Elite or not? It is a question that is not only reserved for Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. This time the man to be discussed plays for the other major sports team in Charm City and is quietly becoming a force in the middle of a formidable lineup. So, is Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop elite or not?
Over the weekend, the Birds were swept by Robinson Cano and the Mariners. Cano has long been lauded as the premier second baseman in the world, and for good reason. Over the last 10 years he has been named to six All-Star games, won five Silver Slugger awards, two Gold Gloves and has been in the top five of MVP voting a handful of times.
The guy is likely a Hall-of-Famer. But he is also 33 years old now and, although he has been fantastic again this season, it is expected that he will slow down soon and then someone else will need to be anointed as the best second baseman in MLB. Schoop has a chance to be the man to do it, but will he ever get there?
Career year...so far
Schoop has appeared in all 81 of the O’s games. In that time, he is slashing .301/.332/.510 with 13 home runs, 47 RBI and 22 doubles. You simply double those numbers to calculate his expected final stats based on his production in the first half: 26 home runs, 94 RBI, 44 doubles. That would be fantastic, especially from a second baseman. The best part? He doesn’t even turn 25 until October.
The one negative of Schoop’s offensive game is his patience at the plate. His 66 strikeouts are the third-worst among major-leaguers at his position. And the 13 walks he has worked put him at 25th among qualified second basemen; far from “elite” level.
Room to improve
In the field, things are a bit mixed for the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Schoop. The strength of his arm is an unquestioned asset. In 2012, as a minor leaguer, Baseball America attributed him with the best arm in the O’s system. Fangraphs “Fan Scouting Report” rated his arm as an 89 on a scale of 0-100. And there is even some debate that his throws are a little better than teammate Manny Machado, which is saying a lot.
However, advanced statistics don’t support him as the fleetest of foot in the field. Fangraphs gives him a Range Runs above average of -6.4, meaning he has cost the O’s six runs with his lack of range. And then his UZR rating is -1.1. However, his arm is so good that it outweighs all of these things to give him an overall defensive WAR of 0.4, according to Baseball Reference.
Pretty much everything Schoop is doing this year is better than what he has done in years past, but because of his young age it’s tough to write any of it off as fluky. More accurately, it is likely just the maturity of a slugger figuring things out as he goes.
One stat that pops up as a bit inflated is his batting average on balls in play. In 2016, he has a BABIP of .347. The major league average is right around .300. He hits the ball slightly harder than the major league average (89.86 vs. 89.44), but this is only a small jump from his .329 BABIP in 2015.
Schoop struggles to stand out
Schoop is a part of the “new generation” of young stars that has taken the game by storm, including the likes of Machado, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Of course, Schoop is not to that same level, but he is a similar age and only looks to be getting better.
Unfortunately for him, baseball is in the midst of really impressive crop of second baseman that hasn’t been seen in some time. Jose Altuve, 26, may be one of the best players in baseball, period, let alone at this position. His slash line of .351/.424/.568 is all kinds of ridiculous. On top of that he has 21 stolen bases. 14 home runs and 49 RBI from his 5-foot-6 frame.
Plus, you have veterans like Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis and Daniel Murphy who all still put up great numbers. And then the slightly younger guys like DJ LeMahieu, Jean Segura and Derek Dietrich make it easy for Schoop to get lost in the mix.
In the most recent update to the All-Star voting for this year’s Mid-Summer Classic, Schoop was not even in the top five for the American League. Toronto’s Ryan Goins and Kansas City’s Omar Infante were both listed ahead of him. Schoop is clearly better than those two, but it shows that his name does not register on a national scale.
The Orioles have a diamond in the rough with Schoop. No, he is not the very best second baseman in the sport right now, but he may be close to the top five, if not already in it.
There are things that he could stand to improve upon, but the man is only 24 years old. For many players, they are just starting to sniff MLB playing time right about now. Schoop is ahead of schedule and only looks to be getting better and better. Sure, he may not be “elite” at this moment, but don’t be surprised if it happens sometime soon.
Thanks for reading!! Do you think Jonathan Schoop is elite? If not, where does he rank among MLB second basemen? Let us know in the comments down below, on Twitter and on Facebook. Heck, even give the writer a follow on Twitter.