September 4, 2013
The Situation: With the minor-league season complete, the Orioles decided to give Schoop his first taste of the major leagues in the middle of the American League Wild Card race.
Background: Signed out of Curacao in 2008, Schoop has only intermittently posted strong numbers during his minor-league career. After seeing action across three rookie levels—the Dominican Summer, Gulf Coast, and Appalachian Leagues—in 2009 and 2010, Schoop finally got a serious taste of full-season ball in 2011 with Low-A Delmarva. After he posted a .316/.376/.514 line as a 19-year-old, the Orioles promoted him to High-A Frederick where he held his own and hit .271 with 12 doubles and five home runs in 77 games. With Double-A Bowie in 2012 Schoop struggled at times, hitting just .245 with 14 home runs while splitting his time between second base and shortstop. Schoop’s 2013 season has been marred by a stress fracture in his lower back, but he has managed to post a .256/.301/.396 line in 70 games as a 21-year-old in Triple-A.
Scouting Report: Listed at a healthy 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Schoop appears more physically imposing in person than those numbers suggest. He is a quality athlete with excellent strength and projection remaining in his body. Schoop can leverage his natural power into plenty of hard contact to the pull side. He sees the ball well coming from left-handers but will struggle with pitch recognition and strike zone judgment against right-handers. Regardless of which side the pitcher is throwing from, Schoop’s approach at the plate is aggressive. He likes to swing early and often and must learn to wait for and identify pitches he can drive. His pull-happy approach also causes him to swing through some stuff on the outer third.
While scouting Schoop in each of the last two seasons, I have noted an inability to catch up to good velocity (93-plus) on the inner third, something pitchers will catch on to quickly at the major-league level. Schoop has good enough bat speed and just enough barrel control to suggest that he could become an average hitter with more experience against advanced arms. His power potential also plays at an average level but depends heavily on the utility of his hit tool.
Schoop has played shortstop throughout most of his minor-league-career, though he has shifted to second base on occasion, mostly in deference to Manny Machado’s higher profile at shortstop. Schoop’s actions and range are both fringy for the left side, and most scouts believe he’ll be better suited for second in the future. He shows decent hands and ability to range enough to get most balls in his area on the right side. He has the arm strength for shortstop or third base and consistently flashes his plus arm on the pivot from second. As a below-average runner at this stage of his development, Schoop could continue to slow and may need to move to third base or right field long term.
All told, Schoop owns an intriguing package of tools on both sides of the ball. He has the bat to play at either second base or third base and could evolve into a decent everyday player if he can polish his offensive game to maximize the utility of his hit and power tools.
Immediate Big-League Future: Schoop won’t see much action for the Orioles down the stretch. Aside from his not being ready to handle major-league pitching, the O’s are pretty well set around the infield with Manny Machado, J.J. Hardy, and Brian Roberts. Schoop’s time in Baltimore this year will consist more of watching and learning than actual game action. —Mark Anderson
Fantasy Impact: Fantasy owners cannot resist making quick comparisons and jumping to hasty conclusions. It would be tempting to look at the Orioles’ rapid call-up of Machado in 2012 and assume that they’re going show the same level of aggression with Schoop, starting him fairly regularly at second base down the stretch. However, this scenario is highly unlikely. While Schoop was fairly young for his level, he still is older than Machado is now. While Machado was an above-average hitter as a 20-year-old at Double-A, Schoop was a slightly below-average hitter as a 21-year-old at Triple-A. This means little in terms of future impact, but it does support Mark’s hypothesis that Schoop is unlikely to play much down the stretch for Baltimore. Despite the subpar numbers they’ve gotten this season from a combination of Brian Roberts, Alexi Casilla, and Ryan Flaherty, it doesn’t seem probable that the O’s will insert Schoop into a starting role right out of the gate
Schoop’s value in fantasy comes in keeper leagues. Roberts’ contract expires in 2013, and it’s extremely unlikely that the Orioles will re-sign him. The O’s might sign a one-year stopgap in case Schoop isn’t ready next spring, but that wouldn’t necessarily preclude him winning the job outright. That gives him some upside as an AL-only, deeper-mixed middle infielder in 2014. In dynasty leagues, Schoop’s value is at its highest, though even there his ceiling is as an above-average everyday player, not a superstar. —Mike Gianella
Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @ProspectMark