Tag: Shin-Soo Choo

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2015 Preview: Cincinnati Reds


Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Cincinnati Reds.

The Big Question: Is the fun over in Cincy?

The Reds won a 36-year-high 97 games in 2012 and they finished with 90 wins in 2013, but a combination of key injuries and poor individual performances led the club to a disappointing 76-86 record and fourth-place finish in the National League Central in 2014.

And there isn’t a ton of reason for optimism in 2015.

Joey Votto is fully recovered from his distal quad strain, Jay Bruce is capable of a bounceback, and young speedster Billy Hamilton should take a step forward offensively after batting just .250/.292/.355 in 611 plate appearances as a rookie, but the Reds don’t appear to have the kind of well-rounded major league roster that will allow them to seriously compete in a division that suddenly looks like the deepest in all of baseball.

The rotation is in pretty rough waters, for the upcoming season and especially long term. Homer Bailey had an underwhelming 3.71 ERA (97 ERA+) over 145 2/3 innings last year — the first year of a six-year, $105 million contract — and he will open the 2015 campaign on a minor league rehab assignment following September surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. Taking his place will be 36-year-old righty Jason Marquis, who didn’t make an appearance at the major league level in 2014. Mat Latos was shipped off to the Marlins in December because he had one year left on his contract and the Reds knew they weren’t going to be able to lock him up to a long-term deal. Extension talks don’t seem to be trending in a positive direction with Johnny Cueto, who is among the best starters in baseball but could very well be leaving Cincinnati for good next offseason. Tony Cingrani was shifted to the bullpen in a curious spring training decision so that Raisel Iglesias — an unproven Cuban right-hander — can slide into the starting corps. Iglesias pitched almost exclusively in relief in Serie Nacional. He gave up six runs to the Brewers in his latest Cactus League start.

Mike Leake is solid, and Anthony DeSclafani — part of the return package for Latos — carries some upside at age 24. But there are a whole lot of question marks surrounding this group and that’s an ominous situation for a team that plays 81 games per year in one of the least pitcher-friendly stadiums in Major League Baseball.

Cincinnati’s bullpen doesn’t offer anything inspiring beyond its flame-throwing closer and 22-year-old top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson probably won’t be ready for his MLB debut until the second half. Maybe the Reds can slug their way into contention, but here’s guessing that won’t work in the NL Central in 2015.

What else is going on?

  • The lineup does have a nice mix of dynamic offensive contributors. Todd Frazier finished in a tie with Josh Donaldson for the most home runs by a third baseman (29) last season and he led all major league third basemen in stolen bases with 20. Young catcher Devin Mesoraco was one of Major League Baseball’s breakout stars in 2014, producing an .893 OPS (149 OPS+) with 25 home runs and 80 RBI in 114 games. Offseason addition Marlon Byrd collected 25 home runs and 85 RBI in 154 games with the Phillies last summer. Votto, Bruce, and Hamilton — as mentioned above — should all be very good.
  • Aroldis Chapman has been a steal so far for Cincinnati, boasting a 2.32 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 430 strikeouts in 252 2/3 innings over the first five years of the six-year, $30 million deal that he signed after defecting from his native Cuba in 2010. But he opted into arbitration this winter and settled with the Reds at $8.05 million. He gets one more year of arbitration in 2016 and can then become a free agent. Will the Reds consider trading him after they get done hosting the 2015 All-Star Game festivities?
  • Brandon Phillips has registered a weak .714 OPS (95 OPS+) in 419 games since signing a six-year, $72.5 million contract extension with the Reds at the beginning of the 2012 season. He was praised for his clutch hitting ability after tallying 103 RBI in 2013, but analytical baseball people knew that lofty total was more the product of Votto and former Reds leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo. Phillips finished with just 51 RBI in 2014 and he slugged just eight home runs — an 11-year low. Yet the veteran second baseman is still being penciled in as the Reds’ No. 3 hitter behind Hamilton and Votto by manager Bryan Price.

Prediction: A potent offense but messy pitching leaves the Reds with 81 wins and a last-place finish in a loaded National League Central. Go ahead and pencil them in for a last-place finish in 2016 as well.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister plans to use Leonys Martin as leadoff hitter

Leonys Martin AP

The top of the Rangers’ lineup will have a new look this season, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that rookie manager Jeff Banister plans to use center fielder Leonys Martin as his regular leadoff man.

Martin will provide speed at the top of the lineup, but he doesn’t exactly profile as an ideal leadoff man. The 27-year-old owns a .316 on-base percentage over his first 334 games in the majors with a walk rate of 6.2 percent. His on-base percentage against left-handed pitching sits at just .279.

Shin-Soo Choo saw the majority of his starts out of the leadoff spot when healthy last season and while he batted just .242 with 13 home runs and .714 OPS across 123 games, he still managed a .340 on-base percentage. The 32-year-old boasts a .383 on-base percentage for his career, which is ninth-highest among active players.

While Martin is now slotted in as the leadoff man, it’s unclear what this means for the No. 2 spot. Banister could put Choo there and slide Elvis Andrus down in the order, but that would leave them vulnerable against left-handers. The alternative would be to keep Andrus in the No. 2 spot and move Choo to the middle of the order.

