New Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward is already putting his fingerprints on the lineup, naming Shin-Soo Choo his lead-off hitter for 2019.
Per T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward has said Shin-Soo Choo will “likely bat lead-off” this season. Woodward is probably basing the decision on Choo’s stats in the lead-off position last year.
Choo batted first for the Rangers one hundred times in 2018, and the results were very positive. He only hit .260 in the lead-off role, but his on-base percentage of .374 was outstanding. He also hit 17 home runs and slugged .453 from the top spot. Choo opened up four games with a home run last season, which is always a plus.
The only negative with Choo batting lead-off is his lack of speed on the base paths. Choo only stole four bases in five attempts as lead-off in 2018. This isn’t a huge issue, however, as stealing bases is becoming unpopular among major league managers these days. The most important attribute in a lead-off hitter is getting on base, and the 14-year vet does that a lot.
Choo was rewarded his first All-Star appearance a season ago. Most of the production that led to the selection was at the lead-off position. The Rangers are hoping the 35-year-old DH/outfielder can reproduce or even improve on those numbers in 2019. Depending on how the season goes, Choo will either be a key cog in a surprising wild card run, or a trade chip to be cashed in by late July.
He is only due $42 million over the next two seasons, per Spotrac, making his contract much more palatable to a trade partner. It also makes it easier for the Texas Rangers to pay off some of the money left on his deal when making a trade, which could possibly lead to better quality prospects coming back to Texas in any deal.
However the season goes, Rangers fans should hope Choo is as productive as last season in the lead-off spot, if not more productive. Chris Woodward thinks there is a chance that happens in 2019.