Schoop’s big game has some O’s fans pondering the future for the club’s infield

Even though much of the game was played during the late night and early morning hours when some fans could not or did not watch it live, Jonathan Schoop’s big game against Cuba has certainly created a buzz through the O’s fanbase, a buzz that includes some fans wondering what a future Orioles infield could look like.

Will there be a day in the next year or next few years where Manny Machado patrols at shortstop and Schoop at second base? And how do others with promise like Ryan Flaherty factor in?

I did admit to some surprise when Schoop fell out of some of those top 100 prospects lists recently, although he was rated No. 50 on Keith Law’s list at ESPN. Schoop had modest stats last year at Double-A Bowie and in a results driven business fell down the board of some of the experts.

But I want to add that just about anyone I spoke to with the Orioles during last season about Schoop, was almost never anything but very high on the young man. He has always had the rep of a hard worker and good kid with a good attitude.

In September 2011, Machado and Schoop led Single-A Frederick to the Carolina League championship with Machado batting .344 and Schoop .314 in the postseason and the pair teaming up for several highlight-reel double plays. It was quite a show.

But now with two homers in the WBC and that huge game against Cuba, a lot more fans know his name. That happens when you almost single-handedly beat the Cubans with a three-hit, four-RBI night that featured a homer to left that was a missile on its way to the stands.

However, I don’t think that just because Machado made the majors after a short time at Double-A and no time at Triple-A, that we should figure on the same plan for Schoop. While he has a higher profile now after that game, there is still plenty for him to learn and still some development left for him in the minors and I would be surprised if he can be a contributor to the 2013 Orioles. Beyond that, sure, but maybe just not this year.

Some fans are already speculating about a Machado-Schoop double-play combination. But keep in mind the club has J.J. Hardy signed through 2014 and I’m pretty sure they are delighted with him playing excellent defense at such a premium position for at least two more years.

Sure, the O’s could look to deal Hardy at some point if they feel the time has come to turn over the middle of the defense to the dynamic duo, but we are nowhere near that point yet. Machado, I believe, is the future shortstop of the Orioles, but I see that future as well down the road at this point.

But hey, this could be a good problem for the Orioles to have if Schoop continues to progress as they feel he will and Machado continues to develop his game while playing in the big leagues.

Did you see this?: Rawlings has announced that the Society for American Baseball Research will develop a defensive metric stat for its use in Gold Glove voting. Rawlings is going to have SABR develop an expanded statistical resource guide that will accompany the Rawlings Gold Glove Award ballots sent to managers and coaches each year. In addition, SABR will immediately establish a new Fielding Research Committee tasked to develop a proprietary new defensive analytic called the SABR Defensive Index. There you go, sabermetrics and advanced metrics making further inroads in the sport. I’ve always felt it is very hard to quantify defense in any stat, but it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

That could have gone better: Team USA lost its WBC opener Friday, 5-2 against Mexico. Adrian Gonzalez homered with three RBIs for the winners while the Orioles’ Adam Jones went 0-for-3 with a walk for the Americans. Jones batted eighth and had not hit that low in the lineup since 2008 with the Orioles.

Now the Americans need to win the next two days against Italy and Canada, so the pressure is on. The USA squad has never even made the WBC finals and with this loss, fell to 7-8 all time in WBC games. That is kind of embarrassing.

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