Schoop has tools to make impact on O's
Based upon what I saw of his dynamic play in the Arizona Fall League, Baltimore Orioles fans will be thrilled with infield prospect Jonathan Schoop (pronounced Scope).
Schoop isn't ready for Major League baseball yet, but once his development is complete, Schoop could become a very high-average, power-hitting fixture in the Orioles' lineup. Once he arrives in Baltimore, I can only imagine the offensive damage Schoop and his teammate, infielder Manny Machado, will inflict.
Schoop -- ranked third in the O's system by MLB.com -- is a native of Willemstad, Curacao, where he was a star of the country's 2004 Little League World Series championship team. Important people must have been watching him play.
Baltimore signed him in August 2008 as an international free agent.
Schoop, who turned 21 this past October, is the younger brother of Sharlon Schoop, a player in the Kansas City Royals' organization.
I first saw Schoop play in the 2011 All-Star Futures Game. He was a member of the World Team that also featured another outstanding prospect from Curacao, Texas Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar.
While Schoop may not have the same "can't-miss" profile as Profar, he does have the type of tools that cause me to think he is underrated in player evaluation circles.
I believe Schoop will be an impact offensive player for the Orioles.
Schoop has at least four quality tools. Some of the skills are more advanced at this early stage, but all were on display this past fall.
With a very well-proportioned frame at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Schoop has the athletic ability, agility and range to play anywhere in the infield. His soft hands, quick feet and outstanding body control make defense look easy. But his offense really makes me pay attention.
The centerpiece of Schoop's approach at the plate is his lightning-quick swing. His hands fly through the ball.
Coupled with his overall strength and solid eye-hand coordination, his bat speed results in line drives to all parts of the field.
Schoop uses both his upper- and lower-body strength in a consistent weight shift that results in backspin and loft on the ball. His fast hands and strong forearms yield overall carry and distance on line drives to the gaps or home runs over the fence.
It is likely Schoop will gain even greater strength and muscle, as his body may not yet be fully developed. Once that total maturation is complete, I believe he will be a power threat from any part of the batting order.
Interestingly, New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano had 41 home runs among his total 2,106 Minor League plate appearances. To date in his limited career, Schoop has been to the plate 1,646 times, not counting the Arizona Fall League. So far, he has 32 home runs.
I'm not suggesting Schoop will have the same career as Cano. Few players can hit for his lofty average with his power and his consistency. However, I do see some similarities and comparable qualities in the young Schoop.
If there is any aspect of Schoop's offense I think he can improve, it is his patience at the plate. There are times he's too aggressive and offers at bad pitches. He struck out 18 times in 63 Fall League at-bats. That isn't an alarming number, but it's worth improving.
Schoop's 2011 season at two classifications in the Orioles' system earned him Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year.
He played then for Class A Delmarva, where he hit .316 and high Class A Frederick, where he batted .271. He hit a combined 13 home runs and drove in 71 runs.
This past season, prior to joining Mesa of the Arizona Fall League, Schoop played for Double-A Bowie. As one of the younger players at that classification, Schoop hit .245. But he belted 14 home runs and drove in 56 runs in 555 plate appearances. He struck out 103 times and walked on 50 occasions.
Aside from his statistics and physical play, Schoop carries himself as a confident, capable, complete player.
Defensively, going forward, Baltimore will have the luxury of playing Schoop at any infield position where he is most needed at the time.
As the Orioles did with Machado when he was moved from shortstop to third base, Schoop could fill a void at second base or shortstop. Should Machado remain at third base, Schoop can easily play shortstop. Conversely, if Machado is moved back to shortstop, Schoop can easily play third base. They are interchangeable players.
Because of his height and build, I like Schoop best at third base.
In addition to Schoop's ability to hit for average and power as well as play solid defense, he also has an extremely powerful and accurate arm.
Regardless of whichever infield position Schoop plays, his arm is so strong it may allow him to take a tick more time to set his feet before his transfer and release of the ball.
In Arizona, Schoop showed his versatility and ultimate value as he played second base (three games), shortstop (eight games) and third base (10 games). I also think he is a good enough athlete to play first base.
Schoop's weakest tool may be speed and running ability. He isn't fast. But he isn't slow. Schoop will steal some bases. He'll also get thrown out a few times. He's quick enough to take an extra base with good baseball instincts and game awareness.
Schoop needs more time to work on hitting higher-quality pitching. He needs more at-bats and more repetition in the field. He needs to be a tad less aggressive at the plate.
I see Schoop as a dynamic player who will make things happen. I see him as the type of player that Orioles fans will be thrilled to embrace.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. He can also be found on Twitter @BerniePleskoff. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.