Derek Holland’s knee beats Shin-Soo Choo’s ankle in a foot race

Derek Holland

A year ago the Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo to to a seven-year $130 million contract. He then missed a chunk of the season due to an ankle injury. Also last year: Rangers’ pitcher Derek Holland missed most of the season following knee surgery. Recently, they had a foot race, because that seems like a good idea for a couple of guys coming off leg problems.

Here’s Holland describing it:

“We just did the 40, just running around, goofing off and I saw him and Chirinos. They always like to go at it with each other. They raced. Chirinos is pretty quick for a catcher, but he didn’t get Choo. Then I was joking around, I say, ‘Hey, let’s go. Let’s go. I want to race. Let’s do this.’ I got out there and I took off. We were side by side for a little bit and then I started pulling away. Choo goes, ‘Man, you’re really fast. I didn’t know you had that.’ I sad, ‘Hey, don’t let this leg fool you. I’m good now. I’m feeling great.’ ”

I’m going to consider this a back-door Best Shape of His Life thing, as this could be construed as subtle propaganda about the health of Choo and Holland. If Prince Fielder officiated the race it’d be a trifecta in that regard.



Shin-Soo Choo says he feels “too good” nearing spring training

Shin-Soo Choo

Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, recovering from left ankle surgery in September, says he feels “too good” just six weeks away from spring training, per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Choo has been cleared for all baseball activities.

Choo, 32, struggled through an injury-plagued 2014 season, his first with the Rangers after signing a seven-year, $130 million contract. He compiled a .242/.340/.374 batting line with 13 home runs and 40 RBI. With a return to good health, the Rangers are hoping for a bounce-back year from Choo.

Examining the DH market

Victor Martinez

In light of the surprising and quite likely erroneous report that free agent Billy Butler is sitting on a three-year, $30 million offer, let’s take a quick look at who is actually searching for a DH this winter. There would seem to be plenty of options, with Victor Martinez, Butler and Kendrys Morales essentially locked in as a designated hitters and Nelson Cruz more valuable there than he is in the outfield. Fellow free agents Adam LaRoche, Mike Morse, Jonny Gomes, Josh Willingham, Delmon Young, Corey Hart and Ryan Ludwick could also be viewed as at least part-time designated hitters.

So, who needs a DH?

Baltimore: The Orioles will address the spot somehow, whether it’s re-signing Cruz or bringing in a part-time option to mix in with Steve Pearce.

Boston: This is the one team we can be certain won’t be signing any DH types.

New York: The Yankees will almost certainly need to rotate Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira in as designated hitters at times, making it highly unlikely that they’ll sign a regular for the position. They could add another role player who would DH on occasion.

Tampa Bay: The Rays are trying to reduce payroll. Ideally, they’d probably trade Matt Joyce or David DeJesus and then find a cheap part-time DH to help out, probably one of the guys who slips through the cracks.

Toronto: The Jays dealt Adam Lind in part because they wanted to increase their flexibility in the DH role. One angle that’s gotten some play is signing Russell Martin and putting Dioner Navarro into the DH mix, though that’s a long shot. It’s hard to imagine they’ll sign a Butler or a Morales, but they will want some help here.

Chicago: If Dayan Viciedo is back, it should be as a designated hitter. The White Sox, though, would be better off trading him and bringing in a mid-priced veteran.

Cleveland: Between Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana, the Indians are settled at DH and first base.

Detroit: The Tigers will certainly sign a designated hitter, though all they really want to do is retain Martinez.

Kansas City: The Royals will re-sign or replace Butler, but they’d probably prefer it wasn’t a full-time DH. They’re more worried about the pitching market right now, and it seems they’re rightfully figuring someone will fall into their laps laterr.

Minnesota: Between Kennys Vargas, Oswaldo Arcia and Josmyl Pinto, the Twins have more young designated hitter options than they know what to do with.

Houston: Jonathan Singleton looked bad enough last season that the Astros could consider adding a first baseman-DH to pair with Chris Carter. It’d likely be a cheap one, though.

Los Angeles: Since Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols both will likely need to spend some time DHing next year, the Angels won’t spend here. They’ll probably stick with C.J. Cron.

Oakland: Between their three-headed catching monster (Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and John Jaso) and first base options like Brandon Moss, Kyle Blanks and Nate Freiman, the A’s should be covered here.

Seattle: The Mariners are the Tigers’ chief rival for Martinez, with Butler looming as a fallback. It’d be a surprise if they didn’t sign one of them or maybe Cruz.

Texas: The Rangers are saying they’ll tender Mitch Moreland, suggesting that he’ll be the primary DH with Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo also logging time there.


So, to wrap it up, that’s Detroit and Seattle almost surely signing starting DHs, with Kansas City and Baltimore in the probable camp and Chicago, Toronto and Tampa Bay as the maybes.

That’d seem to make it a buyer’s market. My guess is that the Tigers bring back Martinez and the Mariners sign Butler. If Cruz signs as a DH or one or two other teams decide on trades to plug the hole, that could leave Morales scrambling for work and potentially facing more competition from a field of non-tenders that could include Viciedo, Ike Davis and Juan Francisco.

In other words, if you’re a player not named Victor Martinez and you get a solid offer early, you should probably take it.