Ray Guilfoyle takes a look at Orioles infield prospect Jonathon Schoop and wonders if he will be an impact bat in the big leagues.
Jonathon Schoop was signed as a free agent at the age of 16 by the Baltimore Orioles out of Curacao way back in 2008. He began his professional career in the Dominican Summer League the following year, hitting .239-.320-.291 with 28 runs, 35 RBI, 11 stolen bases and a solid 39-24 strikeout to walk ratio in 68 games. While his performance did not wow you, his plate discipline, for a 17 year old, was impressive.
He made his stateside debut in 2010 at the age of 18, playing in the Appalachian and Gulf Coast rookie leagues before ending the season with 21 at bats in High A. He hit a combined .290-.350-.453 with 5 HRs, 32 runs, 35 RBI and 1 stolen base in 62 total games. Once again, he showed an excellent eye at the plate, as he struck out just 25 times, while taking the free pass 20 times in his 240 plate appearances. Baseball America commented in their Orioles Top 10 Prospects for 2010 that he was the most improved player in the Orioles system in 2010, showing "improved bat speed.....and an ability to spray the ball around the field."
Schoop started the 2011 season in full season ball at Low A Delmarva, where he continued to improve at the plate, hitting .316-.376-.514 with 8 HRs, 45 runs, and 34 RBI in just 51 games. His young age was not an obstacle for the 19 year old, as he showed more power in his first taste of full season ball. He continued to show solid plate discipline as well, as his 32-20 strikeout to walk ratio indicates. Not only was he young for his level, he was learning a new position, as he moved over to third base with top prospect Manny Machado playing shortstop. His performance resulted in a mid-season promotion to High A Frederick of the Carolina League.
At High A Frederick, Schoop played alongside Machado again, but this time he moved over to second base. As expected, Schoop struggled hitting against more advanced pitching after his promotion, hitting .271-.329-.375 with 5 HRs, 37 runs and 37 RBI in 77 games. His strikeout rate stayed the same (13.4%), but his walk rate took a dip, from 8.4% in Low A to 6.7% in High A.
Baseball America ranked him as the Orioles #3 prospect in their 2012 Top 10 Orioles Prospect rankings, saying "he has the arm and hands for any infield spot, and some club officials would argue he is a better shortstop than Manny Machado. His bat will play anywhere, as he shows good bat speed, and should have average power."
The Orioles pushed him to AA Bowie to start the 2012 season where he struggled, hitting .245-.324-.386 with 14 HRs, 68 runs, and 56 RBI in 124 games. AA pitching proved to be more challenging, as his strikeout rate jumped from 13.4% to 18.6% in 2012, but he also raised his walk rate from 6.7% to 9.0%. In the field, Schoop played 88 games at second base and 39 games at shortstop, so it appears the Orioles may see him as their future second baseman.
In their 2013 Top 10 Orioles Prospect Rankings, Baseball America listed Schoop as the team's second baseman in their 2017 projected lineup. Many don't put much credence into these projected lineups, and there is the school of thought that Schoop will outgrow the middle infield and move to third base eventually.
A few weeks ago, I came across this question about Schoop in a recent chat hosted by ESPN's Keith Law:
Dan (Idaho Falls)
Law's response surprised me a bit, as Arenado was one one of the more hyped prospects heading into the 2012 season, but is now coming off a disappointing Double-A season. Earlier in the chat, one reader asked Law if Schoop and Chris Tillman were enough for the Royals DH Billy Butler. Law responded by saying that the trade offer was too rich and that he felt that Schoop is going to be an impact bat in the big leagues.
Impact bat? Really? Scouting reports are obviously more important than his minor league stats at this point, but what do Minor League Ball readers think about Law's response that Schoop will be an impact bat at the major league level? I guess the follow up question to Law should have been "impact bat at what position?", as an impact bat at third base is quite different than an impact bat at shortstop or second base.
Fantasy owners should take note, because if Schoop can stay at second base as he moves up the ladder, he could be a valuable fantasy second baseman if Law is right about him. Schoop is on the Orioles 40 man roster, so a hot start in AA/AAA (I am not sure if the Orioles announced where he will start the 2013 season yet), could result in a call up in 2013, as the team has no one blocking him at second base at the moment.