Jonathan Schoop has been one of the fastest rising prospects that I have seen from the Orioles in a very long time. He was given a limited look on the international market, and now three years later is seen as one of the top O’s prospects and part of a group of top tier international prospects in baseball. He is known to be highly coachable and has taken instruction rather well in a short period of time. This article will break down the improvements in Schoop’s swing & approach at the plate and you will get an understanding of his ability to be a dual threat hitter down the road.
The left side of each picture is a freeze frame of Schoop’s swing from July 2011 and the right side is from June 2010.
In the first part (left side), he has already loaded and started the toe touch landing with hip rotation, beginning the un-coiling process of his swing. At toe touch, you see his hips square up slightly sooner. This is evident of the knee bend and a key sign that balance approach is at the plate. Take notice of his front landing leg; you can clearly see a better weight transfer this season.
The stiff left leg gives you the ground foundation that helps transition the weight and create the the power and lag transfer. If you are out too early, your hips give way and you lose control and easily come out of synchronization.
Lastly, you will notice the hands in relation to the body. The arm angle is in an ideal slot now that it is compacting and driving through the ball, and also reduces wasted motion. The decrease in path helps Schoop improve his control of the swing and keep the tension with the upper body, rather than an arm emphasis swing.
He places an ideal starting point to really bring the bat head through the zone in a limited amount of time. These slight improvements at this stage compact his swing and allow him the split second opportunity to identify and recognize pitch types.
This second part is a the apex of extension on the swing. Looking at the images, you can see that he is really putting maximum force with a balance transition. In previous encounters, you see Schoop way out in front of the pitch with a rolled shoulder, too much knee flexion, and too much reach with the arms.
Schoop, at extension, has full weight on the front foot, but he stays back and rotates, rather than lunging for the pitch. His shoulders are square with full hip turn facing the pitcher on contact. His arms are a pendulum and a great sign that his swing continues on path with almost no wasted motion to this point; this leads to a consistent, repetitive swing.
Lastly, you can see the full extension of the swing. If you end up cutting the swing short, it likely leads to mechanical flaws. Notice how much more turn Schoop allows for swing, so much so that both shoulders are visible.
See that Schoop has almost no weight on the back foot and it is only lightly touching the ground. He put everything into this attempt and swing while maintaining balance. His swing is no longer up-lifting and now is a slight uplift. This is a path that can still generate loft for power, but more is now optimized to produce gap power and line drive power as well.
Overall, Schoop has really compacted his approach at the plate to the point that he should improve both his contact and power. He will be afforded the ability to sit on pitches and this will improve his pitch recognition.
I stand by the thoughts that Schoop will possess plus power with maturation, and I can clearly see the improvements to the extent that his contact rate could be slightly above average and teetering on plus. If he sticks at second base, his value offensively would be through the roof.