(Photo thanks to the Flickr Creative Commons, thanks to Keith Allison)
Jonathan Schoop has been nothing but bad news for opposing pitchers since hitting the Major League Baseball scene in 2013, including a home run in his MLB debut. He hit the stage essentially out of nowhere, after signing as an international free agent by the Baltimore Orioles for $90,000 in 2008.
Comparatively, Profar received a $1.55 million bonus the same year by the Texas Rangers. A lot of scouts often viewed Profar as the premier prospect, while Schoop was more of an afterthought.
Even when he was signed to the Orioles, he was still “second best,” as Manny Machado was the top up-and-coming stud in the organization. Machado and Schoop battled for the starting shortstop position at Low-A Delmarva, but Machado ended up getting the nod. Schoop would see partial time at shortstop, but the majority of his time was spent at third base before eventually developing into the second baseman he is today.
Schoop is one of eight active MLB players that were born in Curacao, joining the likes of Kenley Jensen, Jurickson Profar, and Andrelton Simmons.
In his childhood, Schoop came in as a relief pitcher and saved the championship game for Curacao in the 2004 Little League World Series in front of 35,000. He also participated in the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classics for the Netherlands, who are in charge of the Carribean island.
MLB Network analyst Bill Ripken admires Schoops defensive positioning on the bag, and says, “The efficient way he tags runners and a double-play pivot and the way he bears down on the bag and rifles a throw to first is unparalleled in the game.”
Ripken continued, “You’re sitting there and you’re looking at some of this young talent in the game and because Jonathan doesn’t go out there and fly all over the yard per se, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t notice the good things that happen. Is he one of those guys who have to watch every day a little bit more than somebody else to truly appreciate him? I’ll give you that, but the fact is when you do watch it and if you don’t appreciate it, you’re not watching the right stuff.”
Personally, I have gotten the honor to watch Schoop play a few times in person. The first time was at the 2013 World Baseball Classic semi-final game at AT&T Park in San Francisco, as the Netherlands lost to the Dominican Republic. Schoop went 0-for-4 at the dish, but dazzled in the field. Entering the ballpark that day, I did not know too much about him, but began to follow his career a lot more after his defensive performance.
His offensive approach has come a long way since 2013, as he has shifted to more of a power-to-all-fields approach. His changed approach at the plate in 2017 resulted in his hard hit percentage increasing by 10 percent from 2016. Also, his fly ball to home run ratio increased by three percent. He strikes out around 21 percent of the time, which is right around the Major League average.
Schoop’s discipline at the plate has allowed his swinging strike percentage to decrease over the past two seasons. In 2015, his percentage was at 17.5, followed by 16.2 in 2016, and finally a 13.8 mark last season.
His power numbers have improved each season, except for in 2015 when he missed half the season with a knee injury. In that 2015 season, he hit 15 home runs in 86 games after hitting 16 home runs in 137 games the season prior, so he was well on his way to surpassing the 2014 total if the injury didn’t limit his at-bats.
The knee injury is distant in the rearview mirror now, as Schoop has played 162 games and 160 games in the past two seasons. His 32 home runs trailed only Brian Dozier’s 34, and Schoop led second basemen in RBI in 2017.
His defensive stats last season do not get overlooked either, as Schoop finished first in the American League among second basemen in putouts with 329 and third in assists with 460. He also turned a league-high 132 double plays and was ranked first in range factor per nine innings with a 5.04 mark.
Schoop was named to his first All-Star game last season while carrying a slash line of .293/.338/.503. He’s among the league’s elite at the second base position currently and moving forward as he is only 26-years-old.
Here’s a video of Schoop’s 2017 season highlights: https://youtu.be/bMYr7ETSAcQ?t=13s
Currently, Schoop is in the arbitration process for his 2018 contract, but once everything is set up contractually we should expect some more underrated greatness from him.