Jonathan Schoop could offer a significant offensive boost
The Tigers are almost certainly going to have better production at second base than in 2019 after signing Jonathan Schoop. Can he recapture the magic that lead to his 5 WAR 2017 season?
The Detroit Tigers signed Jonathan Schoop along with his Twins teammate CJ Cron this offseason. Detroit signed them each to $6.1 million one-year deals. Jonathan Schoop had, by far, the best season of his career in 2017. He was an All-Star and finished 12th in the MVP vote.
Schoop was signed to provide Detroit with some veteran leadership and some much-needed power. To make room for them on the 40-man roster, Brandon Dixon was designated for assignment. Dixon hit a team-leading 15 home runs last season.
Schoop, on the other hand, has the home run power that Detroit has lacked in recent years
He entered 2018 considered as one of the best offensive second basemen in the league. But, he struggled early that season and was batting under .200 through the end of June. A scorching hot July that saw him hit nine home runs with a .360 average led to a deadline trade to Milwaukee. Schoop never found his groove with the Brewers and he ended up being non-tendered that offseason.
While playing for Minnesota in 2019, he was once again an above-average bat. He had much better power numbers while playing away from Target Field. Schoop’s slugging percentage was .124 points higher on the road last year and actually .030 points higher than his 2017 career-high mark of .503.
If he can put together an entire season with the stats that he had away from Target Field last season, he could be a 4+ win player once again this season. Comerica Park isn’t the easiest to hit home runs in either but ESPN’s park factor had Target Field as being the 24th ranked park for home runs, while Comerica was ranked 10th last season.
Schoop is projected by Baseball-Reference to hit 23 home runs this season and 25 by ZiPS projections. Schoop hit a home run on May 1st that went 465 feet and landed in the third deck of Target Field. That is the type of power that Detroit has been lacking the last two seasons where they’ve finished dead last in the American League in home runs.
If Schoop is on pace to hit 20+ home runs, don’t be surprised to see him traded in July. A second baseman with a powerful bat could be in high demand at the trade deadline, although the cost of rental pieces has steadily declined over the last several years. The Tigers have signed a handful of free agents during the course of their rebuild with the implied intent to trade them at midseason, but it hasn’t turned out any roaring successes yet. On the other hand, trends in baseball can reverse in a heartbeat, and
If he is performing well, the alternative is that Detroit could try to extend him. Detroit has just one second base prospect in MLB pipeline’s top 30 prospects. Kody Clemens is ranked as Detroit’s 18th best prospect but only spent the majority of the 2019 season in High-A Lakeland where he hit just .238 and is at least a year away from contributing at the Major League level. Schoop is only 28 years old this season and Detroit could lock him up for the remainder of his prime. If the left-handed Clemens’ bat progresses they could form a power-hitting platoon at the keystone as Detroit plays back into contention in the coming years.
In any case, Schoop could be a real steal for the Tigers, even if he’s only able to return value to the team in the short-term as a placeholder, but there’s always a chance for more.