Shin-Soo Choo, once a top prospect for the Mariners, received the most playing time of his major league career for the Indians last year. In his first year back after having Tommy John surgery, he set the record for most hits in a season by a Korean-born player. Choo’s 98 hits eclipsed the mark of 86 set by Hee Seop Choi in 2004.
The knock on Choo is that he is a platoon player or fourth outfielder. But in 2008, the lefty hitting Choo posted a .286/.345/.455 line versus southpaws, albeit in 84 plate appearances. But considering how well he hits righties (.317/.413/.579 last year), Choo apparently has earned a full-time starting job as Spring Training approaches.
Grady Sizemore is a fixture in center for Cleveland and he will be flanked by Choo and Ben Francisco. But the big unknown is Matt LaPorta, the key player received by the Tribe in the C.C. Sabathia deal last summer. LaPorta was enjoying a standout season before suffering a concussion in the Olympics. He will most likely start the season in the minors but it would be no surprise if LaPorta was in the majors before September, with the big question of if he will be an outfielder or a first baseman.
Choo had a .373 BABIP last season, which would have tied for third in the majors if he had enough at-bats to qualify. But as fantastic as that was, it was in line with what he had done in previous stints in the majors. His lifetime mark in the category now sits at .369 in 509 at-bats.
While Choo may or may not be able to sustain a high BABIP the big question is what can we expect from him in the power department. Last year’s .240 ISO mark was well beyond anything he had posted previously, either in the majors or the minors. But a significant portion of that was from doubles, as he smacked 28 two-baggers in 317 at-bats.
Some might be concerned about his 16.1 percent HR/FB mark last year, but in the only other season in the majors where he had sizable playing time, Choo posted a 14.3 percent HR/FB mark.
Assuming Choo holds down a full-time job for the year, he could post a .290 average along with 15-20 HRs and 8-10 steals, too. If he was a first baseman, we might call him Derrek Lee. And for a guy who goes undrafted in many early mocks, that’s great production. Make sure to have Choo on your list of players to target in the late rounds of your draft.