Angels expect Rule 5 picks Deolis Guerra and Ji-Man Choi to make big-league team

The Angels selected two players -- reliever Deolis Guerra from the Pittsburgh Pirates and South Korean first baseman Ji-Man Choi from the Baltimore Orioles -- in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft on Thursday, and they expect both to contribute to the big-league club next season.

Asked if he felt both would make the team next spring, Mike LaCassa, the team's new director of minor league operations, said, "Yeah, how often do you see a team, especially one with the expectations we have, take two guys in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft?"


Guerra, 26, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound right-hander, had a 6.48 earned-run average in 16 2/3 major league innings last season, but he struck out 17 and walked three, a marked improvement over his strikeout rates (7.0 per nine innings) and walk rates (3.0) over 10 minor league seasons.

"He's a guy who is major league ready, a bullpen piece," General Manager Billy Eppler said of Guerra, who features a 93-mph fastball and slider. "He can miss bats, he knows what he's doing, and he had some success in the big leagues last year, so we'll see what he can do."

Choi, 24, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound switch-hitter, compiled a .302 batting average, a .404 on-base percentage, a .481 slugging percentage, 35 homers and 211 runs batted in over five minor league seasons in Seattle's system.

Choi, who received a 50-game suspension in 2014 for testing positive for methandienone, a performance-enhancing drug, is expected to battle Efren Navarro for a bench spot.

Players selected in the big-league portion of the Rule 5 draft must be kept on the major league roster all season or be placed on waivers and offered back to their previous team.

The Angels lost one player in the major league phase of the draft, triple-A left-hander Chris O’Grady to the Cincinnati Reds.

They took three pitchers in the minor league portion of the draft, right-hander Blaine Weller from the Arizona Diamondbacks, left-hander Ariel Ovando from the Chicago Cubs and right-hander D.J. Johnson from the Miami Marlins.