After batting exactly .300 with over 20 home runs and 20 steals in two consecutive seasons, Shin-Soo Choo’s fantasy value was at an all-time high entering last year. I was all aboard the Soo Choo train, and owned him throughout his frustrating injury plagued season. The Korean outfielder hit just .251 with eight home runs and 12 steals in 358 plate appearances. It was a disappointing season, to say the least.
The poor season was certainly unfortunate, but this may be the perfect time to take advantage of his cheap price and acquire him at a discount. A broken thumb last season seems to be the biggest reason for his struggles, along with a DUI and an oblique injury. The thumb injury would have the most correlation with the poor numbers though, as his plate discipline numbers remained consistent with past performances but his power and BABIP both dropped.
Choo’s 1.39 GB/FB ratio was his highest since becoming a regular, and his HR/FB rate of 10.4% was the lowest he had produced in any season. In addition, his .317 BABIP was by far the lowest of his career and much lower than his career rate of .353. He will play this season at age 29, so it is difficult to say the drop in power and bat skills was due to him entering a decline phase.
It looks as though Choo also was a bit unlucky, and that the low BABIP was not solely due to his injuries. His xBABIP was .340, which would make his expected line .276/.358/.397. Those are not quite the numbers we are used to from Choo, but the boost in average is nice. Factor in the injuries, and it is reasonable to expect his BABIP to climb back closer to his career rate, which should subsequently lead to his other categories to improving as well.
Choo is currently being drafted 62.5 overall, behind Desmond Jennings, Michael Bourn, and Nelson Cruz. While they are all nice players, Choo’s ability to perform well in all fantasy categories is an asset none of these players possess. Cruz has never played in more than 128 Major League games and his average is not on Choo’s level, Jennings is a year removed from a three home run season at triple-A, and Bourn will only help with steals and runs. Choo does not have the power of Cruz nor does he possess the speed of Bourn and Jennings, but he produces well in each individual category.
Injuries could certainly play a role, and some may not be willing to take the risk of getting burned by acquiring Choo again, but he looks like a solid bounce back candidate. Choo’s legitimate five category ability, including solid on base skills, should once again make him a tremendous asset for any fantasy outfield. Look to steal Choo in the early middle rounds and expect a season close to .290/18/18, which is a low end estimation if he is able to stay on the field.