Even at 29, yes, Wisdom might still be A Guy. A starter for years who hits in the middle of the order? Maybe not. But capable of holding down a spot and holding his own at the plate for a while? Yeah, I think maybe so. And maybe more? Maybe he’s the positional equivalent of what the Cubs have had so much success doing on the pitching side? Maybe! We’ll just have to keep on watching.
Strikeouts have been the big bugaboo in recent years for the hard-swinging righty, but he takes his walks and hits for so much power that it might even out. Here’s hoping he keeps drawing starts until the cascade of returning position players forces him to a bench role, and then maybe back to Triple-A (he does have options). He’s probably buying the Cubs some time to be patient, at least.
Oh, and can’t lie. Having Wisdom actually establish himself as a big leaguer – bench or otherwise – after years of not really getting a shot with the Cardinals would be awfully satisfying.
UPDATE … he homered again tonight.