What The Reds Covet In Shin-Soo Choo

Somehow, Shin-Soo Choo has yet to make an All-Star Game. The 2009 and 2010 seasons saw him as the fourth-best outfielder in the game by both WAR (11.2, behind Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, and Matt Holliday) and wRC+ (139; behind Holliday, Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun).

But an injury-racked and ineffective 2011 — .259/.344/.390 in 85 games — was just part of a disappointing Indians campaign. Choo hit a sharp .283/.373/.441 in a rebound 2012, but at 30 years old, his fielding skills may be declining and he’s projected to earn $7.6 million in his final arbitration season according to Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors. A 68-win season for Cleveland in 2012 has left Choo squarely on the trade block.

It appears the Indians have found a taker in Cincinnati — Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reported the Indians are in talks to acquire center fielder Drew Stubbs and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius from the Reds.

For the Indians, this appears to be a precursor to another deal, given the shortstop logjam Gregorius and Asdrubal Cabrera would present at shortstop. For the Reds, it’s an opportunity to add depth to an already sharp lineup and deftly patch a persistent gaping hole at the leadoff spot.

Choo suffered through multiple injuries in the 2011 season, missing 41 games to thumb surgery from June through August. Shortly after his return, a sore oblique turned into an oblique strain, forcing him to miss 39 more games as the season wound down. The result was just an 85-game season for Choo, and worse, it was by far his most trying season of his career. He hit just .259/.344/.390, with his power in general and his pull power in particular gone.

The 2012 season didn’t see Choo reach his peak pull power potential — in 2010, he hit .388 with 14 home runs to right field — and it was his worst pull power output since his breakout 2008 season. Choo did manage to pull eight home runs, though, half of his total. The overall result was just a step below his best efforts with the bat. His wRC+ to right field went up from 55 to 127; his overall wRC+ went from 105 to 131.

Despite being a left-handed batter, Choo’s bread-and-butter is hits to left and center fields. He owns a career 187 wRC+ to left field and a 185 mark to center field. Even as he struggled through the 2011 season, Choo still managed a 205 wRC+ to left field and a 192 mark up the middle.

Choo’s ability to hit the ball hard to the opposite field and up the middle is what sets him apart from most hitters. He hasn’t put the ball out of the park with those drives, but he notched 32 doubles to left field and center field combined in 2012. At 30, he should still be in his physical peak, able to keep up power to right field.

His opposite field prowess is more about line drives than power — he has 73 doubles against 16 home runs to left field in his career — but a move to Cincinnati could unleash some opposite field thump. The Reds feature a particularly good home run park for right-handed hitters (or oppo-knocking lefties) — a 114 park factor in 2011 according to the Guts page — thanks to a power alley extending out to just 379 feet in left center.

Cleveland’s dimensions are rather similar — 370 feet to left center — but the wall is roughly 11 feet higher, ostensibly turning at least a few would-be home runs into doubles. Mostly thanks to that fence, Progressive Field has just a 93 park fact for right-handed home runs. Choo’s 55 percent fly ball rate to left field should play much better at the Great American Small Park.

If this trade goes through, the Reds will have an excellent offensive outfield between Choo, Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce. But who plays center? The trio has a combined 39 innings in center field since 2009 (31 from Ludwick, eight from Choo). Knobler suggests it’ll be Choo:

The Reds plan to use Choo in center field and as their leadoff man. Choo has played just 10 games in center field for the Indians, none since 2009. But the Reds believe that whatever they lost defensively would be made up with Choo’s offensive contributions.

It’s a calculated risk. Choo posted a minus-17 UZR and minus-12 DRS in right field last year, but he has historically rated high in the metrics and in reputation. But Choo doesn’t have to be good or even average in center field to be an overall upgrade versus Stubbs. Choo was 46 runs better at the plate than Stubbs in 2012 and 120 runs better over the past four seasons combined.

Center field may be an adventure for the Reds this season should the trade go through, but Choo’s bat seems like a perfect fit for Cincinnati. His line-drive style should allow him to take advantage of every square inch of the park — and a few over the fence, too. The leadoff spot produced just a .208/.254/.327 line last season in Cincinnati. At the very least, such problems will be history for Cincinnati if the proposed trade indeed brings Choo to town.




