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Player Profile: Choo Shin Soo

April 16, 2010

Once April rolls around, my brain and heart gets filled with one of my life’s true passions: baseball. With the onset of the new season in the US, I thought we’d take a look at Korea’s best in baseball today. The man with the three last names: Choo Shin Soo. (It’s kinda cool to have lots of English surnames in your name but just doesn’t have the same feel when it’s all Korean last names.) To keep things easier, I will refer to him as “The Big League Choo or BLC” as fondly coined by Indians fans (which btw is a pretty cool nickname.)

The 27 year old Choo has earned quite a bit of love from the Indian faithful, as well as the fantasy community (he was taken 56th in my league), but hasn’t garnered much interest in the national scene… mostly because of the one star per small market team rule instituted by the major media aka ESPN, which is rightly owned by Grady Sizemore at the moment. (Although I did see JP Ricciardi and Bobby Valentine talking sensibly on Baseball Tonight the other day, so I may have to take down the snark.)

I think this year could be a great one for the South Korean slugger as he enters his 2nd full season in the majors. His age is perfect for a breakout and he’s arbitration eligible for the first time. He is a well rounded baseball player: hits for average, gets on base, and shows good power and speed. He glove is rather suspect but if he can keep it league average, it’ll be good enough with his solid hitting.

BLC had his share of injuries as he tried to make his way into the majors. He went up and down the system for a few years before getting Tommy John surgery in 2007 and made his way up to the majors on 5/31 of 2008 and never looked back. He quickly became the best Korean hitter ever in MLB with a solid 2008 season and followed that up with a great 2009, arguably the best hitting RF in baseball that year. (Although Ichiro! would have beat him out with defense added. Ichiro can flash that leather.)

( Click BaseballReference for full stats and glossary of terms)

His Adjusted OPS+ in 2009 placed him 8th in the AL and his VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) placed him 18th in the league and first amongst RF in all of baseball. 2010 may not have started well for the Indians, but Choo has hit the tar off the ball the last couple of days, hitting home runs in back to back games and stopping the Tribe’s losing streak with some heroics in last night’s game (4/15). Barring injury, I fully expect BLC to have another solid season.

Before looking at his stats closely, I didn’t realize what a good ballplayer Choo’s been the last season and a half. The only thing I actually knew about him was that he was excited when the Wonder Girls sang at Progressive Field. (Sheesh, I feel like a bad baseball fan. But to be fair, I boycotted baseball for most of 2009 because the Mets were causing me such heartache.)

I’ll definitely be following his name and really hope he does well this season. It would be great to see him get chosen for the All Star Games or even get more coverage over in the motherland. He does have a little issue about the Korean army looming over his head, but it looks like he’s applying for US citizenship to get out of that ordeal. (It would spell disaster for an MLB player to miss 2 years of his prime years. It would be like WWII baseball.)

It’s really making me wish that he could be on the Mets right now.

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