M's 2005 Top 50 Prospects: No. 3

We're into the Top 3 and are just two away from the Top Mariner prospect. Number's two and three (hint) could be roaming the green grass at the SAFE for many years.




The Mariners scouted Shin-soo Choo as a pitcher and a hitter and chose to stick him in the outfield and see how he developed at the plate.

Four years later they have a multi-tooled prospect that has progressed each year in the system.

Choo has developed steadily since signing with the club and added more power to his offensive game in 2004, hitting a career-high 15 with Double-A San Antonio.

Hitting anywhere from leadoff to the middle of the order, Choo has consistently shown the ability to reach the gaps with line drives, allowing him to use his speed to stretch for the extra base.

Blessed with plus speed and a plus arm, Choo's physical skill set is similar to that of current M's right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, though Choo may lean a little bit more toward the power side of the tool box.

Spending the majority of his time in right field, the 22-year-old has the range to cover enough ground in any of the three outfield spots, but may lack the natural instincts to play center field regularly. With Ichiro entrenched in right, Choo may begin to play more in left field as he gets closer to the big leagues.

The Korean native could be less than a year from cracking the 25-man roster in Seattle and his bat could push him over the top with a fast start in Triple-A Tacoma in 2005.


Welcome to Adobe GoLive 6
InsideThePark Prospect No. 3
Shin-soo Choo OF
Opening Day Age: 22
Height/Weight: 5-11/190
Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2000

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

San Antonio

.315

15

84

89

40

56

97

.382

.462




Strengths:
Choo has strengths in all areas of the game and his power and speed combination make him a rare commodity. The M's have been taking their time with Choo and it seems to be paying dividends as the left-handed hitter has responded with career season the past two years.

"I really like the way he has been patient with himself," said an American League scout. "The team has taken it slow with him and it's not easy to be held back. Choo has not shown any signs of forcing the issue."

Weaknesses:
Choo currently lacks the type of power that warrants the 100-strikeout level and with his 97 whiffs in 2004, he needs to curb the number of times he walks back to the dugout without anything to show for his trip to the batter's box. Turning a few of those strikeouts into walks wouldn't hurt, either.

"It's being a little bit picky but he could use a little bit better judgment of the strike zone," said the scout. "He is getting better and made some strides since his first year or two. Further progress in this area is needed to propel Choo into blue-chip status."



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 60
Choo has a solid line-drive stroke and his level swing limits lazy fly balls that allow for better use of his speed. Choo could make better contact in order to fit at the top of the lineup, but his natural progress could be enough for him to thrive in the Pacific Coast League.

"He might be able to hit in the .280 range," said the scout. "Maybe closer to .300 if he displays better plate discipline and takes a few more walks."

Hitting for Power: 60
Choo has the natural swing that could land him average power numbers. Somewhere in the range of 15 home runs and 30 doubles a season is likely the ceiling for the 5-11, 190-pounder. Getting more isn't out of the question and will just depend on the adjustments that Choo makes over the next few seasons.

"Literally, Choo could be one of those players who explodes in the big leagues," said the scout about Choo's power potential. "He could be a 25 homer type that hits .280, or a guy that hits .300 with 14-15 home runs. If the Mariners get lucky they could get the best of both worlds, but in order for that to happen, he has to improve his strikeout-to-walk ratio and do a better job of hitting the fastball, in."

Speed: 70
Choo is probably the second best base stealer in the system behind Jamal Strong. Prior to 2004, Choo was caught stealing far too many times, but he seems to have learned to pick up the pitcher's move a lot better as he reads their delivery. Choo is capable of putting up 25 steals a season as well as turning the corner at second and stretching a double into a triple. His 39 career triples, including 13 in 2003, show his ability to hit the gaps and run for daylight.

Glove: 60
Once Choo is settled in left field, his skills will allow him to be a plus defender. He typically takes solid routes in right and rarely makes mistakes with his glove. Choo enjoys playing defense and should be an asset wherever he ends up playing.

"I'm not convinced he can't play center field," said the scout. "I would have liked to see what he could do out there but he should be a very good defender in left or right."

Arm: 70
Choo has a cannon from the outfield and it's easy to see how he was scouted as a pitcher, throwing in the mid-90s on occasion. His laser beams from right field are fun to watch and with a little bit more accuracy, Choo's arm would grade an 80 on the scouting scale.



Future:
Choo will start the 2005 season with Triple-A Tacoma, somewhere in their outfield, depending on who else joins him. Choo could still develop into a No. 2 hitter and certainly has the speed to do so, but his power potential is hard to ignore, making him better suited for the No. 5 or 6 spot.

"I think he'll be okay in any spot in the lineup," said the scout. "As long as he doesn't have to change his approach, he won't be affected negatively at the top of the order, in the middle, or at the bottom."



MLB Clone: Hideki Matsui (lite), Jody Gerut

MLB ETA: 2005 (September)





Jason A. Churchill can be reached via e-mail at JasonAChurchill@InsidethePark.com



Seattle Clubhouse Top Stories