The New York Yankees are in dire need of first base output and Ji-Man Choi gave them a promising sight during his Yankee debut.
Chris Carter was designated for assignment for the second time in two weeks on Tuesday after going hitless — a common theme throughout his understandably brief career in the Bronx — and dropping a throw to first base. That left the unknown commodity in Ji-Man Choi, who was slashing .341/.417/.829 in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre since June 23, look like the most attractive option.
When the 26-year-old was penciled into the lineup on Wednesday, he became the third player born in South Korea to play for the Yankees but all fans cared about was if he could bring stability to a position in which posts a -1.2 (29th in MLB) for New York.
In Choi’s first game, he gave a crowd of 38,691 at Yankee Stadium a reason to believe.
With center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury on first base in the fifth inning, the left-handed hitting Choi turned on a 90.9 mph fastball from Jays’ starter Marco Estrada and slammed it 457 feet into the bleachers in right field. He joined Clint Frazier as the second player to homer in his Yankees debut this season and although he would only go 1-for-4, power production and not one strikeout is unquestionably encouraging and surely something the Yankees have missed since the start of 2017
“I’m happy with the start I had,” Choi, who owned a .611 OPS in 54 games for the Los Angeles Angels in 2016 said following the 7-6 loss. “I’m looking forward to building on what I did.”
Not only will he hope to build on a memorable Yankee debut, but the Yankees are hoping that he could be an answer to their first base woes.
Greg Bird could miss the rest of the year thanks to an ankle injury and Tyler Austin landed back on the disabled list with a strained his hamstring June 29, just a couple weeks after fully recovering from a foot injury that kept the rookie sidelined him for the first three months. Matt Holliday has also been on the shelf with a viral infection, so Choi, who is the team’s seventh different starting first basemen and 10th Yankee to play there all season, has a prime opportunity to reach his ceiling and get the offense firing on all cylinders.
“He didn’t have a great spring with us, but he’s really got it going in Triple-A,” manager Joe Girardi said via the Associated Press. “He’s a guy that’s expected to produce, and that’s why he was signed by the Angels. He was a patient hitter, and that’s why we went out and got him for some insurance purposes.”