Dodgers Righty Hyun-il Choi Carves His Own Niche

In a Dodgers system well stocked with pitching prospects, 21-year-old righthander Hyun-il Choi has just begun to carve out his own niche.

Out of high school, Choi could have been a top draft pick in Korea Baseball Organization but chose to sign with the Dodgers. He made his pro debut as a 19-year-old in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2019.

He then spent 2020 back in Korea while the pandemic shuttered the U.S. minor leagues. Last season, Choi pitched to a 3.55 ERA with 106 strikeouts in 106.1 innings at two Class A levels. 

“It’s fairly rare for Korean-born players to come here out of high school, so we were really excited that he did. And it’s a pretty impressive run so far,” Dodgers director of player development Will Rhymes said.

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 said. “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.

“He’s more pitchability and deception and know-how than pure stuff to date, which I think is a great foundation for a pitcher, particularly one as young as he is. There have been glimpses of his stuff taking real steps forward, and now it’s about accessing the better velocity and doing it across a whole season.”

Rhymes thinks Choi, the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2021, stacks up well with the Dodgers’ more publicized pitching prospects.

“If his stuff continues to jump forward with his ability to execute, then you’re really talking about him in the same category as some of our absolute top prospects.”


— The Dodgers have signed a number of players with MLB experience to minor league contracts including pitchers Sam Gaviglio and Robbie Erlin, who spent last season playing in Japan.

— The Dodgers also signed former Mariners prospect Stefen Romero to a minor league contract. Romero, 33, was Seattle’s minor league player of the year in 2012 but hit just .195 with four home runs over 94 MLB games from 2014 to 2016. Romero signed in Japan for 2017 and hit 96 home runs over five seasons for Orix.

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