The plan for the Baltimore Orioles‘ future infield, as it were, was to have now-graduated All-World prospect Manny Machado take the hot corner as a starter with the big club in 2013, and eventually moving him back to his natural position at shortstop after J.J. Hardy departs for free agency in 2015.
In Machado’s place would be the team’s current top positional prospect Jonathan Schoop, a natural shortstop who had shifted to second base in the minors while playing with Machado, and is considered now to be a future third baseman.
If that sounds like a handful, well, the Orioles are happy to clear things up for you. In short, the team may now have a new shortstop of the future:
#orioles currently leaning toward making Jonathan Schoop regular SS at AAA Norfolk.
— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) March 19, 2013
So basically, the former shortstop of the future is now the third baseman of the present, and the team will give Schoop the look at short in the upcoming season. You could really look at the news in a different ways based on how significant you think Machado’s development as a shortstop to date has been, but it’d be a fairly sensible, if not minor move by the Orioles.
The fact of the matter is that despite Machado having been developed as a shortstop in his pro career, it would not be entirely to his benefit to have to learn a new position (third base) for two-plus seasons (he started 51 games in 2012 at the hot corner), only to be shifted back to his natural position over the next couple of seasons.
While Machado is more than athletic enough to make the transition, position changes are usually done at the minor league levels. That’s where Schoop will be at through the majority of 2014, assuming his bat develops as expected — making the 21-year old a good candidate to make the change
By making the organizational shift now, the team can maintain some consistency in player roles going forward, and eliminate any doubt when it comes to the future of their infield as far as which player will get reps where.
That is, unless they decide to mix things up again later and go with the super-utility route.
According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, team manager Buck Showalter suggested that while Schoop will be a shortstop going into 2013, he thinks the youngster “will play all over.”
The O’s have some time to decide these things, but with neither Hardy or second baseman Brian Roberts being particularly sure-fire options to play full seasons in their positions, and neither being a major part of the team’s future … well, the team might want to make up their minds sooner rather than later, that’s all.