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Shin-soo Choo – 2005 v. 2006

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on May 1, 2006

Through games of Monday night, outfield prospect Shin-soo Choo was hitting .349/.420/.554 with five home runs and eight steals.

Yeah, that's a pretty solid line, and it gets better for the 23-year-old. Choo has fanned just 14 times in 100 plate appearances, and has drawn 10 walks.

A year ago, Choo was beginning his second month in Triple-A hitting .205 with 22 strikeouts and just two home runs. He had also been caught stealing three times in five attempts.

He's 8-for-10 on the young 2006 season.

Choo is putting it all together, and the scouts don't think it's smoke and mirrors and to a man they have no thoughts of Choo's start being a mirage.

Since the final third of last season Choo has been hitting in the leadoff spot for Tacoma, and since about that time he's been red hot. After starting 2005 so sluggishly, getting called up to sit on the bench for 10 days only to be sent back down, and sleepwalking through half the year, Choo has been the Rainiers best player.

The four knocks on him at the mid-way point in '05 were his inability to hit left-handers, the loss of his power stroke, his high strikeout rates and his failures in the stolen base department.

How's this for fixing what was broken?

Since July 30, 2005, Choo has hit .284 versus southpaws, slugged .533, whiffed only once more than he has walked, 24, and has been successful on 13 of 17 stolen base attempts.

Overall he's hit .332/.422/.533 with 11 home runs. That's one more homer than he had all of last season piled into two full months of two different seasons.

So what's he doing differently?

"He's cut down the length of his swing," said an American League Central scout. "Especially with two strikes. But he's exploding through the pitch much better than before. I think he's twice the hitter today that he was a couple years ago when he was the most complete player in Texas.

"I think the leadoff spot has changed his thought process. It certainly seems like it. He's being aggressive early in the count when it's his advantage to do so, and he's patient when he doesn't get the right pitch to hit. He's not afraid to walk to first base."

Choo's power has never seen a rate this high. His six home runs are the most he's ever hit in two months, let alone one.

"Well, that shorter stroke still packs some nice bat speed," said the scout. "Pitchers can't pound him in or dance anything away from him because unless it's over the plate, he's not offering up a swing right now. That forces the pitcher to throw him a legit strike. He's hitting most legit strikes right now, and some of them are being hit pretty hard."

The shorter stroke. It's just as much "the quicker stroke" since the idea is to get the bat through the zone as quick as possible. This allows the hitter to wait longer on pitches, which in turn enables him to cover for the breaking ball but still hit the fastball.

"He doesn't swing and miss much at all," the scout added. "He's capable of fighting off good pitches and working the count until he gets a better one. He's made a lot of progress and it's showing up early."

Against the southpaw, Choo is simply better equipped to handle pitches that a year ago seemed to appear to him out of nowhere. He's able to wait for the pitch and get a good swing on it, rather than pressing to make sure he doesn't get in a hole.

"What I've seen of him is all about his hands," the scout said of Choo's approach against southpaws. "He's more confident that he can protect his at-bats and that's a big factor. When you aren't confident, things tend to slide downhill in a big hurry."

What has he changed versus lefties?

"Nothing all that visible to the naked eye, but he's using everything he has," said another scout. "He knows he can cover the slider so he believes a fastball is his pitch. Sometimes guys look for the pitch that they have trouble with and try to foul it off instead of trying to hit the fastball and adjusting.

"Choo is much more balanced up there, I really like what I see. I think he's on the cusp of becoming a big-league ball player."

A third scout watching Choo for the first time since 2005 added his thoughts on what is different between the two seasons.

"He's got much better command of the strike zone this year," he said. "I haven't seen him fishing for balls he couldn't get good wood on and he's driving more balls."

Rainiers manager Dave Brundage has his own theory, one that I subscribe to more than any other.

"He's just much more comfortable this year," said Brundage. "You can see it in everything he's doing. He's sure he's doing the right thing, swinging at the right pitch, running on the right pitch; he's just more comfortable with his surroundings this time around. He's always had the skills and the ability to do what he's doing, and the coaching has been here for two years in a row with (Dan) Rohn and Pollz (Terry Pollreisz, Tacoma hitting coach.)"

