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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Top Prospect Alert - Hee Seop Choi

By Schuyler Dombroske

DOB: 3/16/79, Age: 23, Height: 6’5’’, Weight: 235, Bats: L, Throws: L. Acquired: Cubs - Signed out of Korea on 3/4/99. 2000 Stats: (High-A - Daytona) .296 AVG, 345 AB, 25 2B, 6 3B, 15 HR, 4 SB, 50 BB, 78 K, .369 OBP, .533 SLG; (AA - West Tennessee) .303 AVG, 122 AB, 9 2B, 10 HR, 3 SB, 25 BB, 38 K, .419 OBP, .623 SLG.  2001 Stats: (AAA - Iowa) .229 AVG, 266 AB, 11 2B, 0 3B, 13 HR, 5 SB, 34 BB, 67 K, .313 OBP, .417 SLG.
   Hee Seop Choi is a left-handed slugging first baseman who was the first Korean position-player prospect to sign a contract in the majors back in 1999. Choi has power in spades, bashing 25 round-trippers in 467 at-bats in 2000, leading the AFL in homers that same year, and hitting them at a rate of one per 18.3 at-bats over his minor league career. Last season, despite contracting the “mysterious hand injury” virus from Nick Johnson, Choi was able to hit 13 homers in less than half of a season. In the past, he has shown the ability to hit for a high average in addition to the power numbers, but his batting average last season dropped almost 70 points. His extra-base numbers didn’t drop nearly as much percentage-wise, so I’m willing to assume that a few balls that made it through for singles in prior years were hit a little less firmly because of the hand injury in 2001. I would expect that particular skill of Choi’s to rebound this year. He is a very disciplined hitter for a youngster, and could easily draw close to 100 walks a season once he matures. His defense and baserunning are both above average for his position, and his stolen base percentage of 80% over the last two seasons illustrates his intelligence on the basepaths. He does strike out a great deal (roughly once every 4 ABs), and that trait will probably not change any time soon. The only other potential negative with Choi is his build. He is always on the cusp of turning into Mo Vaughn, which presents its own set of problems. The hand injury is a non-event, as far as I’m concerned, but if back or leg injuries start cropping up, his build will be the likely culprit.
   The Cubs ostensibly went out and signed Fred McGriff to provide some “veteran protection” in the lineup for Sammy Sosa, but it was likely to create a one year bridge for Choi to get a little more minor league time. The Cubs are fairly well stocked for a future lineup, with only the catching position without a bonafide prospect or current star (Sammy). Choi should prove to be the type of hitter that could bat third, fourth, or fifth in the Cub lineup for a very long time. He is almost ready, and could easily get a little more than a cup o’ joe this season (during what I think will be the Cubs’ first successful playoff run in a while). If Mark Teixeira does move to first, then I’ve got Choi as the fifth best first base prospect right now behind Johnson, Pena, Teixeira, and Kotchman, and just ahead of Gonzalez and a bit further ahead of Morneau. I’m going to continue with the Mo Vaughn comparison, as Mo was a little more svelte back in the day. Choi should be a solid major leaguer and part-time All-Star, at least until the day that he shows up to spring training and they say, “Hey, who’s the guy that ate Choi?”  


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