There is a good chance that if you ask an Orioles fan about Jonathan Schoop, that fan would say that the player has a lot of potential, but needs more seasoning. If numerically inclined, that person may bring up Schoop’s four errors at third base, his one walk in 82 plate appearances, his poor .297 wOBA, or even that 31.7 percent of his plate appearances end in a strike out. That all paints a rather poor picture of Schoop and brings up the idea that perhaps he will be forever harmed by that somewhat abstract notion of being rushed.
To gnaw on this issue a bit longer, I talked with Nick Faleris of Baseball Prospectus. He grew up outside of Baltimore, was a long-term season ticket holder with the Orioles, wrote for Camden Depot, did some bird-dogging for a National League team and is now one of BP’s team of prospect writers.
Jon Shepherd: Performance scouting is notorious for being a poor way to evaluate a player, but why do you think the Orioles opened the season with Schoop after a poor summer and fall showing?
Nick Faleris: “The Orioles probably would have preferred to give him the luxury of returning to Norfolk. However, injuries to (Manny) Machado and (J.J.) Hardy forced the issue. Now I really like what I have seen from Schoop. Although overmatched at times, he looks like he belongs with a lot of explosion in the bat and in no way shape or form taking timid or defensive at bats.
“However, you could say Baltimore made his adjustment more difficult by shuffling him around on his defensive assignments. In an ideal world, the organization would decide his long term position and then allow him to log time there at Triple-A. Instead, he is feeling around multiple positions while simultaneously learning how to make adjustments to and game planning against MLB arms. That is a lot to handle.”
JS: The team has tended to aggressively promote Schoop in years past regardless of how he has racked up numbers. What are your thoughts on promoting players before they develop a competent track record at a level?
NF: “As far as aggressive promotions, generally speaking, it really comes down to the player. If you believe the player has the makeup and gumption to weather the frustration and potential embarrassment of struggling a great deal, an aggressive promotion can help the player to identify what areas of his game require the most work. If that player is not capable of making adjustments on the fly, then it ends up being a year-long lesson in humility. The disadvantages, obviously, are that you may be putting a player in a position where he simply is not equipped to succeed due to physical maturation issue or a question of experience/approach.”
JS: At this point, what would make you think Schoop should be sent down to Triple-A Norfolk?
NF: “Playing time is the only variable that would lead me to lean towards sending him down to Norfolk. If Manny comes back and Schoop is only getting two or three games a week, then you should probably send him down.”
JS: With pitchers it is mentioned that it might be ideal to start them off in the majors in the bullpen. Why would that approach not work with position players on the bench?
NF: “This is a question of the differences between in-game repetitions between pitchers and position players. A pitcher is tasked with learning execution, but the environment is generally the same. There are additional aspects of a starter’s game that a pitcher needs to learn once no longer throwing in relief (e.g., coming up with a game-long approach), but you’re operating within the same general framework - stand here and throw pitches.
“Life for a position player is a more diverse experience. You need the regular at-bats to continue to see the wide variety of velocity, stuff, arms and game situations. Likewise, in the field, each night you are presented with new situations. Different scores, different baserunner set-up, balls put into play all over the field. In order to learn to slow down the game, you need to be able to immerse yourself in the environment. It is tough to pick that up just by watching from the bench. I’m not saying you ruin a player by limiting his time, but the player isn’t getting more out of sitting on the bench, and in most cases you are likely lengthening the adjustment period.”
Jon Shepherd blogs about the Orioles at Camden Depot. Follow him on Twitter: @CamdenDepot. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.