Shin-Soo Choo
2012 Slash Line: .283/.373/.441 (Stubbs: .213/.277/.333)
2013 Projection: .290/.380/.450

2012 Stubbs WAR: 1.3
2013 Best Guess Choo WAR: 4.0
Projected Difference: +2.7
2013 Floor: 2.0
2013 Ceiling: 6.0

It is absolutely no secret that the Reds expect to be better from the leadoff spot in the order this year. I mean, really, who among doesn’t have some old shoes that could do better than the “production” the Reds got from the first slot in the order last year? The point, really, is not whether or not Shin-Soo Choo wll provide more value than Drew Stubbs, but how much more value he will provide. There are several issues we need to address to get a good idea.

The first, and most obvious, is defense. Stubbs is a very good defensive center fielder. Choo has generally been about average in right (though maybe a touch above). However, all the defensive metrics seems to agree that Choo was awful last year and other than injury recovery, it’s hard to tell why. Add to that a move to the more challenging position of center field (we’ll assume Jay Bruce stays in right), and Choo figures to lose some value via his defense.

Before we discount him too heavily, however, it’s important to remember that most defensive stats take several seasons of data before they become reliable. Correspondingly, the projection systems that provide defensive numbers all have him regressing to the mean defensively. That is, not great, but not nearly as terrible as last year might lead us to believe. I’m going to go with those and assume that the optimistic reports coming out of spring training are legit. Choo should be below average in center, but he probably won’t be a disaster.

I am surprised at what the offensive projections have to say about Choo. They all have him either exactly where he was last year, or a little off the pace. Given the he is in his age-30 season, this would be totally appropriate. But… he just changed leagues, and it’s pretty well understood that the AL has been stronger than the NL for quite some time. Given that, I feel like Choo is actually due for a bit of a bump, which is why my projections look a little more optimistic than others you’ll find.

Of course, whether Choo gets on base at a .380 clip or a .360 clip isn’t the issue so much as that he gets on base more than Reds leadoff hitters did last year. That, kids, is a virtual certainty. Shin-Soo Choo should make us forget about Drew Stubbs in the batter’s box. We just have to hope we aren’t longing for Stubbs in the field.

Redleg Nation Season Preview Schedule

Joey Votto – 2/27
Brandon Phillips – 3/1
Todd Frazier – 3/4
Zack Cozart – 3/6
Ryan Ludwick – 3/8
Shin-Soo Choo – 3/11
Jay Bruce – 3/13
Ryan Hanigan & Catcher #2 – 3/15
Bench – 3/18
Johnny Cueto & Mat Latos – 3/20
Aroldis Chapman & Mike Leake – 3/22
Homer Bailey & Bronson Arroyo – 3/25
Bullpen – 3/27
Updates & Preview Wrap-Up – 3/29