Top 100 Indians: #48 Shin-Soo Choo

Shin-Soo Choo - Gregory Shamus

Next up on our countdown of the Top 100 Indians is an outfielder that you may remember.

Shin-Soo Choo

Right Fielder, 2006-2012

Height: 5'11" Weight: 205 lbs

Throws: Left Bats: Left

How Acquired: Trade, July 26, 2006

Traded with Shawn Nottingham (PTBNL) by the Seattle Mariners for Ben Broussard

Left Via: Trade, December 11, 2012 (3 team trade):

Traded with Jason Donald to the Cincinnati Reds; the Arizona Diamondbacks received Didi Gregorius from the Reds and Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp from the Indians; the Indians received Drew Stubbs from the Reds and Trevor Bauer, Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers from the Diamondbacks

I'm somewhat amazed that I'm writing this particular profile. It seems like yesterday that I was writing up the "Ben Broussard trade" in July of 2006, and now the prospect in that deal is the 48th-best Indian of all-time? But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Choo signed with the Seattle Mariners in 2000 for $1.335M after starring in the World Junior Championships as a two-way player, but was quickly converted to a full-time outfielder. He steadily climbed the organizational ladder, posting almost metronomic .850ish OPSes at each level. He reached AA at age 21 (and if you've been following our Prospect That Matters series, that's very good), hit .315/.382/.462, and was rated by Baseball America as the #3 prospect in the Seattle system behind Felix Hernandez and Jeremy Reed. He played briefly with the Mariners in 2005 and 2006, but at that time he wasn't likely to get much of an opportunity with with the big-league club, as Reed was the Mariners' center fielder of the future and Ichiro was locked in granite in right. Then Adam Jones passed him on the center field depth chart in 2006, and when Reed got hurt in late June, Jones was the one who got the call to the majors. That made Choo expendable, but please keep in mind that he was still a very good prospect even if you didn't think he would stick in center.

The only real knock on Choo throughout his minor-league career was (a) that he would probably be a corner outfielder in the majors and (b) that he didn't project to hit form much home run power. Both those things would more or less turn out to be true, but there were a lot of things Choo brought to the table. He had a compact line-drive stroke combined with an excellent eye at the plate. He could steal bases. And he had an outstanding throwing arm. The Mariners evidently fixated on what he couldn't do and saw in Choo a fourth outfielder type. So when they needed help at first base, they traded him to Cleveland for Ben Broussard.

Now if you aren't old enough to remember Ben Broussard that well, I'll try to fill you in as best I can. The Indians acquired Broussard from Cincinnati in Rebuild v. 1.0, and had been a fixture at first base during the Tribe's long and arduous climb back to relevance. He was a decent hitter, was an ok fielder, but needed a platoon partner because he couldn't hit left-handed pitching very well. Oh yeah...he was (and still is) a very good musician. In 2006, Broussard was having one of the best seasons of his career because the Indians had been platooning him with Eduardo Perez. But that was about the only thing going right that season, and the Indians had long since dropped out of contention by the time July rolled around. The Indians had traded Perez to the Mariners on June 30th for Asdrubal Cabrera (#84 on the Top 100 Indians list), and on July 26th, they traded Broussard to the Mariners for Choo and a PTBNL that would turn out to be Shawn Nottingham. Perez and Broussard would re-create their platoon at DH because LGFT Richie Sexson was at first, but the Mariners would quickly fall out of the race. Broussard would play another season in Seattle, drop off considerably, then play briefly with Texas, his last major-league season to date. Broussard is still bouncing around professional baseball, believe it or not , but his major-league career is over.

Unlike Cabrera, Choo didn't quickly become a regular. He didn't play with the Indians in the 2007 postseason, as he had to undergo Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. He returned to Cleveland at the end of May 2008, and it was then that he established himself as not only a major-league starter, but a major-league star. Initially he shared time with Franklin Gutierrez and Ben Francisco in right field, but after the season Gutierrez was dealt to Seattle, and Choo became the everyday starter. In 2009, his first full season, he hit .300/.394/.489 (139 OPS+), by far the best offensive player on a club that was getting ready to rebuild again.

Hanging over Choo from the time he started his professional career was the mandatory military service required of every male South Korean before age 30. However, the South Korean government allowed an exemption to members of its national baseball team if they won a major international championship. Choo just missed earning the exemption in 2009, as the South Koreans placed second to Japan in the World Baseball Classic. But he and the South Korean baseball team won the gold medal in the 2010 Asian Games, so that clinched his exemption.

Choo's 2011 season was marred with a injuries, particularly by a broken thumb suffered on June 24th. He returned to the Indians in late August, but had to return to the DL on September 15th with a back injury. But he rebounded with a vengeance in 2012, posting a .283/.373/.441 line.

