“Choi Ji-man (32) joked with Kim Ha-seong (28) a week ago that he would come to the San Diego Padres. “안전놀이터
Marty Caswell of San Diego’s local media ‘San Diego Sports 760’ had a conversation with San Diego Korean duo Choi Ji-man and Kim Ha-sung ahead of the ‘2023 Major League Baseball’ LA Dodgers game held at Petco Park in San Diego, California on the 5th (Korean time). Choi Ji-man told Caswell that day that when he met Kim Ha-seong just a week ago, he jokingly said, “I might go to San Diego,” but he joked that he really came.
Choi Ji-man was traded to San Diego ahead of the trade deadline on the 2nd. It was a 2-3 trade in which San Diego received Choi Ji-man and veteran left-hander Rich Hill, and gave the Pittsburgh Pirates three prospects: Jackson Wolf, Estuar Suero, and Alfonso Rivas.
In fact, Choi Ji-man said that he felt the move to San Diego a week before the trade deadline. Choi Ji-man finished the match between Pittsburgh and San Diego on the 25th of last month, and had a meal with Kim Ha-seong, arranged by Jung-ho Kang, who was active in the major leagues in the past. It was the first time Choi Ji-man and Kim Ha-sung met privately. Choi Ji-man said, “I might come here (San Diego) in a week” due to the team atmosphere and circumstances, and Kim Ha-seong said, “I really think I will bring him,” but the conversation that was like a joke became a reality. He told Caswell about this back story.
San Diego really needed only Choi, not a joke. Although it fell to 4th place in the National League West Division, it was judged that it was too early to give up fall baseball because it was a team that started with the goal of winning the World Series. This is the reason Choi Ji-man and Hill have been strengthening their vulnerable positions.
Choi Ji-man was the left-handed power hitter that San Diego wanted. In the aftermath of the injury, he only played in 24 games on the year, but had 11 RBI while hitting six home runs. His batting average is low at 0.203, but his slugging percentage reaches 0.500. It means that you have a long hitting power. His career big league records are 67 home runs and 236 RBIs in 510 games. He has enough power to be used as a designated hitter even if he cannot be used as a first baseman due to overlap with Jake Cronenworth.
The designated hitter was also an assignment that San Diego had throughout this season. San Diego’s designated hitter OPS this year is 0.657, ranking 26th out of 30 major league teams. The Los Angeles Angels, who recorded 1.095 OPS overall for designated hitters, is actually the personal record of Shohei Ohtani (OPS 1.096), a double-up star, so there is a big difference from other teams even if left out of the discussion.
The player who played the most as a designated hitter in San Diego this year is Matt Carpenter. He had a batting average of 0.166 (28 hits in 169 at bats), four home runs, 27 RBIs, and an OPS of just 0.598 in 66 games. He had a failing grade in a position where he had to win with a single blow. Nelson Cruz, who got the second most opportunities, recorded a batting average of 0.245 (35 hits in 143 at-bats), 5 homers, 23 RBIs, and an OPS of 0.682 in 49 games and was released. Choi Ji-man is expected to be a better designated hitter option than these two.
MLB.com said at the time of Choi Ji-man’s recruitment, ‘I will probably start as a designated hitter against right-handed pitchers. In fact, Choi Ji-man predicted that he would replace the expected share from Carpenter this season.
Choi Ji-man made his debut in a San Diego uniform by starting as the designated hitter number 7 against the Dodgers on the 5th. The Dodgers starting pitcher was right-handed Bobby Miller. In his first at-bat at the end of the second inning, Choi Ji-man struck out Miller’s 100.8 mph sinker with a miss, but in subsequent at-bats, he consistently went on base and contributed to scoring.
Choi Ji-man got a walk with one out and one on first base at the bottom of the 4th inning, trailing by 0-1, and laid the foundation for Luis Campusano to hit at the right time to tie the score. When Kim Ha-seong continued to bat on 2nd and 2nd and 3rd base, Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly’s slider was not received by catcher Will Smith and became a fastball. In the bottom of the 6th inning, he walked once more after one out, and thanks to Trent Grisham’s right-handed hit on first and second base, he managed to score a 3-1 run.
Even before his debut, Choi Ji-man did not show off the long hitting power San Diego expected, but showed another charm by playing an active role with 2 walks in 1 at bat, 1 strikeout and 2 runs. San Diego lost 5-10 amid a bullpen collapse.
San Diego recorded a season record of 54 wins and 56 losses, remaining in 7th place in the National League wild card rankings. There is a four-game gap with the Cincinnati Reds (59-53), who are in third place, which is the last line of fall baseball. With 52 games left in the season, can San Diego overcome the 4-game gap and secure a ticket to fall baseball? The share given to Choi Ji-man, a transfer student who is in charge of igniting the other line, is quite large.