2nd base is solidly Schoop’s territory
Breakout season, shallow depth make him unlikely to lose position anytime soon
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
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.