Scouts who had been watching infielder Jonathan Schoop at Double-A Bowie and the Arizona Fall League seem convinced that he will become an everyday player in the majors. But like the Orioles’ rotation this season, his position is TBA.
Is he a third baseman, shortstop or second baseman?
Schoop, 21, has been moving around, which seems like a wise plan by the Orioles. Shortstop J.J. Hardy just won his first Gold Glove and he’s signed through 2014. Manny Machado is the starting third baseman in 2013. Second base is a riddle.
Schoop won’t break camp with the Orioles. He could be assigned to Triple-A Norfolk. And as Machado knows, you’re still only a phone call away if you’re in Bowie.
In 21 games with the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League, Schoop batted .270/.446/.429 with four doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs over 63 at-bats. In the minors, he’s played 204 games at shortstop, 152 at second base, 24 at third and one in left field. All of his appearances this year were confined to the middle infield until the AFL, where he got more work at the hot corner.
“Defensively, Schoop is going to be really solid no matter where they put him,” said a scout from outside the organization. “He doesn’t have great foot speed, which is probably why they have him at third base, but he handles everything there. He has plenty of arm. He can handle that or second base. And I’ve heard he can handle shortstop.”
Schoop, the Orioles’ minor league Player of the Year in 2011, batted .245/.324/.386 with 24 doubles, a triple, 14 homers and 56 RBIs in 485 at-bats at Bowie this summer.
“I talked to scouts about him all the time. I loved him at Bowie this year,” the rival scout said earlier this week. “He’s the guy everybody is intrigued by. To me, he looks like he’s a little tired at this point. His hand speed at the plate looks a little down. I think that’s why his batting numbers aren’t quite as good as they might be.
“I think he has a ton of upside. From a batting standpoint, he’s very young and raw, but when he’s on, he has really good bat speed and really strong hands. The ball explodes off his bat. I saw that, and talked to other scouts who saw it. They’re all very interested in what he’s doing.”
That’s because Schoop’s name always seems to surface in trade talks. It happened last winter and at the non-waiver deadline. Teams check on his availability, but the Orioles would prefer to hold onto him.
“The signs are there that he’s really going to hit,” the scout said. “I liked him at Bowie and I think he’s going to be an everyday player up there eventually. Probably at third base. I talked to other people and that’s the general consensus.”
Of course, Machado would have to move to shortstop, and that’s not happening in 2013.
“I think that’s probably eventually going to be the left side, though I can see Schoop at second, too,” the scout said. “He doesn’t hurt you defensively there. He’s going to catch everything. He’s not going to be Roberto Alomar ranging all over the field, but he’ll make all the plays. And people like the way he plays. It looks like he’s having fun out there, like a young kid who’s enjoying himself. It’s refreshing to watch.”
Shameless plug alert: I’m joining Tom Davis and Dave Johnson for “Wall to Wall Baseball” from 11 a.m.-noon on MASN.