It seems that many American baseball fans are not real excited about the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Fans are not happy that the competition will take some players away from major league teams in spring training.
But the competition could be a real plus for Orioles top minor league prospect Jonathan Schoop. The club's No. 3 prospect, according to Baseball America, is expected to play for the Netherlands when the games begin March 2.
"It's good to play for your country," Schoop said. "It's very important. We'll try to win it, not just show up. Not many people get the chance to do that."
Schoop initially told reporters at FanFest that knee soreness could keep him out of the WBC, but later said he is going to play and that his left knee, which caused him some problems last year, is now no issue.
"I feel that my leg is stronger already. I feel good now," he said.
You would think playing in high-pressure games could prove to be a great experience for Schoop, who has played for his country before in international competitions.
Whenever Schoop is mentioned, fans ask what position will we see him at in the future. While the Orioles have made no commitments on that, Schoop has looked good anywhere he's been around the infield on defense. Signed as a shortstop in August 2008 out of Curacao, Schoop played second base alongside shortstop Manny Machado at Double-A Bowie last year, then moved to short when Machado was promoted to the majors in August.
"I think it has helped me to play second, short and third," Schoop said. "Wherever they have a spot open, you can help. I don't really have a favorite position, I just want to be in the lineup to help the team win. I'm ready for anywhere they put me."
Schoop hit .245 with Bowie last summer along with 14 homers, 56 RBIs and an OPS of .710. He batted .308 with an .899 OPS versus lefties and .218/.628 against right-handed pitching.
The Orioles challenged Schoop by playing him every day and batting him mostly second in the order in the Eastern League at just 20.
"The pitchers are more mature and you need to be more disciplined. Early on was a little rough for me but I think I picked it up a little bit and it was a good experience. I like that. I like a challenge. In Double-A you face some guys that have been in the big leagues," he said.
In November, Schoop was added to the Orioles' 40-man roster for the first time.
"That meant a lot. Everyone's goal is to make it to the big leagues and if you are on the 40-man, you're closer," he said.
Schoop knows if you are playing at Double-A or higher, you have a shot at the bigs after seeing his good friend and double play partner Machado joined the Orioles in a pennant race.
"We are good friends. We do almost everything together. To see him do what he did, I was happy. It means a lot for me too. I want a chance to get there," Schoop said.
More scoop on Schoop: In this article, Double-A Bowie manager Gary Kendall talked about Schoop after he was added to the 40-man roster.
O's minor league hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger talked about Schoop and some others in this entry from December.