How Sustainable is Jonathan Schoop?

Jonathan Schoop is having one heck of a season, with a breakout that’s produced some gaudy numbers. He’s hitting over .300, he’s already hit 21 bombs, he’s tied for 8th in the league in RBI with 70 — basically, he’s doing everything you want as a fantasy owner, except stealing bases. It’s no surprise that he’s currently the No. 6 second baseman in standard leagues, even in a year that’s seen incredible production at the keystone.

With a career .192 isolated power, the 25-year-old already had good power production in the majors, but this year he’s upped that mark to a .246 ISO, supplementing his 21 homers with 26 doubles. Even more impressively, Schoop is hitting .307, a significant jump from his .261 career average.

Of course, with marked improvements like this come questions of sustainability, and justifiably so. With this in mind, let’s try and figure out what to expect from young Mr. Schoop moving forward.

Schoop’s plate discipline is improving with each year he spends in the majors, but the progress is coming along so slowly that it’s hard not to wonder whether he’ll ever get much better in that department than he is now. Still, it’s nice to see these numbers trending in a positive direction, and even though his walk rate is currently only at 5%, it’s a 36% increase in walks from last year.

  • 2014 – 2.7% BB, 25.4% K
  • 2015 – 2.8% BB, 24.6% K
  • 2016 – 3.2% BB, 21.2% K
  • 2017 – 5.0% BB, 20.9% K

What’s interesting is that he’s improved his approach in ways that might not be apparent from looking at his walk and strikeout rates. I was pretty surprised to see how much more selective he is this year.

  • 2015 – 60.8% Swing, 43.9% O-Swing, 83.5% Z-Swing
  • 2016 – 60.2% Swing, 43.0% O-Swing, 81.4% Z-Swing
  • 2017 – 50.9% Swing, 35.2% O-Swing, 72.5% Z-Swing

Schoop had the league’s highest swing rate in 2015, and the 2nd-highest last year. Now, he’s cut his swings down by about 15% across the board. He remains an aggressive hitter, as he still owns MLB’s 29th-highest swing rate, but that’s a lot of progress in one year.

When you use the word ‘sustainability’ in baseball context, the term ‘BABIP’ often appears nearby, so let’s head there now. For a guy with a .301 career BABIP, his current .341 sure seems like an outlier. However, he did maintain a .329 rate in his injury-shortened 321-PA 2015 season, so he has at least kept up a similar BABIP for a similar stretch of time in the past.

Looking at his numbers, it’s tricky to see where exactly this BABIP surge is coming from, which is usually not a great sign for keeping it up. His line-drive rate is up a bit compared to the last couple years, but not a lot. His hard-hit rate is up from last year, but not quite where it was in 2015. Aside from simply “he’s getting lucky,” perhaps these small improvements — a few more line drives here, a couple more hard-hit balls here — are adding up to a large improvement in his BABIP. He’s also probably getting kind of lucky though.

Here’s a somewhat related question: Why is no one shifting this guy? Despite depositing 46.4% of his batted balls to his pull field, and less than 20% going the other way, Schoop has faced a shift in just over 10% of his plate appearances this year. To put this in perspective, here’s how Schoop compares to Brian Dozier and Albert Pujols, two other right-handed bats with similar batted-ball profiles in 2017.

  • Schoop – 1.07 GB/FB, 46.4% Pull, 33.9% Cent, 19.6% Oppo, 10.2% Shift
  • Dozier – 1.02 GB/FB, 48.9% Pull, 34.4% Cent, 16.7% Oppo, 33.4% Shift
  • Pujols – 1.12 GB/FB, 50.8% Pull, 31.0% Cent, 18.2% Oppo, 41.4% Shift

Dozier and Pujols both have longer track records, of course, but Schoop has played nearly 500 major-league games with roughly this same batted-ball profile. It’s not like he’s some under-scouted rookie. At any rate, regardless of the reason, opposing teams are still not shifting Schoop, and seeing as it’s already late July, I doubt that’s going to change this season.

I still do have my doubts about the BABIP, but I don’t think it’s due to take a complete nosedive either. I worry a bit that opponents will start shifting him, taking a bite out of his AVG, but again I don’t expect that to happen this year. Aside from those points, the rest does seem sustainable, and if he can keep improving his plate discipline to the point where it either drives his walk rate up or his K-rate down (or both, ideally), his ceiling is probably higher than I previously realized.

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Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.

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Schoop is Bae