The Mariners Home Opener is here! This very evening! And I’ll be there! Maybe this guy can be in one himself in a few years:
17. Ji-Man Choi
Position: C/1B | Hits: L Throws: R
DOB: 5/19/1991 | HT: 6’1″ WT: 195 LB
Notes: Choi is a very interesting prospect from a batting perspective. A rare left-handed hitting catcher, he was signed by the Mariners for less than $500,000 as an international free agent in 2009. He also won the Arizona League MVP in 2010 after his impressive debut there before a late-season callup to High Desert.
Choi has a gorgeously smooth and mechanically sound swing, and has a good idea about what he wants to do at the plate, controlling the strike zone well for a 19 year old. He also shows a good willingness to draw walks for a young player. While he doesn’t have a lot of power now, Choi’s swing and frame suggest that he could add more as he ages and develops more physically. In the meantime, he looks like he’s going to be a doubles machine, smacking 16 of them in 209 trips to the plate.
Where things get murky with Choi is when you consider him as a defensive player. While he has a great arm behind the plate, his size, mechanics, and ability to work with pitchers (there were questions about his ability to get past the language barrier at times last year) might all contribute to force him out from behind the plate. Indeed, he only actually played ten games there last season, and 34 at first base.
If Choi can’t stick at catcher, he loses a lot of his value as a prospect. While he could probably be a good defender at first, possibly even a plus one, his bat doesn’t currently project well enough to play well there, even once he adds some power. Think something along the lines of Casey Kotchman, except actually able to hit for average.
While Choi hasn’t gotten a full-season assignment yet, one is expected to come sooner rather than later once some roster fluctuation gets worked out. The early prediction is that he winds up at High Desert, and he might actually get to see a fair amount of time behind the plate there. If he does, expect the organization to monitor his defensive development very closely.
2011 Outlook: Probable assignment to High Desert, with any potential advancement being more tied to defensive work than offensive output.
Major League ETA: Late 2014
Check back Monday for Prospect 16.