Ji-Man Choi, First Baseman/Outfielder
HT : 6'1
WT : 230
DOB : May 19, 1991 (24), Incheon, South Korea
Throws : Right
Bats : Switch
School : N/A
Acquired : Drafted in 2nd Round of 2015 Rule-5 Draft
Last Year's Ranking : Unranked
The Los Angeles Angels have built a high amount of depth for this upcoming season, and one of the biggest pickups in the depth charts came in the form of a Rule-5 selection. The Angels went multiple directions trying to sign South Korean slugger, Ji-Man Choi, and when he signed with Baltimore, the Angels found the Rule-5 Draft as their option to nab him and make him a large part of their immediate success. Now, building on a strong Spring Training, Choi is ready to step into any role the Angels need him to take on.
The biggest upside to Choi's game comes at the plate as a contact friendly hitter. This comes from a pure swing from the left-side (and now right-side) similar to a golf swing. He repeats his swing mechanics allowing for consistent hard line drive contact. In the past year, Choi decided to take swings from the right-side and become a switch-hitter, but there's a still plenty of refinement to be done in his swing from the right-side as he opens up and collapses a bit on his front side.
Choi uses his hands as a timing device, swiveling the bat back and forth early in the pitcher's motion, and bringing the bat through the zone with ease. Sometimes using a timing mechanism such as this can create timing issues and strides of success, along with lack luster spurts in a season. If he can continue repetition, this timing mechanism can be used as a weapon. Choi has been locked up on off-speed pitches in the past due to this mechanism which will be something to watch and see if he makes proper adjustments in the future.
Despite making good and hard contact, Choi does lack the power you'd expect from a first baseman. He has good size but with the focus on contact, he doesn't take the hard and harsh hacks that create much loft of pop off the bat. Instead, you can expect Choi to tap double digits from time-to-time, while spraying the ball instead. Some desire power from their first baseman, but when he makes as much contact as Choi does, it's hard to be down on them for long due to lack of power potential.
Choi has very good plate discipline, which comes from a simple up-the-middle approach. He has a keen eye for contact, which also means he has good discipline for finding the pitch he wants to hit. He rarely falls behind or chases out of the zone, but finds himself in trouble when the rare occasion does happen and the two combine towards chasing. Choi has an exposed confidence change when he falls in the hole, which is something that should improve with experience.
Defensively, Choi is a strong hold. Coming from behind the plate as a catcher, he has a good glove at first, which is mixed with athleticism and an agile first move to each direction. Though he won't be a premier defensive first baseman, he will keep mistakes to a minimum and is about as sure a thing as can be. Though his catching days are behind him, Choi has the athleticism and agility to play in the corner outfield positions, sticking to left field. He won't have the majority of his time spent in left field, but has the ability to play the position.
There isn't much to offer in the speed department for Choi. He has a big body, which is quite a bit to carry around the base paths, but he's nowhere near slow. He has shown strong instinct in running the base paths, which should allow him to mix in well with the Angels new and reversion to aggressive nature on the base paths. Once again, he's not premier, but won't be a liability by any standard.
The harshest knock on Choi's report is that he's been injury prone throughout his career, along with a 50-game suspension for testing positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs. Though he denied any knowledge of taking a banned substance when receiving the suspension, he accepted it with ease out of respect for the policy. He's had injuries of all forms, most recently, a freak ankle injury during Spring Training last year. Injuries are hard to project, but it's something worth noting for any future signs of wear and tear.
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Scouting Report from Taylor Blake Ward - Senior Publisher for Scout.com
Scouting Report from Taylor Blake Ward - Senior Publisher for Scout.com
When Choi broke onto the scene as a professional baseball player, there may not have been a better bat statistically throughout minor league baseball. Choi finished his first year batting .360/.440/.517 between a pair of affiliates. He connected for 21 extra-base hits, including a six-game stretch where he doubled in each game, picking up seven and a triple.
After missing the entire 2011 season, Choi jumped into a full season in Low-A, hitting .298/.420/.463 with 14 doubles, eight home runs, 43 RBI and 43 runs scored. Choi found himself an 11-game hit-streak in mid June where he hit .465 with a 1.386 OPS, having six of the 11 games go for multiple hits. Choi also hit .358 with a .942 OPS in his final 18 games.
Choi didn't let the magic fall off in 2013, where he began the season in High-A High Desert, one of the most hitter friendly parks, and took advantage, hitting .337/.427/.619 with 24 doubles and seven home runs. Three of those doubles came in one game, along with a triple, and Choi found a 12-game stretch where he collected 11 doubles. Choi finished the year splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A, batting .263/.369/.473 with 12 doubles and 11 home runs.
After a strong nine game start to 2014 where Choi hit .394 with a 1.045 OPS, controversy hit and he was slapped with a 50-game suspension for PEDs. Following the suspension, Choi hit .265 with a .749 OPS in 64 games, highlighting the span in his final 18 games where he held a 1.006 OPS, with four home runs.
Last season, Choi was limited due to an ankle injury suffered in Spring Training, and only saw 38 games - including Winter Ball - where he hit .290/.388/.406. Arguably the best stretch of Choi's career came last season though, over a six-game hit-streak where he went 13-for-23 with a 1.456 OPS. This included a game where Choi went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a grand slam and seven RBI.
This upcoming season, Choi must remain on the Angels active roster for the full campaign or he'll be returned to the Baltimore Orioles for $25,000 due to the rules of the Rule-5 Draft. When selected, he was brought out as a bench option who can provide stronger defense and a very disciplined contact bat in late innings. He is now being considered for multiple outlets on the season. He could platoon with C.J. Cron at first base, or with whoever comes out of the fold in left field. Regardless, he has suddenly become a key asset to the Angels 2016 season.
In years past, Seattle Mariners Minor League Coordinator, Jack Howell, brought out that Choi would have a 10-year or longer career at the Major League level. Though a suspension and injuries derailed his path slightly, it seems Choi is set to produce at the Major League level and for a decent amount of time. If the Angels keep him for the full season and maintain the rights to his contact, he could potentially take over first base duties when Albert Pujols becomes a full-time designated hitter or retires, splitting time with C.J. Cron.
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This article was published by Taylor Blake Ward, who serves as a Senior Publisher for Scout.com, and can be found on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.