Another sign that Choo is just more comfortable and relaxed this season is that he's more outgoing. He's offering up eye contact to the media, speaking more English and smiling out on the field with his teammates.

He's clearly a happier camper this season.

Maybe it takes a year to get to the point where you can put up with Tacoma. Or maybe Choo is just a pretty good ballplayer with a decent career in his future.

"He's a player," said the AL Central scout, who coincidentally was scouting with the Reds when Choo was a pretty hot commodity at the Junior World Championships six years ago. "I thought he could pitch, but Seattle made the right choice. In a good environment, he has a chance to be a six-hole hitter, but he has leadoff and No. 2 qualities, too."

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32 Responses to “Shin-soo Choo – 2005 v. 2006”

  1. dnc said

    Dude, these are great. Really enjoy them.

    Choo sounds like a prototypical #2 hitter to me – nice OBP, patient, but puts the bat on the ball when you need him to. I just wish he could handle CF.

    Are we getting to the point of looking at a Choo, Jones, Ichiro outfield? I’m not giving up on Reed, but Choo and Jones are showing some upside in Triple A that Reed never flashed at that level. What do you see happening with the Seattle OF in the next year?

  2. I dunno. I don’t know that Jones is going to be ready until late 2007, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be rushed.

    He needs 800 more ABs in Triple-A judging by where he is right now.

    Choo was a B- prospect in 2004 after his 315/380, 15 HR, 40 SB season in AA.

    After last year it really looked like he ran into his ceiling, but he’s proving that theory wrong and that is why you don’t give up on guys.

    I think he’s a legit B prospect right now, but still has some things to clean up.

    He’s still building consistent habits, and will need to understand that he may have a repeat of 2005 in his first year, year and a half in the bigs.

    Choo was deemed NOT A CF way too early, and few scouts I know were the first to say it back in ’03.

    But it’s too late now, really. He’d be further behind than Jones is right now.

    The current Mariners outfield should be Choo, Ichiro and Reed with Raul at DH.

    July? Snelling, Ichiro, Choo.

    April 2007? Ichiro, Reed, Snelling

    July, 2007? Ichiro, Jones, Snelling

    Every step that Snelling can’t take due to injury is where Choo fits in.

    Choo should be Ichiro’s RF replacment in 2008.

    Jones in center, and either Reed or Snelling in left– unless they find a trade target or FA that makes sense, or draft someone that moves quickly.

  3. What does the word “logjam” mean in baseball?

    It means having Ichiro and Raul undercontract for 2007 and 2008 respectively, with three of the top four hitters in the upper levels of the system being OF/DH types and Jeremy Reed having value. Choo doesn’t seem to have the mentality to not start, at least I don’t see him playing well if he’s not a starter.

    With the following parts the Mariners need to find 4 starters and 1 backup for the 2007 season; Ichiro, Snelling, Ibanez, Choo, Reed, AdamJones. One of those guys, even if Snelling is still brittle, needs to be moved. If the club could find a way to get Ichiro to play CF next year, the offense as a whole would be much better with Snelling, Ichiro, Choo and Ibanez at DH. Reed as either the 4th OF or dealt for system pitching (as in not MLR). If Reed goes, Bohn would be my 4th OF for 2007. That gives AdamJones another year to figure out the position all the more.

    I’m of the opinion that Ichiro will be back on a two, maybe three, year deal after ’07. Finding a place for him with the talent in the system may be difficult though.

    Even with Ichiro in CF next year the logjam is apparent. We may have to watch Choo succeed somewhere else when he is one of the two peices used to acquire new talent.

  4. Willmore said

    With Everett’s “clutch hitting” in Seattle, do you see his value rising, and could teams start biting on trade offers soon ? What’s more important, are you hearing any rumblings about his trade in the Mariners front office ?

  5. Doug Taylor said

    Jason, do you think that his keeping sharp and continuing this solid play has anything to do with the World Baseball Classic? Some have theorized that the poor start of Beltre and Ichiro, among others, has been because they came down from serious, playoff-atmosphere baseball to Opening Day.

  6. Willmore said

    Jason, you said in the PI today that Tui has only 2 extra-base hits. My source says he has 6.

    Who’s right ?

