The St. Louis Cardinals need a change. Plain and simple. But wait, there’s a perfect option that fits the Cardinals’ usual trade targets playing in the Baltimore infield.
The St. Louis Cardinals will not acquire Manny Machado. It is a wonderful dream, but for a middling team with a need to look to next year and a rental will not help that. With as much infield fluidity as the Cardinals have, they could upgrade at either first base, second base, or third base and be able to move around the infield pieces to fit. Enter Jonathan Schoop.
Let me first start by saying that Jonathan Schoop has been bad this year. Really bad. With a -0.3 WAR and a .216 batting average with 10 homers on the year, he would be the second worst hitter on the team. But Schoop looks like the perfect buy-low target that Mozeliak seems to love. The 26 year old second baseman is a free agent after next year and is coming off the best year of his career.
In 2017, Schoop batted .293/.338/.503 with 32 homers and 105 RBI’s. This campaign was enough to take him to the All-star game and to be a big part of a dangerous Baltimore lineup. Could he be the next Aledmys Diaz though?
Searching for hope
Schoop may be the next Aledmys Diaz. I can’t tell you more than he can, but when you look into his advanced stats, there is room for hope. The biggest indicator for future suggest is his BABIP. In 2017, it sat at a very healthy .330, which is not over inflated by any means, but now has dropped to .240. BABIP does reflect a lot of the luck component of baseball but it also has to do with his batted ball numbers.
The main reason for Schoop’s dip in numbers is his hard contact percentage. This year that number has dropped 11% to 25.1% but has only shifted to a four percent increase in soft contact. His medium contact has gone up to 47 percent. In short, Schoop stopped hitting the ball hard. This lack of hard contact and a slight increase in how many ground balls he hits has led to a wOBA that sits at .273 which classifies as “awful” on the fangraphs context chart for wOBA.
Another interesting thing to note about looking at Schoops Z-Swing% and O-Swing% as well as contact percentage, he is making more contact overall but is just swinging at more pitches. This accounts for his lower walk rate. Simply, Schoops’ approach at the plate has changed. He is being less patient and not barreling the ball as much.
Defensively, Schoop is nothing special at second base but would most likely fit at third base (which he has experience playing in the minors) and projects as an average to slightly below average third baseman.
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As I have outlined, Schoop has been bad. His value is in the tank and with him being owed arbitration and being a free agent in 2020, I think a package of Connor Jones and Patrick Wisdom would entice the Orioles into trading away Schoop.
When you look deeper into the stats, it is evident that last year was a bit of an anomaly. He will not be the guy you saw last year, but could he be close? Sure. Should the Cardinals take him as a low cost upgrade even if Schoop isn’t what he was last year? Absolutely.
There is hope because of what he has done, and if you look at guys like Matt Adams, sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs.
The caveat with all of this talk about how a change of scenery helps is that our current Cardinal coaching staff may not be able to help him. I am not here to rant about John Mabry, but in my opinion, Schoop doesn’t make a turnaround with Mabry in the hitting coach position.
Schoop is a dark horse candidate for the Cardinals. Many times Mo has found a guy who is able to come here and turn things around. Hopefully Schoop can be the next in that line if there is a different coaching staff here. Schoop is simply not a .216 hitter and that number will tick up over the season. Hopefully that happens here in St. Louis.