With the big club qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 1997 while toting youngsters Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado on its roster, it's an exciting time to be an Orioles prospect. Jonathan Schoop shares that elation, and during his time in the Arizona Fall League he is trying to show he has the potential to become a full-fledged part of what could be a prosperous future in Baltimore.
The 21-year-old infielder provided some pretty good evidence Tuesday afternoon.
The O's No. 3 prospect, who received his fourth start of the entire year at third base, went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and a steal of home to lead Mesa to a 7-5 win over Phoenix. In a game that featured the AFL's two cellar dwellars, the Solar Sox improved to 5-13 while the Desert Dogs dropped to 6-9.
For a player with a litany of skills to work on during his AFL stay, it was a productive day to say the least.
"I get a boost every time I'm on the field," Schoop said. "But if you get a hit or a home run or something like that, it's a little bit of an extra boost because you know you're doing the right thing out there."
Schoop got his day started with a second-inning single before moving to third on a double-steal and a single by George Springer. Then when the Astros prospect sprang for second and the throw from Phoenix catcher Cory Brownsten (Braves) followed, the Orioles farmhand, who stole only five bases in 124 games for Double-A Bowie, knew exactly what would be his next move.
"I just took off," Schoop said. "I got a good jump and knew I'd be able to score."
The resulting throw back home came too late, allowing the Curacao native to score the game's first run.
When the Solar Sox went down 2-1 after three full frames, Schoop responded once more, driving a 2-2 changeup from Braves right-hander Zeke Spruill over the wall in left for a two-run shot. Mesa did not trail for the rest of the game after that homer started a four-run fourth.
Despite his performance at the plate, Schoop's biggest development of the day may have come in the field, where he started at the hot corner for the fourth time during the AFL season. The infielder played primarily at second base with Bowie this season before Machado's promotion to the Majors in early August required him to slide over to shortstop for the BaySox.
Although he made a fielding error -- his third in 13 AFL games -- in the eighth, Schoop acknowledged that given the limited playing time in Arizona and his desire to make it someday to Baltimore, he's willing to do whatever it takes to find his name in the batting order.
"Third base is a much more reactionary position," he said. "You've got to be ready on every pitch. When you're at short, you have some time to adjust and go with whatever reaction you have from there.
"I just want to be in the lineup, no matter what that means. If they want me to play a certain position, I'm there if it means I get to play."
Looking beyond the fall, the infielder, who batted .245 with 14 homers and 56 RBIs for Bowie this season, will assuredly begin his 2013 campaign once again in the Minors. But given the late-season promotions of Machado and Bundy, Schoop has hope that he could be joining his former teammates sooner than later.
"I thought it was a good move because as a young player, it gives you hope," he said. "It was definitely a good thing for me because it showed me that maybe I could do it too. I just need to keep working harder, and hopefully someday that'll be me."
Dodgers prospect Rafael Ynoa went 3-for-4 with a double and provided the only two other Mesa RBIs of the afternoon.
Brewers' No. 7 prospect Hunter Morris doubled twice and drove in two runs for the Desert Dogs.