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57 Responses to “What The Reds Covet In Shin-Soo Choo”

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  1. isavage30 says:

    Why would you expect Choo to be good or average in CF for the Reds? I would expect him to be spectacularly awful. While I take UZR with a grain of salt sometimes, I’ve watched the majority of Indians games over the last 2 years. It is normal on a daily basis to see Choo freeze/run the wrong direction, badly misplay the bounce off the wall on the ball he really should’ve caught, fumble around a little more, and then fire a dart … that is unfortunately not on target. 3 years ago he was a good outfielder, the last couple years he’s been hideous. 2 years ago he still had the arm, but least year even his throws were often off line. And that’s in right field. Center field … I cannot fathom.

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    • Bo says:

      He’s not saying Choo will be average to good, he’s saying that he would be a defensive upgrade to Stubbs even with average defense.

      I agree with you his defense is suspect, even when birds aren’t deflecting line drives away from him.

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      • Colin P says:

        Yeah and his offense more than makes up for what they lose on defense with Stubbs. Heisey is also a guy who can handle center especially when they play on the road in bigger parks. Baker did that late last year, playing Stubbs in places like Coors and Petco and Heisey more at home, but Heisey is probably a better defender than Choo. It’s also possible, but unlikely, that they put Bruce in center. Bruce is a great rightfielder (if you look at his career numbers rather than last year) and played center some when he came up.

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      • isavage30 says:

        It is more than suspect. “not even average” is just a huge understatement to me. You’re talking about the player with the 6th worst UZR/150 in all of baseball last year, and moving him into a much more demanding position. “Historically bad” comes to mind more than “not average”. I would say with Choo, the eye test matches the numbers. His defensive decline is somewhat inexplicable (conditioning and motivation might play a part in it), but it has been as real as his struggles against left handed pitching the last 2 years. He used to have okay range and get decent enough jumps that his plus arm made him an overall above-average in RF. The last couple years, and especially last year, he was terrible.

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      • Colin P says:

        I haven’t watched him much personally, but UZR isn’t really accurate in one year samples

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      • E-Dub says:

        “He’s not saying Choo will be average to good, he’s saying that he would be a defensive upgrade to Stubbs even with average defense.”

        I think he’s saying that Choo’s edge in offense helps ameliorate the loss in defense, making him an overall upgrade; Choo is in no way a “defensive upgrade” over Stubbs, who is a plus defender in CF.

        Similarly, there is no doubt that Heisey is the better defender, as he is an above avg defender at all three OF positions.

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    • nilbog44 says:

      Defense is so over rated. If the bat plays that’s all that really matters. Most balls hit are routine anyway. How often do you really need to make a running diving catch anyway? Here’s the breakdown of importance for a baseball team…. Hitting 50%, Pitching 40%, Fielding 10% … and before you ridicule me ask dave cameron if he agrees with my percentages

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      • Cidron says:

        If you want to get on the highlight reels at media outlets, you have to make the shoestring catches etc.. turning the routine into spectacular !

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      • Dusty Baker says:

        You’re crazy. Give me Scott Rolen over Miguel Cabrera any day.

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      • Billy M. says:

        I do agree with your comment, I DO believe defense is slightly Overrated, but however I disagree slightly with your percentiles. In my opinion, it would be hitting 42 %, Pitching 35% and Fielding 23%. Despite pitching and hitting being extremely important, I believe there is a certain Defensive aspect of the game. Errors do occasionally lead to losses. Just my opinion :)

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    • J says:

      Remember the predictions about Miggy playing 3B before the season started?

      To be honest, Choo in center sounds a lot worse. There’s a chance, of course, of Choo having a similar season to Cabrera defensively and being bad (but much better than most predicted at least), but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bruce replaced him by mid-May.

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  2. Spike says:

    still doesn’t make sense with Choo a near certainty to hit the market after 1 yr.

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    • Colin P says:

      I expect the Reds will plan to bring up Billy Hamilton for center in 2014 after a year in AAA

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    • W2BTD says:

      Makes perfect sense, because Hamilton is coming in 2014.

