Second base prospect Jonathan Schoop has looked really good thus far in spring training. When I say he’s looked good, I mean to the tune of being 8-for-15 in plate appearances. In fairness, Schoop has mainly faced pitching that’s expected to start the year in the minors also, however what that means is that he’s ahead of his competition. Going back to 2012, I wasn’t in favor of the Baltimore Orioles bringing Manny Machado up when they did due to the fact that his major league clock starts, and of course that eternal question what if he isn’t really ready. Obviously I missed the boat on that one…
…which is partially why I didn’t have an issue with the Birds calling Schoop up at the end of last season. (And to be clear, the circumstances were different in that Schoop received a September call up.) And the fact is that Schoop showed flashes of brilliance during his cup of coffee in the show last year, collecting his first major league home run. So one of the big questions in camp right now is whether or not Schoop could possibly find a way to force his way onto the major league roster when the Orioles break camp…?
And the answer to that is yes, he could. However keep in mind that the plan since the end of last year appears to have been that Ryan
Flaherty would be the starting second baseman this year. But Schoop having a breakout spring is obviously a good problem to have if you’re the Orioles. These circumstances actually have some far-reaching ripples, as I believe that the Orioles do want Flaherty to be a part of the organization moving forward. If Schoop makes the team out of camp, I suspect he’ll be the starting second baseman. It wouldn’t make much sense to me to award the rookie a spot on the roster as a backup infielder. (The idea being that a young slugger like him needs everyday at-bats, thus in that scenario it would actually make more sense for him to play in Norfolk.) So if Schoop were to make the team I would submit that Flaherty would find himself as the utility inielder, a spot that he’s been accustomed to playing.
However the O’s area also looking to extend SS J.J. Hardy. While there’s a mutual interest in an extension, if somehow the O’s aren’t able to do that could Flaherty be the SS of the future for this franchise? All options would be on the table in that scenario, however it’s certainly something on which to keep an eye.
I don’t think the O’s were expecting Schoop to have such a breakout spring, although we’re only about a week-and-a-half into Grapefruit League play. My personal opinion is that while Schoop is going to continue to shine, he’ll start the season in triple-A Norfolk so that he can play second base and get at-bats on a daily basis – as I said above. However I also believe we will see him in Baltimore this year. It’s not a matter of if, but when.