The scoop on Schoop’s bat and the AL Manager of the Year Award

He may be ranked as the Orioles’ third-best prospect, but there are a few offensive concerns about infielder Jonathan Schoop. In my recent interview with Matt Forman of Baseball America, I asked about them.

Forman wrote up the new O’s top 10 prospects list recently published by Baseball America. I spoke with him about Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman here and published a Q&A with him here.

After those two interviews, there were still a few questions I asked Forman that have yet to appear in this space. So here they are.

Q: You mentioned an issue for Schoop with “bat wrap” in your Baseball America chat about the O’s top 10. What do you mean by that and what are the concerns?

Forman: “Bat wrap is literally where the bat head tucks behind the head as a pre-pitch movement which elongates the swing. It can lead to questions about whether he can consistently make contact with premium velocity on the inner half. The swing is a little bit long.

“Certainly that can be corrected and even if it’s not, it doesn’t mean he can’t have a successful big league career. You could make a case that Chris Davis, early in his career, had a little bit of a longer swing even though he has great bat speed. It took him a while to identify which pitches he could do damage on and pick his spots. That could be the case with Schoop, if he is not able to mechanically adjust his swing. It’s a timing issue that takes time to fix and comes with repetition.

“With Schoop, I think context is critical. He played most of this season as a 20-year-old in Double-A. He turned 21 in the middle of October. He’s out in the Arizona Fall League and made the Rising Stars roster. He’s played different positions and had some tendinitis in both of his knees this year.

“But he’s got some games and stretches where he really just wows you and impresses you and you know it’s in there. It is just about consistency and putting it all together.”

Q: When you do this list a year from now, who that is not in the top 10 now could be pushing for that? Who should fans watch over the next year?

Forman: “I would say Adrian Marin. He was out of our top 10 when I started this process and worked his way in. He exceeded expectations on offense in the Gulf Coast League and could be a real mover up the top 10 for next year. I mentioned (Eduardo) Rodriguez could move up.

“Outside of that top 10, I like Josh Hader. He’s got a lot of upside and if he continues making the strides he started after signing, that would be huge.

“In that next group, maybe we see Torsten Boss, the eighth-round pick this year. Clayton Schrader is a max-effort reliever that can throw his fastball into the low-to-mid 90s. He’s got big league setup man potential and he’d be one to keep an eye on even though he’s been on the radar for a while.

“Also, two right-handed pitchers taken in the 2011 draft. Zach Davies is first. Had a scout rave about his competitiveness and pitchability. You have to buy into his projection because he doesn’t overwhelm you with stuff and is a smaller guy at 6-foot and maybe 150 pounds soaking wet.

“But he has athleticism and a four-pitch mix and good feel. The comparisons on him, not in future potential but how he gets it done, is Mike Leake. Simple, repeatable delivery. Fastball sits in the upper 80s with some 91s and 92s. He is one that if he grows into his body and adds a little velocity could surprise some people.

“Devin Jones is another one, a ninth-round pick out of Mississippi State. He was a reliever in college. The Orioles moved him into the rotation after being in the ‘pen for his pro debut. Has very good ground out to fly out numbers. Has a low 90s sinking fastball that generates ground balls consistently. He’s got a pretty good slider, probably a plus 82-84 mph slider. The trick for him is developing the changeup to have a third weapon if he stays in the rotation. But at the very least, he looks like someone with two plus pitches - a sinker, slider type that could be a power guy out of the bullpen. He is someone to watch for 2013.”

I’ll end this entry by revisiting my take on the AL Manager of the Year Award that will be handed out tonight.

This looks like one close race between Buck Showalter and Oakland’s Bob Melvin. While Buck engineered a 24-win turnaround to 93 wins for the Orioles, Melvin took the A’s from 74 to 94 wins. Oakland had the best record in the majors from July 1 on, going 57-26.

Some might give Melvin a slight edge over Buck because the A’s stormed back to win the AL West in a year where that division was very strong.

Buck might gain an edge because of the constant patchwork nature of the O’s rotation, which featured just one 10-game winner and an offense with no one producing more than 85 RBIs. The O’s pitching went from worst to sixth in the AL.

While Oakland had a great year, the A’s pitching staff ranked third in the AL in ERA in 2011 and the A’s added a premium bat in Yoenis Cespedes this year.

Don’t hate on me O’s fans, I would vote for Buck, but I predict that, in the end, he gets edged out for this award by Melvin.

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