Angels show faith in S. Korean first baseman Choi Ji-man

December 11, 2015
Choi Ji-man (Korea Times file)

Choi Ji-man (Korea Times file)

By Brian Han

The topic of up and coming South Korean baseball players seems to spark conversation a lot more these days in Major League Baseball circles.

But here’s a name you might not have heard in a while or at all.

Choi Ji-man just got snatched up by the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday via a Rule 5 pick, which essentially allows the team to take him from the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system as long as they pay the appropriate fees.

It’s not an incredibly common move that team’s exercise. Angels’ Director of Minor League Operations Mike LaCassa knows that, but he has faith in Choi and Doelis Guerra, a reliever the club picked up by the same means.

When asked if he thought the two players would make the major league roster for the upcoming season, he seemed confident about his answer.

“Yeah,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “How often do you see a team, especially one with the expectations we have, take two guys in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft?”

Unlike most South Korean major league imports that we hear about these days, Choi wasn’t raised in the Korean Baseball Organization’s system. That means he’s still young and the way his talent will translate to the majors will be easier to predict.

The 24-year-old batted .302 with with 35 home runs and 211 RBIs over five seasons in the minors.

Solid numbers. But he has also served a 50-game suspension after getting caught using PEDs.

The Angels plan to see how Choi will hold up against fellow first baseman Efren Navarro, and whoever wins out will take a spot on the roster.