At the rate Ji-Man Choi is hitting with the bases loaded this season, teams might start taking the unusual step of intentionally walking him.
The Mariners prospect broke a tie game with a sixth-inning grand slam, his second this season, as Double-A Jackson defeated Huntsville, 7-3, on Wednesday.
Choi also doubled, walked twice and scored a pair of runs for the Generals. The grand slam, his eighth homer in 44 Southern League games, extended his RBI streak to five games.
"His big thing was trying to get a pitch up and get a ball into center field and score a run," hitting coach Cory Snyder said. "First-pitch fastball he just missed, he fouled it straight back. Second-pitch curveball down and in that they called a strike on him. Third pitch, [David Goforth] hung a slider. He didn't miss it and crushed it over the right-field wall."
The native of South Korea has been nearly unbeatable with the bases loaded this season. Going back to his time in the Class A Advanced California League, Choi is 6-for-9 with two homers and 19 RBIs. On June 29, he also smacked a grand slam for Jackson against Birmingham. Snyder credits the success to Choi's understanding of his job.
"He's got a good mind-set," the former Major Leaguer said. "He understands, bases loaded, there's nowhere to put him so they gotta throw some good pitches to him. They can't walk him. His mind-set is 'I'm going to stay middle of the field and I'm going to try to get something up to drive it into the outfield and score that run.' He seems to focus a little more with the bases loaded."
After getting off to a slow start upon his promotion to the Generals, Choi's bat has been on fire of late. In the month of July, the 22-year-old first baseman has a slash line of .312/.430/.545 in 23 games for Jackson.
"I just think the biggest jump in baseball is A ball to Double-A," Snyder said. "The pitchers are just a lot better. They have command and their control is a lot better. If you're going to swing at a certain pitch and get yourself out, they're going to stick with it. He's learning that there are certain pitches he can hit and certain pitches he can't."
"He understands what he needs to do to get better. I think the biggest thing is to understand what he does good and stick with it. He doesn't chase too many pitches. He's got a better understanding of 'This is what the pitcher throws, this is what I can hit and what I can't hit.' He's doing a lot better job of laying off the ones he can't really drive."
Overall this season, Choi is batting .308 with 15 homers and 70 RBIs in 92 Minor League games. He's smacked 52 extra-base hits, tied for 14th in the Minors this season.
Julio Morban, the Mariners' No. 12 prospect, doubled and scored twice while Ramon Morla was 3-for-5 with two RBIs for the Generals.
Jackson's Stephen Kohlscheen earned his fourth win, fanning five over two perfect innings of relief.
Chadwin Stang had two hits and drove in a run for the Stars.