Free agent acquisition Shin-Soo Choo should fit very nicely in the leadoff spot for the 2014 Texas Rangers. Choo posted a .423 on-base percentage last year and an .885 OPS, good enough for eighth in the league. He is a patient hitter who makes the pitcher work and protects the plate well. Last season he drew 112 walks and was hit by a pitch 26 times. If the pitcher falls behind, Choo’s power comes into play. He hit 21 home runs last year and should hit even more this year since the Rangers play in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league, especially for lefties.
Choo is a decent base-stealer and average defender. Over the course of his nine-year career, he’s averaged 20 steals in 27 attempts. Choo spent most of his career with the Cleveland Indians, and the Indians are not very aggressive on the base paths. Texas Rangers’ manager Ron Washington, on the other hand, likes his teams to run. Washington does not mind seeing a guy thrown out taking a calculated risk to take the extra base. Given this offensive philosophy, Choo should steal substantially more bases this season.
The major downside to the Choo signing is his contract. He’s signed through the end of the 2020 season when he will be 38-years-old. Texas is probably thinking the same thing the Los Angeles Angels were thinking when they signed Albert Pujols: The first few years will be good enough to offset the remainder of the contract. So far, that plan hasn’t exactly panned out for the Angels; the Rangers are hoping to fare better. Another drawback is that Choo is a natural right fielder. Sometimes guys adjust well to a position change, and sometimes they don’t. At Globe Life Park, the early evening sun is very brutal in left field for most of the season, but a veteran like Choo should be able to handle it.
The bottom line is that if Choo can get on base and make pitchers pay if they make a mistake, both he and the 2014 Rangers are in for a good season.