Thursday, July 19, 2012

Green Diamonds: Chan Moon, SS, Lancaster JetHawks (Class A+, California League)

Name: Chan Jong Moon
Bats: Both Throws: Right
Height: 6' 0" Weight: 160 lb.
DOB: March 23, 1991 in Seoul, KR (Age 21)
Drafted: Signed by the Houston Astros as a minor-league free agent 9/25/2009 for $350,000


2011 Season (Greeneville, Rookie League) 43 G, 160 PA, 3 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 51 K, .207 BA, .302 OBP
2012 Season (Lexington, Class A; Lancaster, Class A+) 44 G, 171 PA, 20 R, 8 2B, 22 RBI, 6-9 SB,
.268 BA, .358 OBP

Introduction: This young infielder has made for himself quite a following here in Lexington without even trying. Cries of “MOOOOOOOON!” follow him on his every at-bat, and whenever he makes even a modestly difficult play in the field the case is invariably the same. I understand it is the custom in Korea to refer to a man by his last name (i.e. Moon Chan Jong), so there's a little something you might not have known :) Shy and quiet but always very polite and smiling, he was a real pleasure to watch on the diamond as well as to meet in person.

Batting: Moon has a somewhat wider-than-shoulder-width stance, keeping his weight back slightly and his hands high. There's a slight crouch and he is footwork is sure. There is a little twirl-type movement in his bat, but nothing excessive. In some ways, his stance is very similar to that of OF Jordan Scott (for those of you who've seen him play). He does drop his hands back as well as shifting his weight back slightly more before his swing (a timing mechanism), and lets fly with what appears to be a pretty big swing, but the whole thing looks very well-controlled. It's not a wild or blind swing, at all, but all of this together sometimes contributes to it being a long swing. This swing appears slightly slower and longer from the left side, but I would expect the team to work with him to increase his contact percentage from the left side as he gets out of the box so quickly and this will help to maximize his quickness and produce more infield hits. He keeps his head in well, covers the whole plate easily and has a very level swing. The biggest problem I see is that he could stand to shorten up a bit more on 2-strike counts and perhaps choke up a hair for more bat head control. Being able to improve in that regard would make him perfect as a #8 or even #2 hitter. Other than that, it's a pretty textbook swing. He has what some aficionados of Asian baseball would call an Asian-style swing, and that's a good thing; hitters in many leagues in the Pacific Rim and Mainland Asian countries are taught to think “contact first”, and that's the approach you see when Moon is at the plate. On his follow-through, he can really twist himself into a corkscrew when he misses. This lends itself to the impression that he's swinging for the fences, but I don't see it. He's deft with a bunt, and can become a good push-bunter with time. He's already comfortable with it, and that will only improve with time. He gets out of the box quickly, but shortening his follow-through could definitely help him in that regard. I think he could stand to gain more upper-body and core strength, but the flexibility and reflexes are already there in abundance. He's not ever going to be much on power, but he'll make consistent contact and throw in a handful of extra-base hits and steals, and that ain't bad.

An excellent play leaves 2B Delino Deshields Jr stunned

Fielding: Moon is, in my estimation, already a plus fielder. He gets everything in range and makes some plays on the other side of second, as well. He has soft hands, fluid mechanics getting to and fielding the ball, and a sure arm. The arm strength is there for short, but as he will probably play a bit more third in the future I'd say he'd probably be only fringe-average for that position, arm-wise. Moon is the kind of gloveman you could put at short, second or third and expect at least average or better results, overall. I've never seen him at first, but somehow I don't think that would take him long to get used to. At short, he's already a spark-plug kind of fielder, making all the sure plays and diving for every ball he thinks he has even a small chance of reaching. He stands in well against a sliding base-runner and throws well on the DP, though he could stand to get a little more force behind his throws in these situations. He starts the double play quickly and confidently, and keeps his head when he has to make his own call on where to throw (multiple base-runners, late-inning situations). Don't be surprised to see him emerge from a cloud of dust with a ball you didn't expect to see. Some of the best plays I've seen in the IF this year were plays Moon was directly involved in, and I expect that will be the case at whatever level he finds himself. If I were a major league owner, I'd be comfortable with his glove in my lineup, right now. That's how much faith I have in this kid. Of course, there's the aforementioned arm strength that I'd like to see improve, but otherwise he's not going to have much trouble defensively while climbing the ladder.

Baserunning: Moon seems to be a smart but conservative base-runner, who can steal the odd base for you but usually isn't called upon to do so. He seems to rely more on base-running smarts than pure speed. Mind you, he's no base-jammer, but he's certainly not a dyed-in-the-wool base-stealer, either. He thus far appears to have at least average speed, and things progressing as they should might steal 10 or 12 for you in the ML, but will probably be given the green light in low-risk situations. Even so, he doesn't hurt himself or the team on the bases. He can take the extra base if necessary but won't likely be asked to do so unless (again) it's a low-risk situation. The base-running instincts, to me, are definitely above-average for his age, and will only get better as time goes by. Moon thinks out there; he doesn't do anything recklessly. He's confident in advancing in passed ball/wild pitch situations, and won't often make a bad call there. He will sometimes surprise you with his selective aggressiveness, which only helps his cause.

Looking on
Cracking up OF Justin Gominsky
Intangibles: For being such a shy kid when you meet him face-to-face (at times), Moon is actually known for being a bit of a jokester in the clubhouse. He is often seen making his teammates laugh and he seems to keep things loose in the dugout, as well. He's not undisciplined by any stretch, but he knows that he's getting paid to play a kid's game, and he's very aware of how fortunate he happens to be. He truly seems to enjoy the game and all aspects of it; he just seems so happy to be here, as cliché as it may sound. It's refreshing to see players at this level who aren't overcome by the pressure of having to perform and moving up the chain, and Moon is one of those players. He communicates well in the field with his keystone compatriot, and is always aware of where he is and the game situation involved. He is always ready for the cut-off throw, and he knows exactly where to go with it when it comes. His baseball IQ is definitely high. He will, at times, let a bad play get to him a bit, though this isn't overly obvious. He is, however, usually quick to bounce back, and doesn't often let a bad play in the field affect him when he comes to bat. He's the kind of player who will be well-liked in the clubhouse wherever he goes, and should fit into most any collection of teammates. That can only help him as he advances ever closer to Houston.

A little glove love from righty Jonas Dufek
Overall: I like most everything I see in this kid. There are some things I'd like to see improve (upper-body/core strength, shorter swing especially from the left side, don't get discouraged too easily, greater confidence), but these are all things that should come with time. At bat, he's going to be a prototypical middle infielder (no power, plus-average contact), but with the glove he could well carry himself into, at the least, a utility infield spot with starts two to three times a week, and that's not so bad is it? Kind of an Adam Kennedy-type with a bit less pop and perhaps a better glove. A smart ownership will want him on their club for reasons that extend beyond his play on the field, because his clubhouse presence is a plus, too. With a little more confidence, you've got a switch-hitting, versatile gloveman, plus he could be a leader both on and off the field, and in ways that you won't read about in the box score. Put the whole package together, and you've got yourself a kid who's gonna make it. I can't wait to see how far he goes. 
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