|Schoop and his bat (photo: Keith Allison)|
Swinging at pitches outside the zone is something that most hitters try to avoid. Not only does swinging at pitches out of the zone (normally) help keep an opposing pitcher's pitch count down by handing them extra strikes, but pitches out of the zone are generally more difficult to handle and hit with more authority.
Still, while it can be difficult to succeed when swinging as much as Schoop does, it's certainly not impossible. The key for Schoop will be to keep hitting for power with the contact he does make. It's unlikely he'll eventually be a high-swing, high-contact hitter, like A.J. Pierzynski
Here are the top 10 career leaders in both O-Swing and Swing percentages. Players' career wOBA numbers are included in parentheses.
Top 10 O-Swing%(Note: As you'd assume, a limited data size is being used here. FanGraphs' plate discipline numbers go back to 2002. And PITCHf/x data wasn't around for the regular season until 2007. Plenty of players throughout MLB history have frequently swung the bat and still performed well. And many have swung often and not hit that well, too.)
Pablo Sandoval - - - 45.0 % (.350)
Humberto Quintero - - - 43.0 % (.261)
Delmon Young - - - 41.3 % (.321)
Adam Jones - - - 40.5 % (.338)
Vladimir Guerrero - - - 40.3 % (.390)
Dayan Viciedo - - - 40.2 % (.325)
Chris Johnson - - - 39.9 % (.330)
Mark Trumbo - - - 39.9 % (.329)
Wilin Rosario - - - 39.3 % (.346)
Brennan Boesch - - - 39.3 % (.319)
Top 10 Swing%
Randall Simon - - - 60.1 % (.319)
Delmon Young - - - 59.7 % (.321)
Johnny Estrada - - - 59.6 % (.308)
Humberto Quintero - - - 59.4 % (.261)
Vladimir Guerrero - - - 59.1 % (.390)
A.J. Pierzynski - - - 58.8 % (.323)
Pablo Sandoval - - - 57.8 % (.350)
Jeff Francoeur - - - 57.7 % (.312)
Ivan Rodriguez - - - 57.2 % (.344)
Nomar Garciaparra - - - 56.8 % (.376)
Schoop has a long way to go before appearing on any of these lists, but if he ends up playing regularly and assuming he is moderately successful, it could happen. So, of course, there's still the small sample size qualifier. But Schoop's current O-Swing percentage would place him second, below Pablo Sandoval and just above Humberto Quintero. His overall swing rate, though, wouldn't crack the top 10 (just below Nomar Garciaparra).
Some things to remember: Schoop is only 22, and his approach at the plate could certainly evolve as he plays more. It's also possible that when Machado returns, Schoop will get sent down to Norfolk to play every day and works on all phases of his game. He's far from a finished product, and he could even return to the Orioles later in the season as a somewhat different hitter. Or maybe he keeps a similar approach, keeps getting bigger and stronger, and improves his low on-base percentage/high slugging percentage skillset (basically what Jones does). That doesn't mean he'll transform into Vladimir Guerrero (he won't), but something in the .330-.340 wOBA range in the future is not unreasonable.
Schoop did have a quasi-trend when playing in the minors. The Orioles have always been aggressive in promoting Schoop, throwing him into the deep end of the pool when he showed the slightest competency in the level before. At each step up, his walk rate would crash while his strikeout rate remained relatively flat. In other words, while he will swing hard at every level, he is less selective and more willing to put bad wood on the bat. That this trend appeared to exist in the minors does not mean it will continue to exist as he transitions into the majors, but it does provide a silver lining because his current performance is not acceptable. He needs to improve. He should, but he might not.
Stats via FanGraphs and as of April 24.