  7. slim said

    Its not really a logjam. In 2007 we’ve got 5 guys filling 4 spots which is probably necessary given Snelling’s injury history and Ibanez’s age. Plus one of these guys may not develop the way we hope. By the time Jones is ready, we’ll only be looking at a 2-3 month overlap before Ichiro’s contract expires.

  8. slim, the ideal lineup for 2007 would not include Reed in your mind would it? Do you find him a better choice than Bohn for the 4OF spot?

    That to me indicates the needs of either Reed or Choo to move on.

  9. JasonAChurchill said

    Ichiro won't ever play CF regularly in Seattle.

    Re: Tui's stats… I didn't write that. I wrote that he had two in his last 13 ABs after just two in his previous 33. They needed to edit and just made a mistake. He does have six for the year. MILB is rarely wrong.

    BTW, for those posting links in your comments there is a way to title your links so they dont take up the entire page width.  Please use the html for that.
    The M's OF in 2008 won't even include Ichiro. His deal ends after 2007 and is unlikely to return.

  10. JasonAChurchill said

    Doug:

    You mean for Choo? He didn’t play in the WBC.

    And if you look around the league, many of those who did are starting off just fine.

    It’s been six weeks since the WBC ended. I don’t think it’s had any effect since maybe the first full week of the season.

    MLB is what these guys get paid for.

  11. Willmore said

    Ichiro was around Oh san a bit too much. He’s trying to emulate him.

  12. 2quarters said

    JAC –

    What makes you think Ichiro won’t come back?

    His or the teams choice?

  13. I personally expect him to do his damnedest to play in the USA through 2010. He’ll want to be the only player in the MLB and NPB Hall of Fame.

    JAC, let’s talk CF right now for the Mariners.

    Reed isn’t cutting it, if it wasn’t for the Marlins the Mariners would have the worst CF.

    Reed, Lawton, Willie, Choo, Bohn
    Which of those is the best chance for the team to pass 81 wins this year?

  14. Doug Taylor said

    Wow, I could not have been more wrong. Good work me. Sorry about that.

  15. slim said

    I still have faith in Reed. He’s slumping, but he’s still got skills. This is what a rebuilding team should be all about: letting the young guys with talent play. Reed’s got the talent.

    Your psyche would be a mess too, if you got benched two days a week for Willie Bloomquist and then lied to about not being in a platoon role.

    And yes, he’s an infinitely better choice than Bohn for a 4th OF spot.

  16. Reed should still be playing at least 60% of the time, and 99%of the time versus righties.

    But he does need Abs versus lefties, too.

    So what if Reed is oly good enough for the teamto win 74 games versus someone else making thema n 80-win team.

    You may say that theownership sees that as a huge PR difference, but it’s not, not in the long run.

    Idiocy reigns supreme in that organization, however, so sure, they see things like that.

    Reed needs to play. We know what Bloomer can do.

  17. ShipHimToDetroit said

    Reed is not infinitely better than anyone at anything.

  18. Except play center field, the second most critical defensive spot on the diamond.

    He’s so much better than Willie out there that it’s not even worth discussing.

    Bloomquist has to dive for balls Reed catches on the fly.

    Reed just needs to start hitting. Even if he hit like last year, it makes him a better hitter than Willie.

  19. Willmore said

    Hye, Jason, I noticed that you don’t have LaHair as a top-10 promotion candidate. You don’t think he can replace Sears in AAA at 1B/DH ? He is doing amazingly good in AA and would contribute at Tacoma. Not to mention that he is still fairly young and not totally devoid of potential.

  20. dnc said

    Exactly Jason. I don’t understand why everyone thinks Bloomquist is an adequate defensive CF. Have we still not gotten past the age of “he makes diving catches that others make standing still = good defender”? CF is hugely important, ESPECIALLY for a team in Safeco Field. Reed is very good out there. Bloomquist is just a guy.

  21. No, not right now I don’t think LaHair is ready to make that jump.

    Sears is hitting .300ish in AAA and is a perfect to hit around the younger guys like Jones and Johnson.

    No need to rush LaHair right now. Maybe later in the year. He’s been surprisingly solid and consistent in AA and it’s not necessary to push him too far right now.

