Angels Turn To Choi, Guerra In Rule 5

ANAHEIM—The Angels doubled down in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft, selecting not one but two players, reliever Deolis Guerra from Pittsburgh Pirates and Korean first baseman Ji-Man Choi from the Baltimore.

Asked if he felt they would make the big-league club next spring, Mike LaCassa, the Angels’ new director of minor league operations, said, “Yeah, how often do you see a team, especially one with the expectations we have, take two guys in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft?”

Guerra, 26, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound righthander, had a 6.48 ERA in 17 major league innings last season, but he did strike out 17 and walked just three.

Though it was a small sample size, those were marked improvements over Guerra’s strikeout (7.0) and walk (3.0) rates in 10 minor league seasons and, the Angels believe, an indication of an upward trend.

“He’s a guy who is major league ready, a bullpen piece,” general manager Billy Eppler said of Guerra, who features a 93-mph fastball, slider and an above-average changeup. “He can miss bats, he knows what he’s doing, and he had some success in the big leagues last year.”

Guerra was signed out of Venezuela as a 17-year-old by the Mets and was part of the 2008 trade to Minnesota that brought Johan Santana to New York, but he spent seven years in the Twins organization without reaching the majors. The Angels believe he’s a late bloomer.

“Over the last few years he’s taken a step to next level,” LaCassa said. “He’s a strike thrower. We expect him to make an impact on our major league team.”

Choi, 24, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound switch-hitter, compiled a .302/.404/.481 line with 35 homers and 211 RBIs in five minor league seasons with Seattle but was limited by injury to 23 games in 2015. He has always reached base at an impressive clip but has struggled to tap into his power.

Choi, who received a 50-game suspension in 2014 for testing positive for methandienone, a performance-enhancing drug, is expected to battle Efren Navarro for a bench spot.


• The Angels moved to restock their system by taking three arms in the minor league phase of the Rule 5—righthanders Blaine Weller (Diamondbacks) and D.J. Johnson (Marlins) and lefthander Ariel Ovando (Cubs), a converted outfielder.

• In a bit of a surprise, the Angels lost a player in the major league phase of the draft, lefthander Chris O’Grady to the Reds. The reliever had a combined 3.28 ERA in 45 games at Triple-A Salt Lake and Double-A Arkansas.

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