Who has a better chance of improving for the Detroit Tigers in 2023: Javier Baez or Jonathan Schoop?
Javier Baez and Jonathan Schoop were both supposed to be key offensive contributors for the Detroit Tigers in 2022. Schoop was coming his best season since his All-Star season in 2017, and Baez was signed to a six-year deal in the offseason. The Tigers had their up-the-middle combo for the next two years...or so we thought.
Both players were massively disappointing. Baez had his worst offensive season not counting 2020, and Schoop was the worst qualified hitter in all of baseball. There's no way they can both be as bad as they were this year again, right?
We'd certainly like to think so. Baez at least had a better second half of the season, slashing .268/.310/.413 with a 106 wRC+. Some people forget he suffered a thumb injury in April that caused him to land on the IL for a bit. I don't think he ever fully recovered from that, but it didn't appear to bother him as much after the All-Star break.
Schoop, on the other hand, has shown the ability to bounce back in the past. After a rough 2018 season with Baltimore and Milwaukee in which he had an 80 wRC+, he signed a one-year deal with the Twins and had a much better 2019, hitting 23 home runs and putting up a 101 wRC+.
He also struggled his rookie season in 2014 before having a much better season in 2015. He's shown the ability to bounce back in the past. Why couldn't he do it again?
First and foremost, he was younger the first two times he did that. 2014 in particular was just the growing pains of a rookie. Now he's 31, which isn't a death sentence by any means, but it is possible that last season could have been the start of Schoop's sharp decline.
Baez had never had a full season quite as bad as 2022. He will be entering his 30-year-old season in which he could opt out of his contract in search of more money should he have a good year. There's plenty of motivation for him to improve.
Both players will come into the 2023 season healthy and at least potentially on expiring contracts. They will have new hitting coaches as well. They will be given every opportunity to succeed. The question is, will they take advantage?
I think Schoop has the better chance of seeing improvement because there's just no way he can be that bad again. A 58 wRC+ in downright putrid. If he gets off to a similar start, he won't be on this team for very long in 2023. Plus, he has the track record to back this up. If Schoop can get back to his 2021 form, maybe the Tigers could even flip him at the deadline.
The 2023 Detroit Tigers probably won't be much better than they were in 2022. If they get some improvement from players that underachieved last year, that should increase the team's win total.