Is this the Real Schoop?
Image courtesy of © Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY SportsJorge Polanco missed the first half of last year due to a PED suspension, and his arm has always appeared questionable from a position demanding strength. There was thought that Jorge could slide to second with Minnesota filling the void by inking a Freddy Galvis- or Jose Iglesias-type shortstop in the winter. It didn’t play out that way, a second basemen was acquired, and Polanco stayed put.
The Baltimore Orioles sent their All -Star second basemen, Jonathan Schoop, to the Brewers midseason. Like Dozier, he was a one-organization player, and had turned himself into a slugger at an offensively deprived position. Also, like Dozier, success was something that slipped away from him after reaching the top of the mountain. An All-Star in 2017 with an .841 OPS, Schoop posted a .720 OPS in 2018 with Baltimore before dropping to .577 in 46 games with the Brewers. When the dust had settled on his season, he was non-tendered even though Milwaukee had no other obvious answer to start in his place.
Looking outside the box, and waiting for an opportunity to pounce, Derek Falvey picked Schoop as the answer to Minnesota’s vacancy. Knowing the club wasn’t ready for Nick Gordon to make an impact, and seemingly not keen on the shortstop options, the decision was made to believe in a bounce back. Despite 2017 being the All-Star breakthrough, Schoop owned a .795 OPS from 2015-2017, and did so while averaging 24 long balls a year. If there was going to be a drop from what Dozier was to what Schoop could be, the impact wouldn’t be much.
We’re only 20 games into the current season, but Schoop has already outperformed his 0.5 fWAR from a year ago. He’s never been a guy who takes walks, but there’s been a 3% dip in the strikeout rate from 2018. It took a little while for the first ball to leave the yard, but a career best 41.8% hard-hit rate suggests there should be plenty more to follow. We could stand to see a bit more plate discipline in hopes of doing more with the hard-hit rate, but the inputs are in place for a productive year.
Manning second base, he follows in the footsteps of Logan Forsythe before him, and so far is proving to be an upgrade for Minnesota. Arm strength isn’t an issue, and Schoop has produced positive DRS numbers each of the past two seasons. It’s not like he’ll be up for any glove-based awards but helping Polanco up the middle is more than a fair expectation.
This is the best start Schoop has ever seen, and that’s a positive development for a guy only a year removed from his first All-Star appearance. In his final year of arbitration, Minnesota doesn’t have team control going into 2020. They banked on this working out for this season, and so far, it has. If this is the consistent version we’re set to see the rest of the way, all parties must be thrilled.
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