The Cleveland Indians Right Fielder Shin-Soo Choo is a stud. All of us Indians fans know this, and he is quickly garnering that reputation around the league and from different baseball news outlets. January 6th marked the start of MLB Networks Top 10 players Right Now show running down the top ten players at each position. They started off their series with 1st base and then the 2nd episode tonight was RF. I expected Shin-Soo Choo to make the list, maybe around 6 or 7 since not many people outside of Cleveland really know much about the South Korean outfielder. Well, turns out I was wrong on that one. The back-to-back 20-20 man didn’t register on their list from 10th through 3rd. I was getting worried that I wouldn’t even see his name pop up at all, but then to my surprise he was revealed as MLB Network’s #2 Right Fielder, falling behind Ichiro. There isn’t any argument that Ichiro should be ranked first, but it kind of surprised me and made me very happy that our own Big League Choo was recognized as the 2nd best at his position.
Choo is coming off of a year where he missed about 20 games with a wrist injury and still managed to hit. 300 with 90 rbi and registered his 2nd consecutive 20 homerun and 20 steal season. Looking on Baseball Reference’s player page for Choo you can actually see that he finished 14th in MVP voting, which is mostly meaningless but it is still a fun fact. He set career highs in HR’s (22), RBI (90), SB (22), OBP (.401) and walks (81). He is obviously still getting better and entering his prime and the Tribe’s control as a player likely through the 2014 season as he just finished his first arbitration eligible year. The Indians best player is entering the a year which will really only be his 3rd full season in the majors and he will be turning 28 in July.
Can Choo get better? I certainly do think so and I really do hope so. The MLB Network crew thinks that the best is still to come for the star that they say is hidden under the radar in Cleveland. If Choo and the rest of the Indians are healthy and play to their potential his RBI total could rise even higher as can his power numbers. If Sizemore and Brantley are healthy and in CF it will limit the room he needs to roam in right and could cut down on his injury risk out there. The show on MLB Network highlighted his exceptional abilities in all 5 of the major tools that major league players are judged upon. His pure power to all fields, which does not necessarily mean homeruns, but his gap power is what really makes him special. His ability to hit for average is special as well, his career batting average including all parts of 7 seasons, 3 fullish years, is .297 and he has been above .300 in all 3 years with the Indians. He can steal bases, as evidenced by his continuously growing number of base thefts. The glove work ability that we have all fell in love with in the outfield, his gold glove level of defense solidifies an already stellar outfield group. And perhaps the part of his game that stands out the most, his arm. Choo has probably the best outfield arm of any current player. He had 14 outfield assists in 2010, increasing an already impressive number by 3, while also contributing to 3 double plays from Right Field. He led all outfielders in 2010 in outfield assists.
Choo is the real deal, he is arguably the 2nd best right fielder in the game, and if he continues to get better he could overtake Ichiro as the best right fielder this season, considering that Ichiro will be 38 and based on his age should start to regress. The Indians are counting on Choo to produce at the high quality that they have come to expect and be the key cog in what will hopefully be a better season for the team and it’s young players. If the Indians are going to be relevant in the standings again any time soon, Choo is going to be the center piece and key to that success. I think anything short of an All-Star appearance this season would be seen as a let down in his eyes and in the eyes of the fans that cheer for him and the Tribe.