All spring, Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop has been impressing people. It's not like he was some nobody who came out of nowhere: he's been on top 100 prospect lists in recent years and was ranked the #82 prospect in baseball heading into this season. The future is now. Schoop is expected to make the Opening Day roster.
This hasn't been officially announced as of Friday afternoon. The local reporters are all taking it as a given.
What would Schoop's role be on the team? Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports offered this:
Sources: #Orioles plan on Schoop making team, alternating at second with Lombardozzi and third with Flaherty.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 28, 2014
One concern about Schoop making the team would be that he'd just end up sitting on the bench when he might be better served getting regular at-bats at Norfolk, especially after he missed time with a back injury last season. If the O's are planning to have him in a platoon situation at two different positions, that does give him more opportunities to play. Steve Lombardozzi is a switch-hitter who's been better against right-handed pitchers in his career; Ryan Flaherty is a lefty. This could indicate the O's plan to start him mostly against lefties at first.
There's also the question of how this arrangement will change once Manny Machado makes his return from the disabled list. One of the trio of Schoop, Flaherty, and Lombardozzi would likely find himself optioned to the minors.
Is it worth having Schoop up to play against only lefties? There could be something to be said for easing him in to big league action in a way that should allow him to perform better and gain some confidence. If he'll be splitting time between two positions, that will be an additional adjustment he'll have to make. He's only played 24 games at third in the minors, and most of those were back in Delmarva.
Does he have the range, arm strength, or instincts? He's probably better there than Mark Reynolds, anyway. Baseball Prospectus praised a "versatile skill set on defense" as one of his strengths as a player. If that bears out, that's a good sign for a guy who may be going between two positions. If Schoop works out at third base, that gives the O's more options for the future.
If the Orioles were still a losing team full of losers, there would be reason to worry about the service time issue. Starting the season with him on the roster could mean he becomes a free agent sooner. That is loser talk now. Gone are the days where calling up a prospect a few weeks sooner in a futile season is something to worry about. The season isn't futile. Giving the team the best chance of winning in 2014, especially while one of the best players is on the disabled list, matters.
If having Schoop up instead of Jemile Weeks or whoever means the O's are a better team right now, that is great. If he's good enough to stay up for the next several years, that's also great. Worrying about whether he'll be a free agent after 2019 instead of 2020 is not great.