      Choo 2012 EBH: 61
      Stubbs 2012 EBH: 29

      Choo 2012 OBA: .373
      Stubbs 2012 OBA: .277

      You live with a one year defensive experiment for that kind of trade off. Also, Heisey is a very good defensive player and can be used as a LIDR or against lefties on the road in big parks. Reds are solid at every other position defensively, even if Choo or Bruce is brutal in center you live with it. No brainer trade.

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  3. Uncle Randy says:

    What I don’t get it why Cleveland would trade for a SS, when far and away their best prospect (Lindor) is a SS, and their likely 2nd best prospect (Paulino) is…a SS.

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    • doug K says:

      I agree with you. Everything I read is about why the Reds would do this deal. This deal makes zero sense for Cleveland to me. A young SS is about the only thing this team DOESNT need. Well, except for Drew Stubbs who NO ONE needs.

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    • isavage30 says:

      I don’t think it makes sense for either team. The angle on Cleveland’s end supposedly had to do with something with Arizona, to acquire Gregorius, then flip something to AZ for a pitcher. I don’t really get what that would be though, if AZ wants a shortstop and or prospect, the Indians already have plenty available. From the Reds end, with the defensive downgrade, it would seem like a pretty marginal overall upgrade where they’re giving up a prospect that theoretically they may have a use for, even if Cleveland would not. Even with Stubbs’ awful 2012, he was only worth like 1 less WAR than Choo. And I can’t speak for Bruce, but I would think Choo is virtually unusable in CF. Otherwise Reds fans can get used to saying, “Man, what’s wrong with Choo, he looks like he’s DRUNK”, and then feeling marginally bad about it because they didn’t even mean to make fun of his drunk driving arrest, it was just the first thing that popped into their heads when they saw him stumble and run in the wrong direction.

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      • Uncle Randy says:

        Hahahaha

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      • W2BTD says:

        Hmm you sound like an Indians fan.

        I’m not sure you understand how completely inept Stubbs is offensively.

        Choo reached base 256 times last season, Stubbs 149. Unless you can convince me that Stubbs made something like 110 plays that Choo would not have, there is no way that this move isn’t a major, major upgrade for the Reds.

        Leadoff & 2-hole:

        Stubbs/Cozart OBP: .550
        Choo/Phillips: .700

        No brainer, slam dunk trade for the Reds. Gregorius was a spare part. Stubbs stinks. In one year, Hamilton arrives.

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      • Will says:

        2012 Stubbs War = -.2
        2012 Choo War=3.1

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    • Cidron says:

      there is still one more Cleveland trade to be made. Maybe they are packaging TWO SS to a starved team (ariz) (Cabrera and Didi).

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  4. Robb Hoff says:

    Billy Hamilton is the Reds centerfielder of the future. A one-year rental of Choo would be welcomed in Reds Country for another post-season push.

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  5. Greg says:

    wth was Arizona thinking?

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  6. Arizona could have at least gotten Bruce Chen for T. Bauer.

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  7. Alex says:

    How many young, high upside shortstops are available out there? The D-Backs still have Corbin, Skaggs, and Bradley. Bauer burnt bridges, and he was only up for a handful of starts.

    Bauer wouldn’t get them Andrus. Wouldn’t get them Cabrera. Who else is there? D-Backs had a need for a shortstop, a surplus of pitching. It is what it is.

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  8. RichW says:

    At least Choo won’t get lost finding his way to Spring Training.

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  9. chris says:

    Don’t really get all the hate for Choo that has arisen over the past year or so. His LD% (aside from his injury season) Has remained excellent, walk rate has bounced around a bit but rose a bit last year from 2011, and his ISO has been pretty constant. He now goes to a notorious hitters park.

    In terms of defense, I thought the rule of thumb was to not trust one year defense samples, so why do we suddenly think a guy who was a pretty good center fielder is gonna turn into adam dunn off of one year?

    Isn’t it easier to play center in GAB, anyway?

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    • isavage30 says:

      Choo was never a center fielder. He played right field. If any defensive metric is off on Choo, it’s 2011, by watching him, I’d have thought him well below average in 2011 as well. He’s not fast, he consistently gets really bad jumps, and his accurate arm even deserted him last year. There’s a reason the Indians never used him in CF even though they had no one to back up Brantley. He’s always had a canon and still does, but his throws were often off target. I can see why the Reds make this deal, and he probably ends up as an upgrade, but they traded a guy who AZ thinks enough of to swap Bauer for to get him for a year. I understand Cleveland’s motivation here, but am a bit perplexed by the Reds and Arizona.

