Cubs Top 10 Prospects
By Jim Callis
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 Italyas a 19-year-oldand hasnt 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, hes 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 hell be a solid-average to plus defender at first base.
Weaknesses: Because hes big and has some uppercut to his swing, some PCL observers questioned Chois ability to hit inside fastballs, and whether hed 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 Chicagos infield for years to come. Theyll ease into starting roles in 2003, with Karros and Mark Grudzielanek serving as insurance.