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Always aiming higher, Schoop key for O's in '18

All-Star 2nd baseman looks to build on breakout season
MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

BALTIMORE -- The thing about Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop -- amid a career year in 2017 -- is that he never was content.

"I improved a lot, but I think I have a lot more room to go," Schoop said after earning Most Valuable Oriole honors during the team's final homestand. "I think I'll be better next season."

BALTIMORE -- The thing about Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop -- amid a career year in 2017 -- is that he never was content.

"I improved a lot, but I think I have a lot more room to go," Schoop said after earning Most Valuable Oriole honors during the team's final homestand. "I think I'll be better next season."

Indeed, Schoop's progression is integral to the O's success in 2018.

While the pending free agency of players such as Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Zach Britton has given the Orioles a narrow window to win, Schoop is only under team control for one more season beyond that. The 26-year-old had a breakout campaign last season, and his consistency and durability make him an indispensable part of the lineup.

With most of the O's moves this offseason expected to be centered around pitching, the club still will need to improve its all-or-nothing offense that saw a great power output and low walk totals. Schoop is the poster child for that improvement, totaling 35 walks -- after just 21 in 2016 -- and a career high in hits, home runs, runs and RBIs to go along with it.

The All-Star second baseman, who has an impressive arm and the ability to turn tough balls into double plays, has played in all but just two of Baltimore's games over the past two seasons. And with no clear heir apparent at second in the Orioles' system, Schoop staying healthy will go a long way in the O's success this season.

"He's always had the durability, but the consistency took his game to another level," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Schoop, who is the O's all-time single-season RBI leader at second base. "He didn't get out of whack for very long. I think he's grown into a real consistent guy you can count on. When I see him 0-for-3 and walk in his last at-bat, I know it's a real sign of maturity … because you want to make up for it in one swing."

Schoop, who finished 12th in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting, lead the Orioles in RBIs (105), batting average (.293), doubles (35) and hits (182). While several big bats -- such as Machado, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo -- went through prolonged slumps, Schoop's bat came up big time and time again. That consistent approach -- and the maturity that goes with it, -- has helped Schoop evolve into an All-Star and more of a leader within the clubhouse.

Perhaps the mild-mannered Schoop doesn't get the spotlight he deserves. But there's no denying how important he is to the Orioles this upcoming season.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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