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      • Ell says:

        The reds will make a qualifying offer to Choo and get a first round pick next year and bring up Billy. So they get 1 yr of Choo, a decent UTIL guy in Donald and then a 1st round pick. They give up a good D CF who can’t hit, and a good SS prospect.
        Also a bunch had people already said this so I guess you don’t get it. Stubbs sucks at the plate, he blows. Choo will give them a much needed lead off hitter. Here is the numbers via w2btd post above.
        “Choo reached base 256 times last season, Stubbs 149. Unless you can convince me that Stubbs made something like 110 plays that Choo would not have, there is no way that this move isn’t a major, major upgrade for the Reds.”

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      • isavage30 says:

        Ell, No doubt Choo is a significantly better hitter, but Stubbs is significantly better defensively and on the bases. You can’t project this as more than around a 1 win improvement for the Reds. Choo’s WAR in the last 1.5 years was 4.1. Stubbs in the last 2 was 3.9. Wouldn’t it have been better for the Reds to trade Gregorius to Arizona for Trevor Bauer like the Indians did? I don’t see how 1 year of Choo and a supplemental round pick is greater than Stubbs+6 years of Bauer. Bauer’s a top 5 or top 10 prospect, you aren’t going to land a prospect of that quality with the supplemental pick. If the Reds had not signed Ludwick, it would make more sense. Donald is a throw-in who likely wouldn’t have even made the Indians team if they hang onto Asdrubal.

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  10. n. armon says:

    Now we know the market for Ellsbury. 1 year CF, great uzr, better production than Choo every other year, available for 1 year, and a Boras client

    It should be something better than Didi Gregorius(a top 5 prospect) of a middling system + someone like Stubbs or Trevor Bauer. Actually, ellsbury plans an actual CF so he is worth something more.

    Cleveland included money to cover the salary, Boston would need to do the same to move Ellsbury…………………….

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    • jschmeagol says:

      Aactually, Choo was the better player in 2009, 2010, and 2012. Not to erase 2011, but one could argue that Choo is at least as good a bet to be more valuable in 2013 as Ellsbury. So age (?) is all that really separates them.

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      • mcbrown says:

        @jschmeagol:
        That really depends on how you define “better”… It’s true that Choo put up more WAR from 2009-12 (15.3 vs. 13.3), but he did it in 540 games vs. 403 games for Ellsbury.

        If you consider Ellsbury’s injury history to be very predictive of future playing time, then and only then is Choo a good bet to be more valuable than Ellsbury in 2013. Otherwise I have a hard time putting Choo first, even without considering Ellsbury’s age advantage.

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    • doug K says:

      The Indians did not get Gregorius AND Bauer for Choo. Stubbs was in the deal but so was Donald.

      Bauer was effectively traded for Gregorius (plus a minor leaguer and LH RP for 2 RH RP). One could argue Ellsbury for Bauer is the market out of this trade. But then again you would have to find a GM with temporary insanity like Towers to make that happen.

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  11. votto's secret gay friend says:

    Luvs me some Choo…..

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  12. Rob says:

    Reds must lbe the MONKEES “DAYDREAM BELIEVER”. Choo is ThE RF “Daydreamer”. Get ready for poor jumps on the ball and Choo NEVER dives for fly balls landing in foul territory.

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  13. Swede Johannsen says:

    Reds must lbe the MONKEES “DAYDREAM BELIEVER”. Choo is ThE RF “Daydreamer”. Get ready for poor jumps on the ball and Choo NEVER dives for fly balls landing in foul territory.

    Choo’s daydreaming is habit forming in RF.j Just ask Cliff Lee.

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  14. doug K says:

    Here’s another observation about the 2013 Indians vs 2012 Indians

    The 2012 Tribe ranked 28th in K% across baseball. They have added the 3rd highest and 6th highest K% players among qualified batters in 2012 in the past week. Looks like they want to challenge the Royals – who are on record as trying to swing for the fences and strikeout more – for the biggest increase in K% in 2013.

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  15. Matt says:

    Yes Choo is horrible defensively. But not only is his bat much better than Stubbs. His OB skills also makes Votto and Phillips much more valueable hitter.

