Jonathan Schoop of the Baltimore Orioles needs to be the regular daily second baseman from this time forward. I am picking myself off the floor for having written that sentence.
After the poor Arizona Fall League performance from Schoop last year, I could not imagine there was any way he could possibly be ready for the big leagues. Even after the great spring training season that made it impossible for the Orioles to not send him down, I remained a skeptic.
It can successfully be argued that second base is the weakest position on the Orioles right now. Some might suggest it is catcher, but there is no doubt that the numbers from the second base position are not comparatively good. In fact, the Orioles are #14 in the American league with a .234 average at this position (the worst production at 2B is from the Oakland A’s, and the best is from the Houston Astros … so awesome numbers from this position are not necessarily required for team success!).
There has been some discussion that the Orioles might do well to strengthen the team for the pennant run by securing a Chase Utley or Ben Zobrist – both players whom I think are pretty awesome. Would the Orioles be better with Utley? Without any doubt. Would they be better with Zobrist? Almost certainly.
But at what cost? Certainly something beyond the likelihood of the Orioles making such a move and giving up a key piece of the future.
And at what cost would it be to Jonathan Schoop? There is no doubt that he is already a plus defender, and his arm is likely the very best in the game at his position.
Yes, Schoop has hit into a lot of double plays, and he strikes out too much. But he can also hit home runs and has had a number of them in critical situations against good pitching. On Friday evening, he hit one off Jeff Samardzija with a swing that had him leaning and stretching over the plate… but the ball flew out of the yard.
And there is an intangible element with Schoop—the ball just jumps off his bat. He has a beautiful swing, and when his contact abilities improve, he is going to be a beast to deal with.
Schoop is still only age 22, and he could be a Machado-like player whose abilities allow him to suddenly turn a corner and completely “figure it out and put it together.” Even in a pennant run, I’d say to leave him in there and watch it all blossom.
It seems to me that the commitment to Schoop, come what may, was made in March and April; and any move to change that now will come at a cost too high for the Orioles’ future. I understand that the logical argument could be made that the future is now; now is the time to win and there is no room for mediocrity and growing on the job. I just think it is too late to do that now, and the bang will not be worth the buck.