Schoop plans to be lighter and faster in 2015, plus FanFest and prospect notes

At the tender age of just 22, Jonathan Schoop realized his dream to play in the major leagues. He did it after just 70 games at the Triple-A level and he hit 16 homers last year for the Orioles, more than he’d ever hit in any minor league season.

But Schoop knows there is more development to come for him and his game, and in an interview yesterday, he repeatedly stressed that he needs to get better and is very motivated to take his game to another level in 2015.

Jonathan-Schoop-bat.jpgSchoop was among a group of four players from the organization that took time Friday afternoon to meet with fans, answer questions, sign autographs and take pictures during the Double-A Bowie Baysox winter caravan at Buffalo Wild Wings in Annapolis.schoo

Pitcher Tyler Wilson and outfielders Henry Urrutia and Glynn Davis also attended the event.

“Good to be back here,” Schoop said. “Played here in Double-A in 2012 and it was a good experience as I made my way to the big leagues. Good to see the fans here again and come back to say thank you to them.”

Schoop hit .209 with 18 doubles, 16 homers and 45 RBIs during his 2014 Orioles rookie season, which featured several ups and downs. But the Orioles stuck with him and he got 455 at-bats as the club’s regular second baseman.

He spent this winter working out in his native Curacao, and he also worked out in Aruba and the Dominican Republic with fellow countrymen Hensley Meulens, Jurickson Profar and Andrelton Simmons.

“I think I’m a better player than last year,” Schoop said. “I worked hard this offseason to get better. We want to get back to the playoffs, it was a great experience and we want to go every year. The fans were loud and we want to do that again. Want to help the team with whatever I can do to help us win.

“I learned a lot from my teammates. They helped me a lot. (With) one year of experience, I’m better than last year. Mentally and physically, everything. My ups and downs helped me a lot to know myself better, too.”

What will be the key for Schoop to raise his batting average?

“Be patient. Don’t chase too many pitches. Let them throw strikes and swing at strikes. Just have to work on getting better pitches to hit. See how they pitch you. If I can do that, I’ll be better,” he said.

Schoop came to spring training a bigger and stronger player last year. It was very noticeable. But he said he now wants to drop a few pounds to allow him to add some speed and quickness.

He ended the 2014 season at 228 lbs. and is 224 lbs. now. He wants to get to 215-220 lbs. for the season.

“My weight is lower than last year,” he said. “I want to have more range and be faster. Trying to steal some more bases and be faster for the team on the bases to help put more pressure on the defense.

“I worked on everything (this winter). I want to get faster. You have to work on all of it, speed, defense. I want to be a better player than last year.”

Schoop said dropping a few pounds was his call and not a directive from the team.

“I wanted to do it for myself. I want to improve my game and get better, improve everything,” he said.

The kid who always seems to have a smile on his face produced a sizable one when looking ahead to today’s FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center.

“It is going to be great to see all the fans that support us. I am thankful for them to come see us at FanFest,” Schoop said.

Also at the Baysox event: Urrutia said he feels good after undergoing sports hernia surgery last year. He was out from April 28 to July 5 and was limited to 51 games at Triple-A Norfolk, where he hit .270 with no homers and 17 RBIs.

“I was working in Florida this whole offseason,” he said. “I feel ready and feel very good. I’m expecting some good things for me and the team in spring training. I think this year provides a big opportunity for me.”

Wilson was the Orioles 2014 minor league Pitcher of the Year after going a combined 14-8 with 3.67 ERA between Bowie and Norfolk. He was recently at the Orioles minicamp in Sarasota, Fla., where he got to meet with pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti. He also spent some time there listening and observing.

“I had a really good time getting to know some of the guys I had not met prior. It is always nice to see the big league players and how they go about their work and try to find a way to take something from someone else’s routine. It was only three days, but it was very productive,” Wilson said.

The 23-year-old Davis, one of the Orioles’ top outfield prospects, had a very solid season last year that was much improved from 2013, when he hit .234 at Single-A Frederick.

Between Frederick and Bowie last year, Davis, who is from Baltimore, hit .299 with 27 doubles, four triples, two homers and 43 RBIs. He scored 74 runs and stole 23 bases.

What was the key to Davis’ improvement last year?

“I kind of took some pressure off myself,” Davis said. “In 2013, I set too many goals and put pressure on myself that wasn’t needed. Last year, my goal was to stay healthy. I did that for the most part. I had a minor back injury the last two of the weeks of the season, but it was nothing major.

“I somewhat doubted myself in 2013 but played with more confidence last year. Was relaxed and prepared myself the right way every day.”

It’s time for FanFest: I’ll be among the thousands heading to FanFest today at the Baltimore Convention Center. Check our blogs here and our Twitter accounts for news and updates from players and coaches.

Young O’s fans should be sure to join us in the kids theater room (Room 310) at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to participate in kids press conferences throughout the day. Kids will receive their own press credential courtesy of MASN and have the chance to ask some of their favorite Orioles players a question just like members of the media do after a game.

I’ll be hosting two of those. One with Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy at 12:30 p.m., and one with Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter at 4 p.m.. I’ll also host the media fan forum on the main stage at 5 p.m.

Click here to read about what will be going on today at the MASN booth.

Click here for more on FanFest. On this page, when you click on the “print your map and schedule” file in the red border, you can access a PDF file with a map of FanFest and complete rundown of today’s events. Hope to see you there!

Last word: Here is the Orioles’ top 10 prospects list according to ESPN’s Keith Law, who earlier this week ranked the Orioles farm system No. 22 overall in baseball.

1. Hunter Harvey, RHP
2. Dylan Bundy, RHP
3. Chance Sisco, C
4. Christian Walker, 1B
5. Jomar Reyes, 3B
6. Zach Davies, RHP
7. Brian Gonzalez, LHP
8. Drew Dosch, 3B
9. Jonah Heim, C
10. Mike Wright, RHP

Also last night, MLBPipeline.com released its list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. Dylan Bundy was rated No. 20 and Harvey was No. 41.

Earlier this week, Harvey was No. 16 and Bundy No. 26 in Law’s top 100 on ESPN.com.

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