The Milwaukee Brewers needed to upgrade their players up the middle for many reasons. When David Stearns and company traded for Mike Moustakas and moved Travis Shaw, most fans thought the goal had been accomplished — albeit, through unorthodox means. But the Brewers’ faithful learned that Stearns figured he could do more on Tuesday when he added power-hitting second baseman Jonathan Schoop from the Baltimore Orioles.
First off, let’s get down to basics. Jonathan Rufino Jezus Schoop (pronounced like ‘scope’) was signed as a teenager by the Baltimore Orioles back in 2008. After that, Schoop spent four seasons in the minors before making his major league debut in 2013 at 21. Now 26 years old, the second baseman still has an additional year of arbitration available, meaning Milwaukee can keep him around for 2019 if they so choose.
The new Brewer has spent a majority of his career manning second base, where he has been an average defender at worst. He’s played minimally at other positions, including 133 innings at third base and 17 innings at shortstop. Although his history at the highest level is limited, Schoop could have more positional diversity than his major league career implies. In his minor league career, he manned shortstop for over 1,900 innings. During his time as an Oriole, he had more utility at second, especially considering the strong defenders at short since his arrival in JJ Hardy and Manny Machado.
While his experience in the minors at shortstop is lengthy, that’s not a good indication that he can play the position, only that he has the experience. Based on Craig Counsell’s comments Tuesday, the team will use Schoop to add some pop from the shortstop position, so we will likely learn pretty quickly whether his strong defense at second will carry over.
So, the Schoop trade makes more sense with this Stearns answer on whether he'll play some SS: "He has the versatility and has done it in the past. We'll see how the season progresses and how much he plays over there."— Tom (@Haudricourt) July 31, 2018
While Schoop is an admirable defender, his real calling card is his power. The right-hander has 67 homers since 2016, contributing to his .472 slugging percentage over that time. He already has 17 homers so far this season, well on his way to another 25 bomb year.
His power is great, but he’s not well rounded offensively. Schoop has little-to-no speed and is probably less of a baserunning threat than many catchers. In his career at the majors, he has just six stolen bases and was caught three times.
The Curacao native also doesn’t walk. If you look at Fangraphs’ rated performance for a hitter’s BB%, you’ll see that an average walk rate is 8%. An awful walk rate is 4%. Schoop’s career walk rate is 3.4%, and even that gets a big boost by his 5.2 BB% in 2017.
Most people would assume that a player that struggles at walking would also strike out a ton, but that’s not quite the case for Schoop. For his career, the second baseman Ks about 22% of the time but has a career-low K-rate of 20.2% in 2018. That is good for an average K-rate and not something considered overly detrimental, showing that Schoop’s aggressive approach still tends to put the ball into play.
Schoop has his flaws, but that hasn’t kept him from obtaining greatness on occasion. In 2017, he hit .293/.338/.503 with 32 homers in a season that was good enough to make him an All-Star and get some MVP votes at the end of the year.
His 2018 has not been his most robust performance. Before being added to the Brewers, Schoop was hitting .244/.273/.447. In July, Schoop has been destroying the baseball, hitting .360/.356/.700 over his last 100 at-bats. During that time he’s cracked nine homers and drove in 19 RBIs while striking out 19 times. You read his OBP correctly though, Schoop has not walked once over that span.
Schoop is also a heavy pull hitter, as seen in his spray chart above. All of his home runs in 2018 have come to his pull side. His career pull rate is 45% while he goes the opposite way just 21.9% of the time. While Miller Park is favorable for lefties, righties can certainly find power inside the park as well. The Keg has a 107 HR factor for righties, the ninth highest in all of baseball and just a few behind Camden Yards at 110.
Schoop should also help the Brewers’ offense against lefties. If you look at Schoop’s career splits, he’s actually worse historically against left-handed pitchers than right, but in 2017, he dominated lefties to a .300/.361/.593 line. Those splits are worse in 2018, but the first two months of his season were also bad even for his career. Since getting healthier from an oblique injury and finding more success at the plate, he is likely to resume his dominance of southpaws.
Regardless of Schoop’s profile over the years, he’s an undeniable improvement in the middle of this year. The Brewers have regularly put out a mix of players at second and short that includes Brad Miller, Nate Orf, Hernan Perez, Tyler Saladino, Orlando Arcia and Jonathan Villar. I’m sure there’s a few I’m missing. None of those players have given the team even close to average offensive production. Schoop should stop that issue. The question is, how will the team utilize him in a way that helps generate wins? I’m looking forward to seeing how Craig Counsell resolves that conundrum.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus