One2Watch4: Shin-Soo Choo

.260 BA, .362 OBP, .479 slug pct
.303 BA, .395 OBP, .549 slug pct

Those are the stat lines from the past two seasons for two 27-year-olds roaming the outfield for the Cleveland Indians. The former belongs to Grady Sizemore, the later to Shin-Soo Choo. That is why he is the One2Watch4.

While the man with the with large female following known as Grady’s Ladies gets all the attention, Choo has quietly stepped up as the Tribe’s offensive leader.

Its easy to go unnoticed when you lead your 97-loss team in homers with just 20, as Choo did in ’09, but he deserves legitimate consideration as one of the best young hitters in baseball. Over the past two seasons Choo has posted an OPS+ (also known as adjusted OPS) of 142. Among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances he ranks 12th overall and 2nd among outfielders during that span. It’s an impressive list for Choo to be on, as all 11 of the players ranked ahead of him have appeared in two or more All-Star Games.

To put that number into some historical perspective, consider this, via Baseball-Reference.com PI: only four players who accumulated at least 1,2oo plate appearances with the Tribe through their first five seasons had a higher OPS+: Larry Doby, Rocky Colavito and Manny Ramirez.

Choo may never put up the power numbers of Colavito, Doby or Ramirez – each of whom led the league in homers at least once – but he finds ways to produce runs.

Perhaps the most impressive stats from Choo’s 2009 campaign are his numbers in the clutch. In close and late situations (defined as: 7th inning or later when leading by one run, tied, or with the tying run on base, at bat or on deck) Choo batted .405 with a .542 OBP – far and away the league leader in both categories.

Just how impressive are those numbers? Over the past decade just three players with at least 75 plate appearances – Barry Bonds (2001, 2004), Albert Pujols (2007) and Aramis Ramirez (2008) – posted an OBP higher than Choo’s .542 in close and late situations. If you extend the list to include the two players just behind Choo, Jason Giambi in 2000 and Bonds in 2002, four of the top seven numbers belong to that year’s league MVP (Bonds all three times and Giambi).

With numbers like these it’s hard not to wonder if Choo ranks among the game’s most underappreciated players. But if he keeps producing at this rate, it’s safe to say that fans and opposing pitchers will take notice.

Perhaps the lovely ladies of Cleveland should start a new club this season: Choo’s Boos.