High Desert Mavericks first baseman Ji-Man Choi reeled off the longest hitting streak in the Seattle Mariners farm system this season, a 21-gamer that ended Thursday.
Choi hit .422 (35-for-83) during his streak, with five home runs and 27 RBI. For the season he’s hitting .346 with a .439 on-base percentage.
The California League – particularly High Desert – is known for its inflated hitting statistics, but the Mariners think that Choi’s hitting talent is not a mirage.
“This is legit,” said Mariners minor league field coordinator Jack Howell, who oversees minor league coaches and players throughout the farm system.
Choi, 22, was signed by the Mariners as a teenager in his native South Korea. He was signed as a catcher, but injuries have moved him off the position.
“He was (a) prospect before, and he had a horrible back surgery,” Howell said. “He did a ton of rehab down in extended (spring training) for a year. We really loved his swing, but he said he couldn’t catch anymore so we put him at first.”
Choi has done nothing but hit since recovering from back surgery.
“We sent him to (Class A) Clinton, and he hit there,” said Howell. “We brought him to instructional league, and he hit. We sent him to Australia, and he only hit about .340 there. We brought him to spring training, and he killed it there.”
Add High Desert to the list. Choi leads the league with 21 doubles, and he ranks second in batting average and RBI.
Friday’s promotion of Carlos Triunfel to Seattle caused some dominoes to fall throughout the organization.
Shortstop Brad Miller was promoted from Double-A Jackson to Tacoma, and he made his Triple-A debut on Saturday in Reno.
Another shortstop was moved from High Desert to Jackson: former University of Virginia player Chris Taylor.
Taylor hit .335 in the California League, while drawing 35 walks for a robust .439 on-base percentage. Howell is optimistic about Taylor’s chances for success at higher levels.
“I think he’s going to be one of our better middle infield defenders,” said Howell. “In the Cal League, there are a lot of tough infields to play on. He’s a gritty guy, and I think as he moves up it will make him a better player.”
Taylor is the third UVA product to play for Jackson this year, joining catcher John Hicks and infielder Steven Proscia.
The Mariners have two more Virginia alums in Tacoma: pitchers Andrew Carraway and Danny Hultzen.Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.