Choo Lighting up Arizona Fall League

PEORIA - A five-tool outfielder from Japan is emerging in the Seattle Mariners system. He steals bases and has a cannon for an arm. He is getting better with his English, and though a bit shy and reticent about doing interviews, he really just wants to play baseball. James Renwick caught up to Mike Goff, manager of the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League, to get the latest on the promising outfielder.

We really tried, but it just isn't possible to write an article about Shin-soo Choo without comparing him to Ichiro Suzuki.

"He's got all the tools," said Goff. "It's hard to believe he's only 22-years-old some times."

Age is the biggest difference between Choo and Ichiro, the Mariners' All-Star, MVP, batting champion commonly regarded as the best defensive right fielder in the game. That, and the fact that Choo has yet to play a game in the majors. Ichiro was a veteran in the Japanese league, a superstar as a matter of fact, before joining the Mariners, Choo is a young converted pitcher who signed with the Seattle out of high school in Pusan, South Korea in 2000.

Goff has seen a lot of Choo, and has worked with him quite a bit as well. Goff may be the Javelinas manager, but as a representative of the Mariners organization he knows exactly where his focus is.

"I work with all the guys on the team, but the Mariners are my guys, and Choo is definitely my guy," he said.

What is he working on with 'his guy?'

"He's raw, he's just been converted, and so we're working on everything with him, but all the tools are there," said Goff. "The biggest thing we've gotten from him is to be more aggressive. On the base paths, in the field, he's realized that he can put pressure on other teams with his speed, and that's been a huge step forward for him."

The Javelinas' manager has also been impressed by the kid's poise. "He just takes everything in stride. Direction, criticism, he just understands it will make him better."

As far as things to work on, there's aggressiveness... and?

"There is a lot of work ahead of him," said Goff. "He's got to see more lefties, a lot more lefties. We work on his defense a lot, just taking the right lines on fly balls, and all around getting more consistent. At the plate, in the field, and especially on the bases."

So what exactly are Choo's weaknesses? Goff smiles. "I'm not sure I want to say anything. The pitchers down here have started to figure out some of the things he's working on, and I don't want them to have any more ammo."

This reporter won't push the issue, except to promise a follow up to this question later in the AFL season.

Goff agrees to the deal. "This kid can do it all, the talent is there, we're just showing him how to do it more often, with more success," he said.

As far as the Ichiro comparisons, Goff agrees that they are inevitable, and says Choo understands that too. "He knows that's going to happen, and it makes him work even harder," said Goff. "That's a high bar that's been set."

Can he clear it?

"Eventually I think he can, not that he'll be better than Ichiro, but he'll be..." Goff stops, "he can be real, real good."

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