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Cubs Top 10 Prospects

By Jim Callis
February 7, 2003

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1. Hee Seop Choi, 1b

Age: 24. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 240. Signed: Korea, 1999. Signed by: Leon Lee.

Background: Choi became the first Korean position player to sign with a major league team when he agreed to a $1.2 million bonus in March 1999. He homered in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the 1998 World Championships in Italy–as a 19-year-old–and hasn’t stopped hitting since arriving in the United States. He led the Arizona Fall League in homers in 2000, then was waylaid in 2001 by severe inflammation in his right hand. Healthy again last year, he was one of the most dangerous hitters in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and made his major league debut in September. Choi played only sporadically because Bruce Kimm was more concerned with Fred McGriff becoming the first big leaguer to reach 30 homers with five different teams. Choi did launch his first two big league homers, then starred in the AFL again after the season.

Strengths: The top power hitter in the system, Choi launches balls to all fields. He shortened his swing a little last year without sacrificing any pop. Even better, he’s more than just a one-dimensional slugger. He hits for average because he combines the ability to make adjustments with patience at the plate. Choi led the PCL in walks last year. He initially struggled against lefthanders but conquered them in Triple-A. For his size, Choi moves very well. The Cubs believe he’ll be a solid-average to plus defender at first base.

Weaknesses: Because he’s big and has some uppercut to his swing, some PCL observers questioned Choi’s ability to hit inside fastballs, and whether he’d be able to do damage against quality pitching rather than just feast on mistakes. Others pointed to his approach and ability to use the entire ballpark. Choi will have to watch his body carefully. He still has work to do defensively, particularly with his footwork and receiving skills.

The Future: The Cubs traded for Eric Karros in the offseason, but that was more about exchanging bad contracts than consigning Choi to the bench. Choi and Bobby Hill should man the right side of Chicago’s infield for years to come. They’ll ease into starting roles in 2003, with Karros and Mark Grudzielanek serving as insurance.

2002 Club (Class)

AVG

OBP

SLG

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

Iowa (AAA)

.287

.406

.513

478

94

137

24

3

26

97

95

119

3

Chicago (NL)

.180

.281

.320

50

6

9

1

0

2

4

7

15

0