Detroit Tigers’ Jonathan Schoop is MLB’s top defensive 2B: ‘Hitting is going to come’

Detroit Free Press

MINNEAPOLIS — When Jonathan Schoop arrived for his MLB debut in 2013, the budding second baseman constantly heard the same message from Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter.

“You have to separate them,” Schoop said.

Showalter, who managed Schoop from 2013-18, reminded his players to be present during the game and focus on one facet at a time, regardless of their individual performance  on offense and defense.

In 2022, Schoop is leaning on Showalter’s advice in his third campaign with the Detroit Tigers. His offense this season has been underwhelming 40 games in, but he is one of the best defensive second basemen in baseball.

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“The hitting is going to come,” Schoop said Monday. “I know my hitting is going to come. I just got to keep believing. I’m hitting the ball into some tough luck. But I can’t break. I know I’m going to hit and help this team win. I know I can and I will.”

Schoop signed a two-year, $15 million contract extension in August 2021, meaning he can stick with the Tigers through 2023, unless he exercises the opt-out clause in his contract after this season.

So far, the Tigers aren’t getting the payoff they expected.

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“I hate to see him struggle so much but let me go back to my first thing: pitch selection,” manager A.J. Hinch said Sunday. “When Jonathan Schoop stays in the (strike) zone, walks just enough to be disciplined and swings at strikes, he does a ton of damage and is a completely different hitter. When he doesn’t, it’s a struggle bus.”

Schoop is hitting .169 with four home runs, nine RBIs, seven walks and 30 strikeouts in 40 games. He has played more games than any of his teammates, but his 46 wRC+ is second-worst among the 144 MLB players with at least 140 plate appearances.

In Monday’s 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins, the 30-year-old went 2-for-5 with one double and one home run. Since May 8, Schoop is hitting .241.

“When you hit, you hit,” Schoop said. “When you get on base, you’re a base runner and have to score for your teammates. When you’re on defense, you got to be on defense. You can’t be all in one. When hitting is not going well, you cannot take your hitting to defense.”

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Defensively, Schoop leads all MLB players with eight outs above average. He is worth six defense runs saved across 347⅔ innings at second base and hasn’t committed an error.

“He’s very consistent,” Hinch said. “He can play every day. He can handle the ups and downs, especially the downs. He is remarkably the same. His work ethic is exceptional. His temperament is the same. There’s a lot of value being around him.”

Shortstop Javier Báez, the other half of the double-play tandem, has embraced Schoop’s presence since they teamed up in spring training. The Tigers have turned 34 double plays this season.

Schoop is responsible for 28 of them.

“He’s been great,” Báez said Sunday. “He’s got a great arm, and that helps a lot. He gives me a lot of confidence to see the ball and not wait back but kind of do it right by not speeding up.”

Last season, Schoop played 114 games at first base and 38 games at second base. He hadn’t played first base before in his professional career, but the Tigers needed a primary first baseman.

So, Hinch called on his best defender.

In 2022, Schoop gladly returned to his instinctive position, where he’s been the best defensive second baseman in the game despite his lackluster production in the batter’s box.

“I enjoy being up the middle with Javy,” Schoop said. “I like turning double plays. I feel like I’m really good at it. Some double plays that maybe others in the league wouldn’t turn, I’m turning.

“I feel at home there. Playing first base last year, I felt good, but second base is more natural. I’m still ready to do whatever the team wants me to do but being back at second base feels at home.”

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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