One of the many issues the Orioles had during their slow start was a lack of production from the back of the lineup. Manny Machado’s return will lengthen the lineup a bit, but no timetable seems to be in place and his progress has been slow. Until then, other guys in the lineup are going to have to fill the gap in production. After a slow start, Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop have produced well the last two games, but can they provide consistent production until Machado’s return.
Ryan Flaherty seemed to be the favorite to win the second-base job coming out of spring training. Jonathan Schoop’s play in spring training would have definitely challenged that decision, but Machado’s injury allowed room for both players in the opening day lineup. Flaherty has come a long way toward being a solid contributor since coming to Orioles in the Rule-5 draft. He’s become a plus defender at multiple infield positions, and at times has shown decent pop with his 16 major-league home-runs. However, a slow start last season forced a trip back to AAA, and he seemed to be continuing that trend this season by striking out eight times in his first 21 at-bats and collected just one hit in that span.
After a spring where he forced his way onto Orioles’ opening day roster, Jonathan Schoop has struggled to start the season. There’s no doubting his raw ability, but that doesn’t always transfer into results at the major league level. Through his first few games, Schoop collected just three hits in his first 21 at-bats and at times looked over-matched. Like Flaherty, the strikeouts are an issue with 11 in his first 30 at-bats. However, his towering homerun on Wednesday showed fans exactly why the Orioles have been so high on him. 22 year-old infielders with that kind of power aren’t easy to find. The Orioles are hoping his early season struggles are just a characteristic of the normal rookie adjustment period.
After their slow start, Schoop and Flaherty have collected eight hits in their last two games, both wins for the Orioles. Strong games like that could take a lot of pressure off the other hitters. The Orioles can’t afford to have glaring holes in their lineup and compete in the American League East. With Machado on the D.L. and now J.J. Hardy dealing with back issues, there is going to be pressure on Schoop and Flaughtey to help pick up the slack. Both have shown flashes, but need to find consistency. If they can do that the Orioles lineup will be one of the best in baseball. However, with the Orioles win now mentality, if the two don’t produce roster moves will come sooner than later.