2nd base is solidly Schoop’s ter­ri­tory

Break­out sea­son, shal­low depth make him un­likely to lose po­si­tion any­time soon

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jon Me­oli

With the 2016 sea­son fin­ished, there’s no bet­ter time than the present to take stock of the Ori­oles’ or­ga­ni­za­tional depth at ev­ery po­si­tion around the di­a­mond. Over the next few weeks, we’ll break down ev­ery po­si­tion in­di­vid­u­ally and sep­a­rate the play­ers through the sys­tem into three cat­e­gories: who was the man there this year, who else was in the pic­ture and who is work­ing through the mi­nors to join them.

To­day’s edi­tion is sec­ond base, where Jonathan Schoop en­joyed a break­out sea­son and util­ity play­ers fill out the mi­nor league depth. The man: Man­ning sec­ond base ev­ery day the Ori­oles played this sea­son was Jonathan Schoop, one of three play­ers in the ma­jors to have started all 162 games, along with the Hous­ton Astros’ Ge­orge Springer and Kansas City Roy­als’ Al­cides Es­co­bar.

Don’t let the player who looked worn out down the stretch fool you: Schoop took a big step for­ward this sea­son, and spent all but the fi­nal few weeks rais­ing the bar for what’s ex­pected of him.

At the plate, Schoop hit .267/.298/.454 with a ca­reer-high 25 home runs, while his 38 dou­bles were ninth most in the Amer­i­can League. En­ter­ing the sea­son, there was a sense around the team that you could dou­ble the stats Schoop posted last sea­son in a year cut in half by a knee in­jury — 15 home runs and 17 dou­bles, to go with a .279/.306/.482 line — and end up with what a full year could look like.

Un­til Septem­ber, that was ex­actly the case. Schoop was hit­ting .280 with a .786 OPS — nearly iden­ti­cal to last year — but got into a funk that lasted al­most the en­tire month.

Schoop seemed to be a har­bin­ger of suc­cess or fail­ure in the Ori­oles lineup. When play­ers around him were putting to­gether pa­tient, smart at-bats, so was he, mak­ing the en­tire group thrive. When the bat­ters be­fore him were go­ing up hack­ing and swing­ing from their heels, so was

Schoop.

That doesn’t take away from what was a break­out sea­son in a lot of ways for him. Schoop is grow­ing into a ma­jor threat of­fen­sively and wows op­pos­ing coaches, scouts and his team­mates with his de­fense. He’s also shown him­self to be a strong tag­ger on stolen base at­tempts. The al­ter­na­tives: The list of other po­ten­tial sec­ond base­men on the ros­ter is short. Steve Pearce played two in­nings at sec­ond base, and Ryan Fla­herty played one. Nei­ther is much of a threat to Schoop’s sta­tus as the go-to guy at that spot.

Pearce un­der­went surgery on a flexor ten­don in­jury in Septem­ber and is a free agent, while Fla­herty is a util­ity player. The fu­ture: With Schoop locked up for at least the next three sea­sons, it’s not nec­es­sar­ily a worry that the tal­ent is oth­er­wise thin at this po­si­tion in the Ori­oles’ sys­tem. Essen­tially ev­ery player who saw sig­nif­i­cant time at sec­ond base in the or­ga­ni­za­tion this year has a util­ity pro­file.

Two play­ers in the high mi­nors, in­field­ers Cor­ban Joseph and Garabez Rosa, head­line that long list.

Joseph, brother of Ori­oles catcher Caleb Joseph, hit .315/.369/.422 over a sea­son spent mostly at Triple-A Nor­folk. He had 29 ex­tra-base hits in 107 games. Rosa hit .293 with nine home runs and a .703 OPS over 130 games between Dou­ble-A Bowie and Nor­folk, though the high­light of his sea­son might have been break­ing Caleb Joseph’s record with 466 games played for the Baysox.

Few oth­ers stand out at the po­si­tion. Jeff Kemp, a Bowie na­tive who played for the Baysox, bat­tled in­jury in a dis­ap­point­ing first year at Dou­ble-A. The skinny: It’s a good thing for the Ori­oles that some­one like Schoop is around for the fore­see­able fu­ture. He’s en­ter­ing the first of three years of salary ar­bi­tra­tion, in which the club has con­trol of him. And not many teams have a blos­som­ing star at sec­ond base who is on an af­ford­able salary.

In a lot of ways, Schoop is the quin­tes­sen­tial mod­ern Ori­ole — big power, solid de­fense, and a bit of swing-and-miss. He’s over­shad­owed by third base­man Manny Machado and some of the team’s vet­eran stars, but con­sid­er­ing the al­ter­na­tives, both in­side the or­ga­ni­za­tion and out, no one is com­plain­ing about what they have in Schoop.

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