Okay, so there’s good news and bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first (this might say something about me, but I’m not ready to delve into it). Schoop hit .209 in 2014. There’s no spin, no excuses: That’s on his record, and it’s there for good. That said, he’s made real strides since his 481 garbage plate appearances as a 22-year-old rookie. Schoop has always been a free swinger, carrying above average swing rates in every season of his career. He has hovered around an 80 percent swing rate on pitches in the zone and a 60 percent swing rate overall in the last two seasons. Both numbers are well above league average, but they’re at least consistent with Schoop’s game. In 2014, however, he swung at only 67.8 of pitches in the zone (53.2 percent overall).
While it’s typically not a wise strategy to just go up and swing at everything, it’s an approach that seems to work for Schoop. In 2015, he hit .279, and followed that performance with a perfectly solid .267 average last season. While those averages won’t get him in the running for a batting title anytime soon, it’s infinitely more palatable than the anemic .209 from his rookie season. Moving forward, there are reasons to believe that Schoop’s recent success is sustainable. He has cut down on his strikeout rate in every season as a pro, finishing 2016 with a 21.2 percent rate, basically league average. It’s a remarkable feat for such a free swinger.
Travis started hitting immediately after being traded to The Great White North, flashing a .307 TAv in his first 238 big league plate appearances. Known as a line-drive hitter that sprays the ball all over the field, there is little reason to fret about Travis’s high BABIP totals (.347 and .358 in 2015 and 2016 respectively). He followed up his promising rookie campaign with more hitting. Last year, Travis hit .300 in 432 plate appearances. It was another impressive offering, especially considering he hit three percent more infield fly balls and struck out in two percent more of his trips to the plate. If he can cut back on giving up free outs, Travis shouldn’t have a problem hitting over .300 for the foreseeable future. While Schoop isn’t a slouch in the category, he’s not on Travis’s level. Advantage: Travis
Listen, you aren’t going to confuse either of these guys with Joey Votto.
In 2016, Schoop had his most patient year at the plate, drawing free passes at a 3.2 percent clip. That’s bad. That’s movie starring Jonah Hill and Michael Cera level. Schoop subscribes to the “let it eat” philosophy of plate discipline, as mentioned above. His improving strikeout rate should help keep him from being an absolute zero in the category, as it’s very likely he’ll make enough contact to keep his OBP over .300 (obviously still not great, but not an abject disaster).
Travis walked in 4.6 percent of his 432 plate appearances last season, which is also not great. He makes up for the lack of discipline with elite contact skills. Travis has a knack to put the ball in play, and his swing is perfectly conducive to hitting for a high average. His batting average alone puts him in the conversation with Schoop, OBP wise. The extra handful of walks Travis will draw in a season (not to mention the fact that he’s approached league average walk rates in his past) set him apart in this one. Advantage: Travis
Schoop flashed just enough pop on his way up for everyone to dream on a young, power hitting second baseman. This promise finally came to fruition last season. After slugging 16 and 15 home runs in 2014 and 2015 respectively, Schoop took another leap forward in 2016, launching 25 homers. He even chipped in 38 doubles for good measure. His surge in home runs also isn’t attached to a spike in HR/FB rate (his 14.3 percent 2016 rate nestles comfortably next to his 14.8 percent career number), leading to the belief that it’s not a blip on the radar, but more likely a sign of things to come.
In his 670 professional plate appearances, Travis has hit the ball on the ground right around 50 percent of the time, a number not typically associated with the league’s big boppers. One aspect of Travis’s game to keep an eye on: he increased his fly-ball rate by six percentage points last season, and his HR/FB rate actually fell by around six percentage points. It could be much ado about nothing, as he also carried around a league average exit velocity. However, it could have stemmed from a bit of bad luck. If the latter emerges victorious, Travis could flirt with 20 homers next season. Travis hit 11 long balls in 2016 and eight in 2015, so there is some pop. The question becomes whether that level of power is the floor, the ceiling, or the middle thingy between the floor and ceiling. Advantage: Schoop
The Orioles offense was surprisingly middle of the road according to BP team VORP. That didn’t keep Schoop from producing career highs with 82 runs and 82 RBI. His lineup remains basically unchanged, aside from the marginal upgrades of Seth Smith and Welington Castillo, so there’s no reason to believe that his power profile and the ability to deliver extra-base hits shouldn’t again translate success producing runs. Additionally, Schoop played in all 162 games last year, giving him ample opportunity to accrue counting stats.
Despite carrying strong batting average and OBP numbers, Travis hasn’t shown the ability to translate those numbers into runs and RBI. Last season, the Blue Jays lineup ranked in the top ten for runs scored, yet Travis only crossed the plate 54 times. He only drove in 50 runs. Obviously there’s a logical reason (which we’ll get to in a minute—TEASER), but unless Travis can find a way to create more volume, he’ll always struggle to be a counting stat asset. Advantage: Schoop
Listen, you aren’t going to confuse either of these guys with Billy Hamilton.
Schoop has five stolen bases for his entire career. He stole one base in 2016.
Travis stole four bases in five attempts last season, hot off of three steals in 2015. I mean, I guess that makes him a relatively better bet moving forward, but relative is the operative word. Advantage: Travis
Playing Time Risk/Injury Risk
In 2015, Schoop missed all of May and June with a PCL tear and MCL sprain. He was limited to 86 games. The gimpy knee appears to be a thing of the past, as Schoop played in all 162 games last season. One injury isn’t enough to declare him a risk, so there’s little reason to believe that Schoop won’t be a durable future option.
Travis, on the other hand, has a summer residence on the disabled list. Since breaking camp with the big club in 2015, Travis has missed time nursing lingering issues with his shoulder, hamstring, hand, and knee, or in other words, most of his body. Thus far in his short career, he has missed more games than he has played. A knee issued prompted his removal from the team’s ALCS roster, and also required arthroscopic surgery in the offseason. The team is confident that Travis will be ready for spring training. I hope that’s true, and that he has a fully healthy 2017, but it’s hard to feel confident at this point. Advantage: Schoop
Both of these guys are exciting, young talents. Neither one will walk or steal bases, but otherwise they both offer tons of promise offensively. This one might be a little closer if we could ever see a full season of health from Travis, but he’s young enough that he can still shake the injury-prone moniker. Right now the choice is Schoop, and if he continues to improve his contact skills to pair with the budding power, he could be the choice for a while.
And the winner is… Jonathan Schoop.
Thank you for reading
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