Brian, Butler, Debate, Feature, Outfield, Poll

Outfield Debate Class: Choo vs. Cruz

Smugglingplums for Shin-Soo Choo

You know what you'll get from Choo.

Let me start by saying that I love what each of these players brings to the table. In my opinion, Nelson Cruz has as much raw power as any player in the game, while Shin-Soo Choo is the better overall hitter and has a higher career OBP (.391 to .336). Although, admittedly, I am a guy who loves pure power hitters on my fantasy team, I have to go with Choo, if for no other reason than I am quite put off by Cruz’s highly troublesome hammies. As talented as he is, he just can’t seem to get on the field with the regularity that is necessary to be the impact fantasy player he should be. After missing 54 games last year with (3) separate hamstring injuries, the word on the street is that he is working with a training coach to “alter his running style,” so as to avoid such problems in the future. That’s disconcerting, and leads me to believe that the big fella’s base-stealing days are numbered. At 6’2″ and 240 lbs., he’s not exactly built to be a base stealer anyway, though his career success rate (43 for 56) is quite good. Choo (52 for 68) is a more active baserunner though, and I think he’s a cinch for at least a 20/20 season.

Unlike Cruz, who has never played in more than 128 games in a season, Choo has averaged 150 games played over his two full seasons in the league. I have no doubt that Cruz has 40 home-run potential. He is part of a strong Texas lineup, and the Ballpark at Arlington is a very good place to hit. As tempting a player as he is, I would be hard-pressed to spend a third or fourth-round pick on him, because his track-record gives me no reason to believe he can avoid the DL. These aren’t fluke injuries he’s had. These are chronic hamstring issues. I put my money on Choo, a younger and still-improving player with no durability issues.

I’d rather spend my time perusing the fantasy waiver-wire than the Rangers’ injury report.

Rotobrian for Nelson Cruz

You can't expect health, but you can expect production.

My counterpart will probably talk up Choo’s durability and consistency over the past two seasons, trying to distract you from what’s very obvious: Choo has reached his rather pedestrian ceiling. Look, hitting .300 with a 20/20 season is no small feat; it’s actually rather commendable. Choo even cut down on his K total (151 in ’09 to 118 last year). He’s a fine little hitter. But what you see is what you get. He’s not going to get any better. Nobody is projecting this guy to hit 30, or even 25 homers. No, 22 is the tip-top with Mr. Choo (career 34.2 FB% and 14.9 HR/FB rate). He’s not going to surpass his ’10 totals in runs (81) and RBI (90) considering his LD% has dropped while his GB% has risen over the past three seasons. He’s not getting lift on the ball, and line drives typically result in more hits, which means more runs and RBI.

And if he’s not going to get better, are you willing to use one of your first five draft picks on a guy who will probably be out-produced by players of the Hart-Rasmus-Granderson ilk?

On the flip side, Sir Cruz, when healthy, is a complete offensive player. He hits for power and average, and the dude is stealing just as many bases as Choo (although Cruz might run less to protect those hamstrings). The only real reason we’re having this debate is not because of skill, but because of health. Cruz is 31 years old and he’s probably going to be sipping Micheladas from the DL at least once this year. He’s missed 88 games over the past two seasons, so he is no slam-dunk, either, but let’s compare some ’10 stats:

Choo: 144 G, 550 AB, 165 H, 22 HR, 81 R, 90 RBI, 22 SB, .300 BA

Cruz: 108 G, 399 AB, 127 H, 22 HR, 60 R, 78 RBI, 17 SB, .318 BA

With 151 fewer AB, Cruz nearly matched Choo in every category. That’s insane production, and while it’s probably just as likely for Cruz to play a full season as it is for Ian Kinsler, you’ve got to figure he’ll will get more than 400 AB.

What we saw last year is Cruz’s floor, and his ceiling probably looks something like 90, 35, 100, 25, .325. Do you think Choo could reach that, even with a stepladder?


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