With Opening Day less than three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2017 Orioles every day as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.
2B Jonathan Schoop
Opening Day age: 25
Contract status: Under club control through the 2019 season
2016 stats: .267/.298/.454, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 82 R, 1 SB, 647 PA
Why to be impressed: In addition to hitting 25 long balls for the first time, Schoop increased his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate, which are improvements an aggressive hitter needs to make in his mid-20s. His .688 on-base plus slugging percentage against left-handers in 2016 doesn’t sound like much, but it represented major improvement from his .573 mark against southpaws the previous year.
Why to be concerned: After posting an .847 OPS in the first half of 2016, Schoop slumped after the All-Star break with a .643 mark and batted just .196 in the final month of the season, perhaps an effect of playing all 162 games. He still only walked 3.2 percent of the time in 2016, which is 2.6 percent worse than even Adam Jones and illustrates how much his impatience limits his ceiling as a hitter.
2017 outlook: Schoop is often overlooked because of the remarkable development of Manny Machado, but he’s come a long way over his three full major league seasons and can still get better if he improves his plate discipline and contact rate. Manager Buck Showalter should try to give Schoop an occasional day off in an effort to avoid the second-half swoon he experienced last season.
Not-so-scientific projections for 2017: .274/.314/.474, 29 HR, 85 RBI, 88 R, 2 SB, 623 PA