2017 and the past few seasons have seen young players on the rise such as Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, Luis Severino, and many, many more. A new generation of players are just starting to dominate the game, and last year there were a couple young players that stayed under the radar.
Schoop really broke out in 2016 and blossomed in 2017. The 26-year-old played 162 games in 2016 and hit 25 home runs and 82 RBI’s in more of a complementary role.
In 2017, he saw his numbers rise across the board in 160 games. He hit 32 homers and drove in 105 runs. As you can see below, his batting average, on base, and slugging percentages all rose by at least 30 points. This improvement led to an All-Star appearance and a 12th place finish in the MVP voting.
Schoop, who was called up in 2013 as a 21-year-old, hit behind the likes of Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Nelson Cruz and even Pedro Alvarez. Now it is Schoop time to carry the line-up as the 2017 Most Valuable Oriole tries to best his great 2017 campaign.
Schoop’s calling card has been improving year to year. While his averages and power numbers have risen from 2016 to 2017, he has worked on his over-aggressiveness as well. According to FanGraphs, Schoop has improved his first pitch swing rate by 12% from 2016. Schoop is seeing more pitches compared to just hitting the first good pitch he sees. This definitely played a role in his higher power numbers.
Schoop improved defensively in 2017 as well. The Baltimore Sun actually wrote an article at the beginning of the 2017 season after a rough couple of defensive games. Schoop had been a league average second basemen at best his first couple seasons, but he got his dWAR to its highest mark in the past three seasons. He is known for his big double-play arm, but he improved on all aspects according to his advanced metrics. The Baltimore Sun article proves that it was something on his mind as well. Even with defensive improvements on his mind, Schoop was able to become a top 5 second basemen in 2017.
The 24-year-old starting right fielder for the vastly improved Milwaukee Brewers put together his first full Major League season, and he did nothing but impress. He hit 30 homers and drove in 85 RBI’s while hitting .278/.371/.505. His .875 OPS was good for 32nd in the entire league. While he is 6’5″, 220 pounds, he was able to steal 15 bases in 19 attempts. The big man can move, and he can also hit for some serious power.
While it looks like the Brewers could have a star in the waiting, he struck out 178 times which was 29.3% of his at-bats. This is an alarming rate, but he is still young. His walk rate though was 12% which is good.
Surprisingly, Santana’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors this winter because of the organizational depth in the outfield. Ryan Braun, Brett Phillips, Keon Broxton, Hernan Perez, and Lewis Brinson are all other big league options in the outfield. Corey Ray, Monte Harrison, Tristan Lutz, and Trent Grisham are all prospects who will get a chance within the next two to four seasons as well.
Much like division rival the St. Louis Cardinals, the Brewers could trade from a position of organizational depth with outfielders for big league pitching. Santana should bring back the best package other than top prospects Brinson and Ray because of his 2017 season which showed his unique combination of power, size, and speed.
Much like Santana, Merrifield looks like a quiet trade piece for the Kansas City Royals. Although he was 27 years old, Merrifield finally found his stride in the majors in 2016.
After a solid debut season in 2016, he burst onto the scene for the Royal in 2017. Although his batting average and on-base percentage didn’t improve much, his power numbers skyrocketed. He hit 19 homers and improved his slugging percentage by 68 points. He also became a premier base stealing threat as he swiped 34 bags which was good for 4th most in the MLB.
Being on a team that was basically on a farewell tour for departing free agent fan favorites, Merrifield slid under the radar even though he was clearly one of their top players alongside Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
Merrifield hasn’t become a household name yet, but a sell high trade by the Royals (who should be rebuilding) could bring back a good return. The Angels and the Mets have glaring holes at second base, and Merrifield must be part of their front office discussions. In a weak second basemen free agent market, Whit Merrifield might be the top option for the Angels and Mets at the right price.