Key Stats: One gold medal for winning the 2010 Asian Games. Shin-Soo Choo was feeling pressure for the past couple of seasons as he awaited his fate as to whether he was going to have to join the South Korean military. He can now relax and focus on baseball knowing that he has gotten an exemption. A frightful thought for the rest of baseball knowing that he’s been playing under significant stress for the last two years when he has gone .300/20/20/80+/80+ in the primary five categories in fantasy baseball.
Skeptics Say: Choo’s stolen base success rate was down over 15% from where it was in 2009. Although he did not play a full season until that season, looking back on his other brief experience he did not have 20 steal ability until that 2009 season. Steals might be harder to come by than we think. Choo is also is significantly worse against lefties. For his career he has a .736 OPS against south paws, and last season his OPS against lefties was .670. Do you want to platoon a potential third round pick?
Peer Comparison: You’ll note that Yahoo has Choo as the number eight outfielder while CBS has him as the number seven outfielder. The differences between the two providers’ rankings are Jose Bautista, Matt Kemp, and Nelson Cruz.
The only player among those three that I have Choo ranked ahead of is Cruz. It’s understandable that Yahoo would rank Cruz so high after finishing last year ranked 73rd despite only playing in 108 games, but if we don’t learn from the past we’re doomed to repeat it. Cruz doesn’t stay healthy and can’t play 160 games. That’s why he’s never driven in 80 runs or scored more than 80. It was a little troubling for Choo’s stolen base success rate to drop as much as it did, but at least he doesn’t have the hamstring history that Cruz does. Cruz is also due to see a drop in his batting average. When it’s all said and done, it is more practical to think that Choo will be the better player in four categories.
Choo is not as good as Kemp. And CBS leagues take note, Kemp is ranked 26th. Kemp’s career best totals are better in every category than those of Choo in all categories with the exception of batting average. Kemp does not have Cruz’s problem of staying healthy as he has demonstrated by playing in at least 156 games each of the past three seasons. There are those people that will be discouraged by Kemp’s failure to deliver on first round expectations last season, but his BABIP should help him inch closer to regaining those first round expectations again by this time next year.
Then there is Bautista, the guy that some people would argue had a fluke season that topped even Brady Anderson. Sure the numbers came from nowhere, but as Jayson Stark pointed out earlier this month, Bautista got better as the season progressed last year. In the AL East where the deepest pockets and some of the best scouts resign, how did this fluke manage to continue to get better as the season progressed? Obviously pitchers tried different approaches to get him out, but Bautista kept hitting. And while 50 plus home runs is not expected again, 35 home runs isn’t a stretch. I’ll take those with a bunch of RBI and runs from where he hits in the order and third base eligibility over Choo’s more boring, but better balanced stat line.
Lineup Outlook: Cleveland rocks. The Indians lineup…not so much, but as mentioned in key stats, Choo did score and drive in more than 80 each of the last two seasons, and on paper this Indians team has more talent in the lineup than those two Indian teams. The main reason for that of course is that Grady Sizemore did nothing those two seasons. Last year’s MLB leader in runs scored was Albert Pujols with 115. Sizemore, who is still just 28, has already had two seasons with more than 115 runs scored. A healthy Sizemore would obviously do wonders for Sizemore’s fantasy owners (think top ten outfielder), but would also make Choo owners delighted to have a legitimate 100 RBI threat too.
Projection: Choo will have a career year with the reduced stress and a healthy (fingers crossed) Sizemore hitting in front of him.
92 R 23 HR 96 RBI 22 SB .300 AVG .889 OPS
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