Do you think Jonathan Schoop would be better served spending more time in the minors? If the Orioles acquire a second baseman before the trade deadline – by the way, do you think they will? – wouldn’t it make sense to let Schoop play regularly at Triple-A Norfolk since he’s struggling somewhat at the plate? – Sam S., Towson

Excellent question, and a good way to kick off this new feature. The Orioles have said all along that a young player has to be able to play the position defensively when they bring him up from the minor leagues; hitting is gravy.

Well, the 22-year-old Schoop has been pretty strong at second base, doing a much better job as the season goes on with the proper footwork in turning double plays. And he has a rocket arm, we’ve all seen that. I’d say he has been above-average at second base.

On the flip side, he also has looked overmatched at the plate a lot of times this year. There was a stretch two weeks ago when he really looked lost and then homered against the New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka.

So he has his moments.

And frankly, that was the scouting report I heard on Schoop coming into this year: He has power, but he’s going to struggle to hit for average, at least initially, at the major league level.

So would he be better served hitting Triple-A pitching for the remainder of the season? Maybe, but I don’t see that happening because he does enough right now defensively to keep him in the majors.

Now, if they had another more proven alternative at second base, then I think Schoop could be sent down to play every day. But, barring that acquisition, the Orioles will stick with Schoop, paired with the occasional start at second base by Ryan Flaherty.

As for whether they will make a move at second base before the trade deadline, it is an obvious area for offensive improvement. But the Orioles put such an emphasis on defense, that any addition would have to be someone who can hit and field -- and second base isn’t a particularly deep spot.

Yes, the Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley could eventually be available. But he’s expensive (he has several vesting options that could take him through 2018), and he has a full no-trade clause. I don’t see a fit there.

It seems to me that the oblique injury is still bothering Chris Davis. Should the Orioles give him more time to heal on the disabled list? – Bill B.

It’s my sense that they’d have to really push him to go to the disabled list.

Davis admitted last month that he is still dealing with some discomfort in the left oblique, but that it’s not much different from the normal aches and pains that many of his teammates are dealing with in a long season. He believes he can play through it and that it’s not the reason for his prolonged slump -- he says he doesn’t feel it when he swings.

I think the Orioles are just hoping that he’ll get some rest over the All-Star break -- mentally and physically -- and that he’ll be in a better position to return to form in the second half.

Despite Matt Wieters being out for the season and Davis fighting to hit above the Mendoza Line, the Orioles are still competing for the American League East division title. How much will Wieters’ injury and Davis’ struggles affect each player’s payday when they hit free agency after next season? – Ed, Westminster

Well, that’s really hard to tell until we see what they do next season, in their walk years.

Yes, the struggles/injuries will limit what kind of raise they’ll get in arbitration this offseason, and that will affect the base salaries in 2015 heading into 2016. But, as we’ve seen with plenty of players, it’s what have you done for me lately.

And if Wieters and Davis have great years in 2015, their free-agent deals will reflect that, for sure.

Why isn’t Nelson Cruz receiving more attention on a national level as a possible AL Most Valuable Player candidate? Other than the Toronto Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion, he has to be my pick at the halfway point. – Steve S., Atlanta

As you know, Baltimore is not a major media market, and Cruz isn’t on national television every other week. That probably hurts a little.

Plus, the fact Cruz was suspended for 50 games last year as part of the Biogenesis scandal doesn’t, I suppose, make anyone really want to rally immediately for his candidacy.

But my guess is if Cruz keeps up this pace, and the Orioles remain serious playoff contenders through September, you’ll hear more about Cruz as the MVP.

I mean, it’s still a little early for that talk anyway.

If you had to predict the Orioles’ final record, what would it be? – Pete, Timonium

I said 91-71 at the beginning of the season, and I’m not going to change that any -- though they are on pace for about 89 wins.

I do think they can play better than they have so far, so there’s my explanation for the slightest surge in pace.

I will tweak my original prediction in one way. I had the Orioles finishing third and making the final wild card spot with 91 wins. Now I think 91 wins probably is enough to win this surprisingly mediocre division.

And it’s possible that the AL East only gets one playoff team this year -- hard to believe given the talent in this division on paper.