Angels select Guerra, Choi in Rule 5 Draft
Righty appeared in 10 big league games in 2015; switch-hitter known for on-base ability
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Angels made two selections in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, plucking reliever Deolis Guerra from the Pirates and first baseman Ji-Man Choi from the Orioles.
Their 40-man roster is now at 37 players.
Guerra is a 26-year-old right-hander who's listed at 6-foot-5 and made 10 appearances in the Majors last season, posting a 6.48 ERA. Guerra had success with the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in 2015, finishing with a 1.23 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP in 36 2/3 innings, striking out 9.1 batters and walking 2.0 per nine innings.
Originally signed by the Mets out of Venezuela in 2005, Guerra was dealt to the Twins in the Johan Santana trade of '08, moved to the bullpen full time in '12 and has a 4.68 ERA in his Minor League career, posting 7.0 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings.
Angels general manager Billy Eppler considers Guerra "a Major League-ready bullpen piece."
"He can miss bats, knows what he's doing, and he had some success in the big leagues last year," Eppler said. "We'll see what he can do."
Choi, 24, is a switch-hitter who can also play left field and has consistently shown above-average on-base ability. Signed out of Korea by the Mariners five years ago, Choi is a .302/.404/.481 hitter in his Minor League career, with 35 homers, 211 RBIs and 14 steals in 335 games.
Choi has been limited to 97 games over the past two years, though. In 2014, he was suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. In '15, he broke the fibula bone in his right leg during Spring Training and didn't return until around the middle of August.
With the Angels, Choi will seemingly battle with left-handed-hitting first baseman and corner outfielder Efren Navarro for a spot off the bench. The Angels could use a lefty pinch-hitter and a late-game defensive replacement on the days C.J. Cron starts at first base in place of Albert Pujols.
"Very young, very good plate discipline, we have indicators he strikes the ball really hard, strong defender," Eppler said of Choi. "When you take someone who's 24 years old, there's upside there."
The Angels lost left-handed reliever Chris O'Grady -- who has a 3.21 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP, 8.5 strikeouts and 2.2 walks per nine innings in his Minor League career -- to the Reds in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft.
They selected right-handed starter Blayne Weller (D-backs), converted left-handed pitcher Ariel Ovando (Cubs) and right-handed reliever D.J. Johnson (Marlins) in the Minor League portion.