While the Orioles trip and tumble towards the final month of the 2017 season, with a playoff berth appearing to be more unlikely every other night, one constant throughout the season has been the breakout year being experienced by young second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
Prior to this current season commencing, the unassuming 25-year-old from the tiny Caribbean island nation of Curacao had progressed through the Orioles system without much fanfare. To many outside of Baltimore, Schoop was more commonly known as the second baseman who’s best buddies with Manny Machado. A talented young athlete in his own right, Schoop’s inconsistencies had historically held him back from reaching the same level of stardom thrust upon his mercurial infield teammate.
After making his major league debut late in 2013, Schoop had a difficult 2014 season, hitting .209/.244/.354 through 137 games. 16 home runs and 18 doubles demonstrated the power was there, however a lack of plate discipline prevented this occurring on a consistent basis. Despite missing almost half of the 2015 season through injury, there were signs of improvement and he would go on to hit .279/.306/.482 with 15 home runs and 17 doubles in 86 games. With Machado’s star continuing to rise, many expected Schoop to breakout in 2016 and follow in his footsteps. By the All-Star Break, Schoop was hitting .302 with 14 home runs and 52 RBI, however a poor second half of the season saw him finish with a lackluster .267/.298/.454 line overall, with 25 home runs and 38 doubles.
Overshadowed somewhat in an Orioles lineup containing the power of Machado, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Adam Jones, Schoop entered the 2017 season hitting in the eight hole and many may forget he started poorly, going 2-for-19 through the first six games. Things changed in Boston on 12 April though, after he launched a Steven Wright 72mph meatball over the Green Monster. Suddenly, he was away, and he’s never looked back. His consistency month-by-month ever since has been remarkable and is almost unrivaled by any other in the major leagues.
With 35 games still left to play, Schoop has already set career highs for home runs (27), RBI (93), and walks (29), while his .302 average is 38 points higher than his career mark and his .886 OPS is good enough for ninth in the American League. Even more impressive have been his returns in clutch situations, as demonstrated by his .371 average with RISP and .285 average when hitting with two outs. Further to the numbers, for the first time in his career he was named the American League Player of the Week (23 July) and his All-Star selection earlier that month was the first of his career.
While he may not be receiving the same accolades of Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve, or Nelson Cruz within media circles , Schoop is putting together a very impressive season in Baltimore and by season’s end, he will be the team’s Most Valuable Player. If the Orioles are to make a remarkable comeback and snatch a wildcard berth, it’s likely Schoop’s success would have continued throughout September. Whether that eventuates or not is unknown, however one thing we can all agree on is that if it hadn’t been for Schoop’s efforts this season, the conversation wouldn’t even be taking place.