Born: July 30, 1982
Place: Pusan, South Korea
How Acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2000
When Mariners fans take a look at the current trio of starters in the outfield - Ichiro Suzuki, Randy Winn and Raul Ibanez - they see three players that were each recently signed to multi-year deals. Those most talked about as future replacements include Chris Snelling, a hitting machine at each stop in the minors, and Jamal Strong, the organization's finest base stealer. A name who often gets lost in the shuffle is Shin-Soo Choo, a 21-year-old Korean who made the move from pitcher after coming to the United States in 2001.
The owner of a 95 MPH left arm, it's easy to see why Choo was utilized primarily as a pitcher in his homeland. Add to that superb speed and range in the outfield, and Choo is a candidate to play at any of the three positions. He has spent the bulk of his three-year minor league career playing in centerfield, and with Ichiro locked up to a new four-year deal with the M's and Snelling looking more like the team's left field/designated hitter of the future, center is where Choo may end up.
Choo, the 2002 Mariners' Minor League Player of the Year, has shown an ability to hit in each of his three minor league stops, only dropping below .300 once. Along the way, he's racked up 57 doubles, 32 triples, and 20 homers in 1083 at bats. The M's brass would like to Choo improve in the power categories without compensating in other areas - like walks and steals - and show an abiility to drive in runs. They envision the Korean as a potential 15-20 homerun producer.
Comparable to Major Leaguers like Corey Patterson and Darin Erstad, athletic players with pop in the bat that can steal a base, cover ground in the outfield and gun down baserunners, Choo is very well rounded. Aside from his strong arm, none of his tools are rated extremely highly, but collectively he's brings the full package.
In a full season at High-A Inland Empire in 2003, Choo batted .286 with 9 HR, 55 RBI and 18 SB in 412 at bats. He could start the season there again in 2004, or may get a chance to move up to Double-A San Antonio depending on how he performs at Spring Training in March.
Last year, Choo batted .217 (5-23) with one homer.
Tools: Grading Scale
While Choo has shown an ability to hover around .300 in the lower levels of the minor leagues, he has yet to prove that he can do so at the higher levels. He also needs to show the ability to hit with more power before getting a higher mark in this category.
Choo's exceptional arm and plus-speed are a rare combination that allow him to play at any of the three outfield positions.
No doubt speedy, Choo is still learning how to fully take advantage of his speed. He stole just 18 of 28 attempts in 2003 at High-A Inland Empire, leaving much room for improvement.
MLB ETA: 2005
PROSPECT FILES ARCHIVES:
RHP Clint Nageotte
OF Chris Snelling
IF Jose Lopez
IF Ismael Castro
OF Josh Womack