Dodgers Prospect Hyun-il Choi: Signing Contract ‘Wasn’t Difficult’ Decision

When the MLB lockout was ongoing, Spring Training at Camelback Ranch had a much different look this year. Only Minor League players were permitted to work out at the facility, and for the Los Angeles Dodgers, that group included Hyun-il Choi, the organization’s 2021 Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher of the Year, .

Last year marked Choi’s first full Minor League season since signing with the Dodgers as an international free agent out of Seoul, South Korea, in 2018. In 24 games between Low-A Rancho Cucamonga and High-A Great Lakes (11 starts), he went 8-6 with a 3.55 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over 106.1 innings pitched.

Choi was one of the best high school players in his native country and would have been a top pick in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) Draft, but elected to join the Dodgers instead.

The 21-year-old believes making the early jump to MLB is his best chance to eventually reaching the Majors, per Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:

“It wasn’t difficult for me,” Choi said at Camelback Ranch this weekend. “All the best players play in MLB and all the best players have been in the minor-league system. So that was my dream. If I go (and play professionally in) Korea, it’s really hard to go to MLB. You have to be the best player in the KBO for, like, eight years and then go to MLB. That’s too hard for me. Then the Dodgers wanted to get me – so why not? I was, ‘Yeah, I’ll take it.’”

Since 1994, there have been only 26 players from South Korea to play in MLB. There are currently five active players, including Hyun-Jin Ryu, who pitched for the Dodgers from 2013-19.

If Choi eventually earns a call-up to the Majors, he would become just the fifth native of South Korea to play for the Dodgers, joining Ryu, Chan-ho Park (1994-01, 2008), Hee-seop Choi (2004-05) and Jae-weong Seo (2006).

Choi, Vargas recognized by Dodgers

While Choi earned the Dodgers’ top Minor League honor on the pitching side, Miguel Vargas was named their 2021 Branch Rickey Minor League Player of the Year.

Vargas has risen to national notoriety on several prospect ranking lists, and was a Dodgers non-roster invitee to 2022 Spring Training.

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