Jul 09

Should Steve Lombardozzi be starting for the Orioles?

472px-Jonathan_Schoop_on_September_26,_2013One of the biggest questions fans had about the Orioles this offseason was the second base position. The Orioles and their fans thought that question had been answered when Johnathan Schoop was named the starting second baseman on opening day.

The hype surrounding Schoop was enormous; Last year he was tearing it up at Triple-A Norfolk. He hit .278 with 14 homeruns and 52 RBI in 81 games. Everyone, including Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter, knew that his time in the minor leagues was going to be short but would Schoop be ready to face major league pitching when he finally would get the chance?

It seems that question has also been answered. But the answer comes from the numbers, not the fans and certainly not Buck Showalter.

Schoop has a .223 batting average this season. He has only hit six homeruns, has 21 RBI, has only managed to work seven walks and has struck out 62 times, two away from his total from all of last season. The number of strikeouts is not a surprise though.

Schoop is only 22-years-old and has only had five years in the minor leagues. Everybody cannot be a Manny Machado or Mike Trout or even Bryce Harper. Those three players have very special talents and being in the big leagues at 21 or 22 is not a normal thing, even though it might seem that way now.

If you’re questioning if Schoop was rushed to the major leagues, I have an answer for you. Yes, Johnathan Schoop was rushed to the major leagues but he had to be.

What were the Orioles’ other options? Resign a 36-year-old Brian Roberts? Start Ryan Flaherty who is having his best season in his short carrer this year batting .230? And remember, that sample size for Flaherty is small because he gets limited playing time. Or the Orioles could have started Jemile Weeks who they obtained via a trade that sent Jim Johnson to the Athletics.

Another possibility was to have Alexi Casilla play second base, someone who Orioles’ fan did not seem to like very much. The last option the Orioles had, other than going with the one the chose, was to have Steve Lombardozzi start.

But see, that last option is a little tricky. The Orioles acquired Lombardozzi very late in spring training and was sort of questionable. The Orioles already had Schoop, Flaherty and Jemile Weeks vying for a sport on the opening day roster.

Many asked, including myself, why add another second baseman to the team when you already have three of them? The move worked out however; the Orioles sent Jemile Weeks to the minor leagues and used Schoop, Lombardozzi and Flaherty in the first few weeks of the season when Manny Machado and J.J Hardy were both injured.

Lombardozzi was sent to Triple-A when Manny Machado came off the disabled list, a move that, again, left Orioles’ fans puzzled. Lombardozzi had been playing really well for the Orioles, both offensively and defensively.

Lombardozzi was batting .288 with one double, one triple and one stolen base. At Triple-A, he continued to play very well. He is hitting .266 with 19 RBI, three stolen bases and has an on-base percentage of .306.

Just by comparing the numbers and by seeing Schoop play on a daily basis, having Lombardozzi take his spot at second base seems like a very logical thing to do. Nevertheless, I am not giving up on Schoop at all.

Like I said, he is only 22-years-old. Yes, he was rushed to the big leagues. And yes, he looks over-matched at the plate but that does not mean he cannot go down to Triple-A Norfolk and still work on a few things. When he finished, send him back up. Have him prove himself, and the fans, that he belongs in the major leagues. But only when he is truly ready.

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