The West Coast is no joke.
This week’s portion of the road trip now takes the Orioles to Oakland, where they lost three of four games last season - a 9-6 win in the finale allowing them to avert an embarrassing sweep. They lost the first three games 3-2, 2-1 and 1-0.
The Orioles haven’t swept the Athletics in a four-game series in Oakland since 1987.
Jonathan Schoop has a hit in his last five games, going 6-for-20, while continuing to emerge as one of the best second basemen in baseball. He’s taken a giant leap in his progression from the past season, though he’s just as impressive when planting one foot and turning a double play with a runner barreling down on him.
The burning question is exactly where do the Orioles envision Schoop playing in 2018?
They may consider moving him to shortstop as J.J. Hardy’s replacement, the veteran headed toward free agency with the Orioles unwilling to pick up his $14 million option. They could hand the job to Tim Beckham and keep Schoop at second base. They also have Rubén Tejada in the organization. And there’s always the possibility that they continue to search for Hardy’s replacement during the offseason, depending on their evaluations of Beckham and Tejada.
Beckham collected two more hits yesterday and is 18-for-35 (.514) with the Orioles.
Schoop has made two starts at shortstop and appeared in four games this season with Hardy on the disabled list and Johnny Giavotella limited to playing second base before his latest outright. Manny Machado hasn’t slid over from third base unless he’s in the shift.
Machado pushed for the shortstop job last summer, but maybe two surgically repaired knees, the physical toll and his continued excellence at third brought about a change - as in not changing his position this year.
Not everyone in the industry is sold on Schoop as a shortstop despite how he broke into professional baseball at the position in 2009 and made 215 starts in the minors. Machado forced him to third base and later second. Strange how neither one became a regular shortstop in the majors.
Schoop obviously has grown since his days in the Dominican Summer League and in Single-A ball. His range hasn’t graded highly at second and there are some doubts about how it would transfer to short.
“When it comes to playing shortstop, one of the traits is you want to be athletic, you want to be able to run around, have range, arm strength, good hands. All of the traits. The only trait that he doesn’t necessarily have is the range part of it,” said third base coach Bobby Dickerson, who also serves as infield instructor.
“He can throw off balance. Some of the running-type plays, being a big man like he is, they’re just more difficult. He can do them. So, the only thing that would worry me at short maybe would be just the taxing part of it. Playing the position and taxing his body.
“Cal Ripken did it for a long time and he was always knocked for not having range. When Cal was at short and Ryne Sandberg was at second, these were big men playing positions and they were always hearing, ‘They don’t have the range of this other guy.’ Sometimes, it’s kind of a misconception because things aren’t done in that little quick move like you’ll see out of a (Francisco) Lindor or someone, but J.J. Hardy gets the same knock, but if you watch his footwork, it’s really efficient. His moves are good, his position is great, his anticipation of contact is great.
“So, the answer to your question is Jonathan can do those things. I believe physically and mentally he can do it. It just would be taxing and the only thing that would be missing from him is maybe a step of range. His arm strength, he can go in the hole and throw. And we’ve seen him at shortstop a few games and his focus as far as quarterbacking the defense is there. He locks in pretty good.”
Dickerson goes way back with Schoop and knows the shortstop version as well as anyone.
“I saw him in A ball at shortstop, so I know he can do it,” Dickerson said. “His hands are great. If you saw the double play he turned on the low feed ... We’ve seen him turn the high feed on one leg. But when he gets the low feed, he can get down there, and his ball transfer skills are great.
“Real quick release, accurate thrower with arm strength, so yes, he can do it. It’s just the taxing part of it and maybe lacking a step of range.”