In February 2010, Choo hired Scott Boras as his agent, and after that, his career path was pretty much set. Boras clients as a rule do not sign long-term contracts, and Choo followed that strategy, signing one-year contracts even though the Indians offered long-term deals several times. So last winter, the Indians traded Choo to Cincinnati in a blockbuster three-team deal that netted the Indians four players (Trevor Bauer, Drew Stubbs, Bryan Shaw, and Matt Albers). Choo made out well in the deal as well, as he moved back to center field, his original position, and is having the best season of his career (.277/.425/.466). Amazingly, Choo has never made an All-Star team, but that will likely be remedied this year, and he'll sign a very large contract this winter.

Indians Career Stats

Year Age Tm G PA R 2B 3B HR SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2006 23 CLE 45 167 23 11 3 3 5 18 46 .295 .373 .473 .846 119
2007 24 CLE 6 20 5 0 0 0 0 2 5 .294 .350 .294 .644 72
2008 25 CLE 94 370 68 28 3 14 4 44 78 .309 .397 .549 .946 151
2009 26 CLE 156 685 87 38 6 20 21 78 151 .300 .394 .489 .883 136
2010 27 CLE 144 646 81 31 2 22 22 83 118 .300 .401 .484 .885 147
2011 28 CLE 85 358 37 11 3 8 12 36 78 .259 .344 .390 .733 107
2012 29 CLE 155 686 88 43 2 16 21 73 150 .283 .373 .441 .815 129
CLE (7 yrs) 685 2932 389 162 19 83 85 334 626 .292 .383 .469 .853 134
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/21/2013.

Selected Awards/Leaders

  • AL MVP: 2010-14th
  • AL WAR: 10th, 2010-6.0
  • AL Position Players WAR: 9th, 2010-6.0
  • AL oWAR: 6th, 2009-5.3; 6th, 2010-5.4
  • AL On Base Percentage: 4th, 2010-.401; 8th, 2009-.394; 10th, 2012-.373
  • AL OPS: 9th, 2010-.982
  • AL 2B: 5th, 2012-43
  • AL Bases on Balls: 8th, 2010-83
  • AL Strikeouts: 6th, 2009-151
  • AL OPS+: 5th, 2010-147; 10th, 2009-136
  • AL RC: 5th, 2009-122; 7th, 2010-112
  • AL Hit By Pitch: 2nd, 2009-17; 3rd, 2012-14; 8th, 2010-11
  • AL Sacrifice Flies: 9th, 2009-7
  • AL Intentional Bases on Balls: 7th, 2010-11
  • AL Caught Stealing: 10th, 2010-7
  • AL WPA: 3rd, 2010-4.7
  • AL Putouts as RF: 2nd, 2012-293; 3rd, 2010-267; 4th, 2009-279
  • AL Assists as RF: 1st, 2010-14; 2nd, 2009-11; 5th, 2011-5
  • AL Errors as RF: 2nd, 2009-7; 4th, 2011-4; 5th, 2012-4
  • AL Double Plays Turned as RF: 2nd, 2010-3; 5th, 2009-2
  • AL Double Plays Turned as LF: 5th, 2007-1
  • AL Range Factor/Game LF: 2nd, 2009-2.34; 2nd, 2011-2.13; 5th, 2011-1.98

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 28th WAR Position Players (21.8)
  • 31st oWAR (21.3)
  • t-35th Average (.292)
  • t-17th On Base Percentage (.383)
  • t-17th Slugging (.469)
  • 17th OPS (.853)
  • 49th Total Bases (1185)
  • t-42nd Doubles (162)
  • 35th Home Runs (83)
  • 50th Runs Batted In (372)
  • 38th Bases on Balls (334)
  • 15th Strikeouts (626)
  • 25th Stolen Bases (85)
  • t-17th OPS+ (134)
  • 37th Runs Created (480)
  • t-41st Extra Base Hits (264)
  • 6th Hit By Pitch (54)
  • t-38th Sacrifice Flies (19)
  • t-20th Intentional Bases on Balls (26)
  • t-44th Caught Stealing (28)
  • 11th Wins Probability Added (12.6)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • 43rd Slugging (.549, 2008)
  • t-33rd Doubles (43, 2012)
  • 8th Strikeouts (151, 2009)
  • 8th Strikeouts (150, 2012)
  • t-41st Strikeouts (118, 2010)
  • t-46th Runs Created (122, 2009)
  • t-3rd Hit By Pitch (17, 2009)
  • 15th Hit By Pitch (14, 2012)
  • t-26th Hit By Pitch (11, 2010)
  • t-17th Intentional Bases on Balls (11, 2010)
  • t-17th Wins Probability Added (4.7, 2010)

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