With Opening Day less than three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.
2B Jonathan Schoop
Opening Day age: 26
Contract status: Under club control through the 2019 season
2017 stats: .293/.338/.503, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 92 R, 1 SB, 675 PA, 5.1 WAR (Baseball Reference)
Why to be impressed: A major reason why Schoop was the 2017 Most Valuable Oriole was his dramatic improvement against left-handed pitching, posting a .955 OPS against southpaws after entering the year with a career .607 mark. His plate discipline also improved substantially as he set a career high with 35 walks and swung at just 37.1 percent of pitches outsize the zone, down from 43.0 percent in 2016.
Why to be concerned: There’s little to nitpick about his 2017 season, but Schoop had a poor September (.590 OPS) for a second straight year after again playing at least 160 games, leaving one to ask if he’d benefit from a few more days off during the season. His defense remained steady at two defensive runs saved, but his size makes you wonder how much longer his range suits second base as he gets older.
2018 outlook: Schoop will keep himself in the All-Star conversation if he can maintain or even build on his improved plate discipline from last year and keep his extra-base-hit rate at 10 percent. With Manny Machado expected to depart in the coming months, you’d hope the Orioles prevent the same scenario from happening with Schoop, but another All-Star season would make that extremely difficult.
Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: .281/.323/.483, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 86 R, 1 SB, 653 PA, 4.0 WAR