Posted on September 20, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
It has no doubt been an endlessly frustrating season for Texas Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who has made four trips to the DL in 2016 for four separate injuries. When Choo went to the DL in the middle of August after suffering a broken arm, his season appeared to be over. But there may be one more twist in his season, as the Rangers have growing hope that Choo will be healthy enough to return to the team for the playoffs.
Choo was originally given a timeline of eight weeks to recover following surgery on his forearm on August 17, but he appears to be recovering faster than expected. He has already hit off a tee and is expected to hit soft toss starting on Tuesday. Choo could then rejoin the Rangers later this week and take batting practice with the team before heading to instructional league to face live pitching against some of the team’s prospects.
“I’ll be the top prospect,” Choo joked about going to instructional league amongst some of the youngest prospects the Rangers have in their farm system.
The Rangers currently have a comfortable lead atop the AL West over both the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros. Texas has a magic number of three to clinch the division, so securing a spot in the postseason appears inevitable. The Rangers will begin the ALDS on October 6, giving them three full days of rest between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs, allowing more time for Choo to recover and get up to speed in order to participate.
Choo may have been derailed by injuries on four separate occasions this season, but when he’s been healthy and playing, he’s been productive. He has been particularly instrumental hitting from the leadoff spot, where the Rangers have failed to find a permanent solution without him and where he could be helpful in the postseason.
“[Choo] has been the most consistent leadoff option we would have,” manager Jeff Banister said. “If we can get him back, that would be great. We have seen what he can do in the leadoff spot.”
The caveat of Choo’s return is that Texas now has a crowded outfield. Carlos Gomez has had a resurgence since signing with the Rangers, hitting .256 with an OPS of .870. He is now the full-time left fielder, with Ian Desmond in center field and a platoon of Nomar Mazara and Delino DeShields in the third outfield spot. The Rangers also have Carlos Beltran as their DH, so there is little chance of opening a spot in the lineup for Choo there.
Nevertheless, the possibility of Choo returning for the postseason is no doubt an intriguing notion for the Rangers. Just putting him on the postseason roster for the NLDS would carry some risk considering how much time he’s missed, how his power could be affected by his broken arm, and the fact that he won’t play in any minor league games beforehand. However, Choo is certainly capable of making an impact in the postseason if he’s healthy, and there’s at least a chance that he could become the X-factor the Rangers may need to reach the World Series.