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October 1, 2013

Advance Scouting Series

Shin-Soo Choo

by Ron Shah

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Advance Scouting Report

Filed by: Ron Shah

Player Name: Shin-Soo Choo

Context: 10 Games; 9/11/13 to 9/24/13

PA

AB

H

1st P

K

BB

TB

Hard

AVE

OBP

SLG

OPS

TOTALS

49

36

8

6

9

12

15

10

.222

.408

.417

.825

Sample vs. Season:

Batting average significantly lower in examined 10-game stretch compared to season line, which can be attributed to a .259 BABIP during this stretch. On-base and slugging percentages aren’t off by much compared to season averages. Approach is still intact.

SCOUTING BREAKDOWN

Physical/Health:

Listed at 5’11”, 205 pounds – seems accurate. Broad shoulders; strong upper body; underrated athleticism. Sustained a jammed thumb injury sliding headfirst into first base while trying to beat out a dribbler on the 20th of September. Injury caused him to miss a pair of games, but player has showed no ill effects since return.

Hit Tool

Beautiful swing, starting with the tremendous balance from the load to the follow through. The entire body is in synchronization, most notably the front shoulder and hip rotation, making it extremely pleasing to watch the player swing the bat. The bat path is clean and direct to the ball without any unnecessary moving parts, while the angle creates plenty of natural loft in the swing. Quick load and feet. Player begins to collapse slightly, but moreso lean over the plate, as the pitch is being delivered. Keeps hands right over the inside corner of the plate. This would explain why he’s been hit by a pitch 25 times on the season, but also why he can be attacked inside. Knows the strike zone as well as anyone in the game. Comes into every plate appearance with the same plan: get on base – whether it’s with a hit, walk, or hit by pitch. Player wants to get his hands extended on pitches, which is when he’s most dangerous. Sensational plate discipline allows player to get into deep counts, seemingly every plate appearance, while also keeping off of pitches that only the 1 percent are capable of. Pitcher needs to be prepared for a long at-bat, even if ahead 0-2 on the count.

vs. LHP

vs. RHP

Player’s glaring weakness at the plate is inability to hit LHP. The tracking ability isn’t completely missing, until the hitter is behind in the count. When deep into counts, spin will freeze batter or force him to expand the zone. With that being said, be sure to take advantage of player’s patient approach by establishing the first-pitch strike. Get ahead and do it often. Be sure the left-handed specialist is up for this player in crucial situations.

Patient approach; tracks offerings of all types and hits them all well. Wants to get his hands out front and extended against RHP, which is how this player makes his money. Do not want a RHP facing this player in high-leverage situations, or any situation if possible.

Notable At-bats

Date

Description

9/14/13

1st inning vs. Hellweg (RHP): Player is taking until there’s a strike on him. First two pitches (CH, SI) taken for called balls – neither offering near the strike zone. Third pitch (SI) taken for a called strike; offering was down the middle, but with good life. Player is ready to attack now – gets arms extended, but just late with rotation and instead fouls back the sinker located away. Pitcher gets away with one; I wouldn’t throw that again, but pitcher does – another foul back, however. On a 3-2 count, the pitcher, again, throws a sinker where batter fouled two off, but more off the plate; batter adjusts with a shortened swing. Player doubles down the left-field line. Hard-hit ball. Player displays plate coverage and ability to adjust within an at-bat.

9/20/13

5th inning vs. Liriano (LHP): Batter standing slightly further off of the plate than usual, perhaps trying to improve ability to get to pitches inside. Still, batter struggles to pick up first-pitch FB, slightly flinching and bringing hands in as if it’s inside – down the heart of the plate for a called strike. Keeps off of a 1-0 slider down and away. Pitcher attacks hard inside with FB; wants to brush hitter back. Setting up for sliders down and away? Yes. Next two offerings are just that and the hitter looks foolish on both, flailing at both despite being well out of the zone. Batter tried to hold up on 2-2 SL, but couldn’t pick it up in time. Strikeout.

