It seems less and less likely that Orioles’ third baseman Manny Machado will be ready for opening day, as minor setbacks have prevented him from seeing in-game action just two weeks shy of the season’s start. Machado’s left knee surgery following ligament damage in October last season has forced the Orioles to be very cautious with their young star, and recent setbacks seem to place even more doubt in Machado being in the Orioles’ Opening Day lineup. This situation increases the possibility that second base prospect, Jonathan Schoop, may be given a shot at making the Major League roster for Baltimore to start the year.
One scenario that may help Schoop’s chances is if manager Buck Showalter decides to start Ryan Flaherty at third in Machado’s absence and look for a temporary replacement at second base. Although, Showalter has avoided naming anybody as a third base or second base starter, it seems likely that Flaherty will be the favorite to land one of the spots. If Flaherty started the year at third, Schoop has performed well enough in spring training to get the second base duties, at least temporarily.
In 14 games, Schoop has batted .400/.424/.633 with 1 HR, 4 2B, and 6 RBI. Clearly, Schoop has hit the ball very well in spring training, but one number that suggests he is a serious candidate is his 30 at-bats (third most on the team), just one less than Flaherty.
Showalter is giving Schoop every opportunity to make the team and open some eyes, and Schoop is flourishing. When young players like Schoop are getting an abundance of playing time at a position that may have a vacancy, it suggests a manager may be contemplating giving that player a job. In addition to his constant playing time at second, Showalter has even indicated that Schoop could even play at third if he had to.
One final factor that may help Schoop is the meagre performances by fellow second basemen Jamile Weeks and Alexi Casilla. Thus far, Weeks has hit very poorly (.148/.314/.499) and Casilla has seen limited action due to some nagging injuries, hurting both of their chances at cracking the 25-man roster.
The combination of Machado’s injury, a potential relocation of Flaherty’s to third, Schoop’s abundant at-bats and the poor performances of Weeks and Casilla have opened the door for Schoop to crack the Orioles’ roster for opening day.