Even by California League standards, Ji-Man Choi is extraordinarily hot right now.
The Mariners infield prospect extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a three-hit, five-RBI game as Class A Advanced High Desert fell to Bakersfield, 12-10, on Tuesday.
Choi wasted no time by slugging a two-run homer in the first inning. After grounding out in the third and fifth, the South Korean first baseman doubled in the seventh and cleared the bases in the eighth with his second two-bagger.
"I'm seeing the ball really well the last 10 games, I'm working really hard in BP before the games and I'm working with hitting coach Roy Howell," Choi said through translator Kenny Yun. "I'm in the zone. [The home run] was a first-pitch fastball inside and I don't want to miss a first-pitch fastball."
The 22-year-old's streak began on April 27 when he went 2-for-5 against Stockton. Choi is batting .410 (32-for-78) with 18 extra-base hits during the streak and has raised his average 66 points to its current .352 mark, best in the league.
"I'm not thinking about how many games my streak is, I just want to see the ball and hit the ball," Choi said.
Five of Choi's six homers this season have come during the streak, and he is second in the Cal League with 37 RBIs. He paces the circuit with a 1.112 OPS, thanks in large part to his Minor League-leading 21 doubles.
Signed by the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent on July 2, 2009, Choi's season got off to a slow start as he collected just six hits in his first 25 at-bats for High Desert.
"The first 10 games I was struggling a little bit. I put too much pressure on me because I'm a former catcher and now I'm a first baseman and I thought I had to be a power hitter," Choi said. "I just went out there and tried to hit line drives."
Jabari Blash went deep for the 10th time this season for High Desert.
Ryan Wright, the Reds' No. 7 prospect, homered twice and drove in three runs for the Blaze. Marquez Smith drove in two runs and finished a homer shy of the cycle.