    Re: Bloomquist

    He isn’t terrible in center, he’s just adequate, sorta. Reed is just head and shoulders better.

  22. 1996Coug said

    JAC- from the tone of the piece you seem pretty sold on him being the “real thing” now. You just got my hopes up. I’ll be blaming you if he doesn’t pan out.

  23. What Choo has done is regain his form and status. He was never a blue chipper, and still isn’t, nor will he ever be. But he’s made some adjustments that has gotten him back on track.

    The remaining questions are;
    1) can he sustain it?
    2) did he learn enough over the past 16 months to continue to make the proper adjustments in the bigs, too?

  24. 1996Coug said

    And by “real thing”, I meant what we thought of him when he signed. He’s not exactly what we need, but if he keeps this up, maybe we can get someone to offer up a nice pitcher with him as the centerpiece of the package…ala Freddy/Reed. Ahhh Chooo!

  25. 1996Coug said

    BTW- I love the site.

  26. I can almost guarantee that he has value to the organization. Tangible, legit value.

    And thanks for the compliment.

    Bring yer friends.

  27. StandinPat said

    As far as Choo not being a blue chipper, so what? Lots of blue chippers never do diddly int he majors. The fact that he appears to be able to bring excellent def and a solid avg/slg % to the M’s is enough to excite me. He is the type of player who can fill up a box score, and do lots of things that make a team better. But more importanly he will be really cheap. I think he’s better than Jacque Jones, and that cat got 3/20 from ST Louis? Choo would be a more than competent hitter, prob and excellent #2 or Leadoff hitter and allows the M’s to go out and spend some dough on an ACE. Will that happen, who knows?

  28. Claiming that he’s better than Jacque Jones better be a qualified statement because that argument is a throw-away if you mean right this second.

    Not only is Choo not ready to be what he’s capable of immediate at the big league level, but it’s even questionable that he can produce the power that Jones has on a regular basis.

    Is it in his skill set? Yes. But that doesn’t mean he can, much less than WILL.

    And don’t use a players’ salary to analyze his value or overall abilities. We all know most layers are vastly overpaid.

  29. StandinPat said

    Well, part of reasoning is that power, is way overrated. Jones, has carried a low BA and a pretty weak OBP over the past couple of years. Doesnt matter how much power you have if you cant put the bat of the ball. Choo seems to have a nice balance of making good contact, with a fairly powerful stroke. Therefor I feel he is more likely to hit at his power potential year in and year out. As far as using a slary to analyze value, why not? IF player A can give you approx what player B can at 7 + mil less, how is he not more valuable. Esp when that allows you to put that money somwhere else. In effect you have a player thats helping multiple positions because you can use money that would have been spent on a Jones and put that towards a SP. I think Choo is a borderline all-star and a guy who can def have a positive impact on a team, but he seems to get discounted because he isnt a MOTL Bat. That seems a little silly to me.

  30. And Choo has done NONE OF THAT IN THE BIGS.

    I’m all for Choo over a Jones-like talent for 6 mil+ and agree with the sentiments there, but because Choo isn’t an automatic, the club can’t RELY on him to be a regular.

    They have to continue to seek out legit POWER-hitting OF’s.

    And they are.

  31. StandinPat said

    I agree, you certainly cant bank on him becoming the player it looks like he could be. Which is why I think now would be a grea time to figure out if he can. My personal opinion on building a team is to first make it solid through the lineup, then upgrade where needed. The M’s seem hell-bent on grasping at straws in hopes to magically find their missing power threat. Actually Hitting 15 Hr’s even though it may be your max, is better than being able to hit 25 but always falling way short.

  32. StandinPat said

    I understand that Choo is no more of a sure thing than the next guy. I just hate it when guys who have the abiltity to become solid players, or in this case borderline all-stars, but they arent considered a “top” prospect because they dotn have the potential to hit 40hr’s. Then you see all these 40hr potential guys, never make the adjustments to get them out of AA. I just think Choo is a really exciting propect who could, if he realizes his potential, put up Reggie Sanders type numbers, maybe a little less power. None the less, he is an intriguing guy who could, emphasis on could, be a very valuable piece to the M’s rebuilding process.

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