Apr 24, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop connects for a solo home run during the fifth inning of the Orioles 11-4 win over Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jonathan Schoop leads the Baltimore Orioles in errors, holds a .227 batting average, and is hitless in five of his last seven games. After a very promising spring, the Orioles’ top position playing prospect’s transition into regular major league playing time has not been as smooth as fans would have hoped.
In the field, Schoop was thrust into playing third base in hopes of filling the void left by Manny Machado early in the season. While Schoop was able to show some power at the plate early on, his defense at the position was suspect. He committed four of his team-leading five errors at third base.
After showing that he was better suited for his natural position of second base, Schoop began to struggle offensively. He’s received a steady diet of off-speed pitches, and has responded with 27 strikeouts over his 88 at-bats, which is second-highest on the team behind Adam Jones.
Now, Schoop has to wonder if manager Buck Showalter will have more patience with him than the prospect has shown at the plate.
All can agree that regular at bats and playing time are the best thing for Schoop’s development. If Schoop continues to hamper the major league team by giving away unproductive outs, it’s possible he sees those at-bats at AAA Norfolk.
Meanwhile, fellow second baseman Jemile Weeks has shown a more polished approach than Schoop and brings the added ability to switch-hit and to steal bases. Weeks is batting .273 since his call-up in late April.
Another potential Orioles second baseman, Steve Lombardozzi, hit .292 during his time with the big league club and went 2-for-2 with three walks yesterday in his first game at AAA.
Before Machado’s return, Schoop was needed at the major league level to provide the Orioles another option at third base. Now that Machado is the everyday third baseman and utility man Ryan Flaherty has returned to the bench as his backup, Schoop is no longer an essential piece of the major league club — just one of at least three second baseman who could see time the bigs.
In Weeks and Lombardozzi, the Orioles have two options that have outperformed Schoop so far this season. Schoop may be the best option for the team’s long term plans, but every move the Orioles have made in the offseason and throughout the early part of the regular season indicates that they are in a “win now” mode.
Giving Weeks and Lombardozzi an extended look doesn’t mean giving up on Schoop in the future, but it does mean exploring all of the options to make the 2014 team better. In order to excel in the highly competitive AL East, the Orioles can’t afford to ignore a weakness. Schoop’s recent performance gives the Orioles a reason to look for ways to strengthen second base.