    Votto can hit .330 but if no one is on base his value decreases. Probablely adds 45 RBI to Votto’s numbers.

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  16. Ian G. says:

    So who plays CF for Cincy, Choo or Bruce?

    Offensively, this is a huge, huge upgrade for the Reds. I just wonder if a lot of that value goes out the window in lost defense…

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    • B N says:

      That’s a good question. Choo played horribly at the corner last year, Bruce played mediocre at the corner the last two years. Neither guy is exactly jumping off the page. If I were the Reds, I’d have them do some sprints and drills to see who still has the range. If it came down to a tie, I’d put Bruce at CF. He’s younger and he came up as a CF through the minors.

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      • blogda says:

        Someone is not paying attention, and it isn’t me. “Bruce played mediocre at the corner the last two years”? That is just plain stupid.

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  17. Jon says:

    I just have to know – how is (basically) nobody talking about trading Trevor Bauer for Didi Gregorious??? Apparently Bauer did *something* to piss Arizona off, but could his stock really fall that much with 3 bad starts in the big leagues?

    What’s going on? This is so much worse than KC’s trade, because at least you could argue that KC was trading for proven talent. Arizona gets a good glove that will struggle to have an OBP over .300 in the majors. Last I checked Omar Vizquel was available, and he’d probably cost a bit less than Trevor Bauer, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.

    Really, what the hell are they thinking? Did Bauer lose several limbs during the offseason? This is more inexplicable than the Mets trying to pretend that Jeremy Guthrie money for R.A. Dickey is fair.

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    • hernandez17 says:

      If they determined that Bauer had some kind of coachability problem, then it’s not that surprising that they moved him. But it is surprising that they didn’t get more in return for him. If you’re going to trade a prospect of that caliber you need to shop him around. I can’t imagine that that was the best return they could’ve gotten for him. But maybe it was…? I agree, it’s bizarre.

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  18. Lucas Duda says:

    It doesn’t matter what position you put a player, a great bat always outweighs bad defense!

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    • Cidron says:

      Unless you are the goalie ! (jk jk).. I meant, unless you are the catcher. With catcher, glove (and defense in general) outweighs offensive production IF you are going to stick around. Sure, you may be called up because you can hit, but if you want to stick around, be good friends with your glove.

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  19. The Real Joey Votto says:

    People think the Choo trade is about winning the World Series. They’re wrong. What we’re really going for in 2013 is the all-time record for lowest team popup rate.

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  20. Jimmy D says:

    Reds finally got there lead-off man. Should take some pressure off Cozart, I think he can thrive hitting 2nd.

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    • Jimmy D says:

      I take that back – Cozy will probly hit 7th or 8th
      Choo
      Phillips
      Votto
      Bruce
      Frazier
      Ludwick
      Cozart
      Hanigan/Mesoraco

      I guess Bruce will play CF?

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      • GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat says:

        Choo will be the CF unless he proves he can’t handle it.

        Bruce will not hit cleanup.

        Opening day lineup will be

        Choo
        Phillips
        Votto
        Ludwick
        Bruce
        Frazier
        Cozart
        Hanigan

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    • GlennBraggsSwingAndMissBrokenBat says:

      Cozart will not be hitting 2nd. That is where Phillips will be. It will be perhaps the best 1-2-3 in all of baseball.

      Cozart will hit 7th or 8th, depending on whether Mesoraco starts hitting. Dusty loves Hanigan in the 8 spot, even though that wastes his excellent OBP.

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  21. Jorge Rubio says:

    Can’t believe you students of the game are projecting BIlly Hamilton as the 2014 CF when he, along with Choo has no body of work in the biggs. Come on. If this is Choo’s year before free agency, we all how players tend to produce when there’s a big pay day at stake. And we were willing to give Ludwick a two yr deal to come back, I wouldn’t bet Bobby C can’t find the coneys to add SCC to the 2014-15 squad. Choo is excellent mid range insurance against an injury to Bruce or Ludwick while Hamilton gets used to big league pitching and a new position, plus he can’t steal first. I think this adds wins and big numbers to the 2-3-4 hitters in our lineup, whoever hits fourth.And unless he’s leading off the 8th or 9th, expect to see alot of Chris Heisey in close games late.

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