Could Ji-Man Choi Be the Angels’ Answer in Left Field?

As the Angles approach the 2016 season without a viable option to play left field, and having struck out in attempts to acquire a couple of less than bone fide alternatives with first the unsuccessful consummation of a trade for Michael Saunders and then a failed

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attempt to sign free agent Austin Jackson, the answer could have been under their noses all along.

Apparently, a little-known Korean import by the name of Ji-Man Choi, who has yet to appear in a major league game, has impressed manager Mike Scioscia, as reported by the LA Times’ Mike Digiovanna. The Angels acquired Choi in the second round of last December’s Rule 5 Draft, obtaining his rights from the Orioles organization,
with whom had just signed a minor league deal in November, following his release from the Mariners’ organization. He missed most of the season after suffering a broken leg in spring training.

Choi has played most of his career at first base, but despite his 6’1’, 230 size, scouts have said he lacks the power of a major league first baseman. He’s played some in the outfield, where the lack of first-base power would not be as much of a concern. He’s bounced around through various minor league levels, and between injuries and a 2014 PED suspension, he’s missed considerable time the past two years, and has only come to the plate 1161 times over his six professions seasons. While he’s hit a modest but not awful 35 home runs with 211 RBI over that span, his career average is .302, and in the one season he came to bat almost 500 times, 2013, he did hit 18 homers and drove in 85, split between A, AA, and AAA levels. In 18 triple-A games last season, following his injury recovery, he drove in 16 while hitting .298. Also on the plus side, he has not struck out much through his career. In fact, in 2013 when he came to bat 499 times, he only struck out 68 times.

Also a big plus for Choi, 24, is the fact that he’s a switch hitter, something that should greatly benefit him if he ends of competing for a final roster spot. But, competing for the left field job with 33-year-old Daniel Nava, coming off a .194 season, and Craig Gentry, 32 and coming off a short season in which he actually did hit .120, (but who is a career .265 hitter with good speed and who can steal bases) I’d think that Choi has as good a chance as anyone currently in the Angels’ camp to win the left field spot.

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