The New York Yankees have turned to yet another body to try and solve their first base woes, this time in the form of Korean prospect Ji-Man Choi. Choi thus becomes the tenth player the Yankees have used at the position this season, and we're not even at the All-Star break yet.
That is the level of desperation in the Yankees organization right now. Between Greg Bird and Tyler Austin being injured, usual designated hitter Matt Holliday out with a mystery illness, and Chris Carter being remarkably ineffective, the organization now turns to another unproven prospect to man an important position.
But can Choi do the job? He certainly impressed enough in spring training to be optioned to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre and has worked hard enough to be called up, but will he just be a part-timer or establish himself as someone bigger?
Who is Ji-Man Choi?
Choi is 26 years old and signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees after being released by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in December. He appeared in 54 games for the Halos last year and batted .170 with five home runs and 12 RBI in 129 plate appearances. Choi, despite his weak batting average, also posted an OBP of .271, so he has a knack for getting on base.
Choi also posted strong numbers at Triple-A this year, batting .289 with eight home runs and 43 RBI in 224 plate appearances across 56 games. His OBP at that level is impressive at .371.
Thus, it isn't surprising that Yankees management would turn to Choi to try and fill the gaping hole at first base. Every other player within the organization who is capable of playing the position is either injured or hasn't performed effectively, so why not roll the dice on Choi ahead of the trade deadline?
Sure, he only hit .200 in spring training with 4 RBI, but GM Brian Cashman isn't in a position to be picky at this point. Choi deserves a shot and, for all fans and executives alike know, he could prove to be a surprise.
The hope for Choi
The good news for the Yankees is that, in Choi, they finally have the platoon they wanted from the get-go. The initial plan before Greg Bird went down was to play him and his lefty bat against right-handed pitching and recently DFA'd Chris Carter against southpaws, and that approach can now happen properly.
Choi bats left-handed and will almost certainly be immediately inserted into the lineup as the regular first baseman against righties. Moreover, backup catcher Austin Romine has seen some time at first base this year and has done enough at the plate that he can handle duties at the position against lefties.
But that formula will only work if the Yankees are patient with Choi. Yes, a more stable option at first base should be explored as the trade deadline approaches, but Choi's performance in the minors warrants a longer look.
That said, here's hoping that he can perform even minimally well as the team looks to finally solve its first base woes.