Power

Player possesses impressive raw power, but it won’t show against left-handed pitchers. Swing possesses plenty of loft and angle as it leaves the zone. Underrated strength, especially in the upper body and shoulders. Lifts balls extremely well. The power is generated through the bat speed and hip rotation. Can unload on any type of offerings, but you wouldn’t be able to tell against left-handed pitchers. Of 21 home runs on the season, player’s gone opposite field 11 times. Won’t stride with his front leg, but will certainly look to create more power with a higher leg kick when in hitter's counts. If that happens, and he can get his hands extended, watch out.

vs. LHP

vs. RHP

Player hasn’t homered against a LHP all season. Can drive the ball at times, but rarely against pitches that aren’t fastballs. Power is completely absent against spin from LHP.

All 21 home runs on the season are against RHP. Can drive the ball to any part of the ballpark against RHP, regardless of pitch location or velocity. Even when sitting on a pitch and wanting to put an instant run on the board, the player won’t look to be pull-happy.

Notable At-bats

Date

Description

9/14/13

2nd inning vs. Hellweg (RHP): First pitch curveball that was intended to be away, but came over the heart of the plate. Batter is rarely swinging at a first pitch; no need to pitch backwards and fall behind early with a chase pitch. 1-0 offering is a CH – exactly in the same location as the double in the first inning – batter doesn’t miss it. Home run to straightaway center. Crushed.

9/23/13

9th inning vs. Byrdak (LHP): Batter leading off in a tied game against a left-handed reliever. First pitch SL taken for a called strike down and away. Good pitch. Pitcher attempts to double down with same offering, same location, but misses his spot and doesn’t have the same bite. Batter meets offering out front, and, despite hips leaking, drills pitch into the CF-RF gap. Stand-up double.

Speed/Baserunning

Plus-run grade. A very aggressive runner when on the bases, whether it’s stealing a base or attempting to pick up that extra bag. However, the player isn’t the most successful baserunner and might want to tone down the aggressiveness. Unclear if that’s a player issue or managerial issue, though. While he does have 20 stolen bases, there’s also 11 caught stealing.

Conclusions and Means of Attack

Choo is one of the best and most underrated hitters in the game. But his glaring weakness at the plate, facing left-handed pitchers, could certainly get the best of him in the playoffs. During the observed sample, Choo didn’t face many quality pitchers, let alone quality southpaws. One that meets the criteria, however, is Francisco Liriano, who will also be toeing the rubber when the Reds and Pirates meet in the one-game Wild Card playoff. Taking a deeper look into their outlined matchup, I couldn’t agree more with how Liriano attacked him during the described at-bat: sliders, sliders, sliders. The player is not looking to swing at first pitches, so it’s crucial to take advantage of his patient approach by getting ahead early. Once there’s a strike on the board, I know he’s in attack mode. Brushing him off of the plate wouldn’t be the worst idea here, but, do not miss. He’s not overly concerned by getting hit by the pitch. Rest of the way, I’m going sweeping sliders down and away instead of 12-6 or 11-5 CBs. His bat angle and path plays into curveballs, but sweeping break action is difficult for him to lift from same-sided pitchers. With two strikes on the board, there should be nothing thrown besides sliders. Fun fact: Choo is 0-for-35 with 17 strikeouts against sliders with two strikes on him vs. LHP.

RHP: Choo’s slight collapse toward the backside and crowding of the plate can leave him exploitable to fastballs with velocity up and in. I would try to tie him up, but there is no margin for error when doing so. He’s a great fastball hitter. Leaving a pitch over the plate could mean extra bases. Missing inside could mean hitting him on the shoulder or hands, since they are essentially hovering over the plate. He’s able to hit pitches of all types, regardless of quadrants, against RHP. The sense of the strike zone is at an elite level. Cannot double down on offerings because of exceptional ability to adjust within an at-bat.

Matchup Stats at a Glance

First Pitch Swing

6/48; 12.5%

Bunt Threat (Sac, Push, Drag)

A threat to bunt given manager of club and plus speed. Not a burner, however, and is much better off taking his chances by swinging away (or not swinging away, of course).

Defensive Positioning

Straight up; normal depth.

Outfield

Slight advantage could be gained by playing batter to hit the ball hard the other way against LHP.

In-Sample Splits

vs. LHP

.286/.286/.500

vs. RHP

.118/.441/.235

Full-Season Spray Chart

In-Sample Spray Chart

Ron Shah is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ron's other articles. You can contact Ron by clicking here

Related Content:  Scouting,  Cincinnati Reds

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