Where does Shin-Soo Choo fit into the Rangers’ lineup?
The Rangers have a good problem on their hands. Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo came back from injury over this past weekend, getting three games of work in against the Tampa Bay Rays before the American League division series that we now know will be against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Choo, in the 48 games he played this season, was the leadoff hitter for 40 of them. He uses his patient approach at the plate to set the table for the middle of Texas’ lineup. However, due to the recent production of Carlos Gomez at the leadoff spot, Jeff Banister, and his coaching staff have a decision to make regarding Choo’s position within the team. According to Banister, they are “still evaluating” Choo’s health heading into the ALDS.
In the Tampa series, Choo looked pretty normal in the field. However, he did barrel up a few balls at the plate, as well as making some defensive plays. On Friday night, Choo hit 7th and played right field. That is where I expect his normal spot to be for the duration of the playoffs. He has proven himself enough to earn his spot back in the lineup and had three games to knock some rust off. There is a chance Carlos Beltran and Choo switch off DH/RF duties, however, barring injury I expect Choo to be slated seventh. That places him right between Jonathan Lucroy and Mitch Moreland.
Here is how the lineup will likely shake out on Thursday afternoon:
Gomez LF; Desmond CF; Beltran DH; Beltre 3B; Odor 2B; Lucroy C; Choo RF; Moreland 1B; Andrus SS.
Putting Choo at the bottom of the lineup gives the Rangers incredible balance from top to bottom. It makes their lineup one of the most complete in these playoffs. With that being said, baseball is a fluid game. Choo’s versatility at the plate allows Banister to place him anywhere in the lineup and the team won’t skip a beat. This is why getting Choo back for the postseason was so big for Texas: it gives them options.
Having a hitter like Nomar Mazara come off the bench and pinch hit is a huge advantage not many teams have, and that will be the case with Choo’s insertion. Texas is poised for a long postseason run, and having Choo in the lineup daily would be a huge boost to an already potent offense.