With the absence of major league action and the beginning of minor league camp, most of the emphasis is on the Los Angeles farm system, at least for fans of the Dodgers. This comes with good reason, as some of the Los Angeles blue chip prospects are among the best in the game.
Depending on which outlet you follow, the Dodgers rank somewhere in the Top 10 of all the minor league systems in the game. And it’s probably fair to say that they have some of baseball’s best blue chippers in their overall prospect pool.
Already, we’ve seen Andy Pages consistently crush the ball into the gaps, Bobby Miller touch triple digits on multiple occasions, and Diego Cartaya blast a homer into a parking lot beyond an outfield wall. It’s displays like these that remind us how good the Los Angeles farm actually is.
On Sunday, Bill Plunkett of the OC Register shared a quote from director of player development Will Rhymes on how some of the youngsters are looking so far. “”It’s incredible,” Rhymes said. “It hit me a few days ago. We were playing camp games and the level of play is extremely high on both sides of the ball. It’s almost surprising at this time of year, where some of the guys are at. It’s really high quality.”
One of the players often forgotten over the past few seasons is righty pitcher Hyun il-Choi, an international signee in 2018. All that changed, though, after the 6-foot-2, 21-year-old South Korean native last year took home the Dodgers’ 2021 Minor League Player of the Year Award.
With the pandemic season behind him, Choi finally had a chance to settle into a routine, throwing at two different levels. He started the season for Low-A Rancho Cucamonga in the hitter-friendly confines of the Cal League and finished up in the Midwest League at High-A Great Lakes. Between both levels he made 24 appearances, 11 of which were starts, registering an 8-6 record with a 3.55 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP with 106 punchouts over 106-1/3 innings of work.
Choi is a control artist, which probably weighed heavily on the Dodgers’ decision to sign him. Last season, he only walked 18 batters — a rarity for a 21-year-old farmhand in the minors. According to Eric Stephen of TrueBlue LA, Choi had a stretch of five games and 25⅔ innings without a walk, and another string of four straight games without a walk, over 18 innings.”
Plunkett says that Choi attacks hitters with an arsenal that features a low-to-mid-90s fastball and an excellent changeup he developed with help from former big-league reliever Joel Peralta.
“The main thing that stands out is his strike-throwing ability,” Rhymes added. “His command of his fastball is excellent and his pitchability is really advanced. His changeup is his best pitch. It really neutralizes lefties, so he’s able to navigate the lineup multiple times.”
Heading into 2022, it should be interesting to see how Choi fares against the competition in the upper levels of the minors. Where and how he finishes the year should be a good indicator of what the Dodgers really have.