Is Byung-ho Park the Next KBO Player to Join MLB?

Far and away the best hitter in South Korea’s KBO is young 1Bman Byung-Ho Park.  He’s 27 years old this year, and he led the KBO in home runs each of the last two seasons.  So far in 2014, he’s having his best year ever, leading the league with 27 HRs, nine more than the league’s number two man, and he’s also leading the KBO with a 1.226 OPS.  In fact, he’s on a pace to break the all-time KBO single season home run record, currently held by Seung-Yeop Lee, who hit 56 in 2003.

The question now is whether Park moves on to Japan’s NPB, as most Korean superstars do, including most recently Dae-Ho Lee, or he has what it takes to play in MLB.  In Park’s favor are the facts that he is young, strong and seems to be improving each season he plays.  Against Park coming to the U.S. are the facts that his power will drop greatly playing in MLB parks against MLB pitchers and that his batting averages in the KBO have not been particularly high (he hit .290 and .318 the last two seasons and .313 so far in 2014.  I expect that MLB teams scouting Asian hitters want to see the ability to hit for average as well as power with Hideki Matsui being the prime example.

The KBO is in the midst of an offensive surge this season with five hitters batting at least .370 and eleven hitting at least .350 and only three starting pitchers in the league with ERAs below 3.40.  This has a tendency to make one wonder how much Park’s 2014 numbers are inflated.

The safest move would be for Park to sign with an NPB team, since he will almost certainly be a star in Japan.  As a result, a Japanese team might more highly value his services than an MLB team.  However, the quality of KBO play is definitely improving, and Park could well be the first KBO position player to make the jump to MLB.

Explore posts in the same categories: Baseball Abroad

4 Comments on “Is Byung-ho Park the Next KBO Player to Join MLB?”


  1. […] Park is considered by some to become the next big thing to hit the States.  And if the Korean Baseball Organization star […]

    • Burly Says:

      At this point, Jung-ho Kang may have moved past Park as the best position player prospect in KBO. Park and Kang are definitely the best two, although I still like 26 year old A-seop Son also.

      Park got off to a red-hot start this year and then cooled off, allowing Kang, who as a shortstop has much more defensive value than 1Bman Park, to catch up. Park has gotten hot again, and is now at 39 HRs for the season compared to Kang’s 34 (the all-time single-season record for a KBO SS).

      The one problem is that KBO is such an extreme hitters’ league this year that offensive numbers are clearly skewed.

  2. Won Says:

    NPB would be a good choice for Byungho. Unfortunately, Japanese League is not amicable to foreign sluggers, even Seungyeop the greatest Korean slugger when he had played in NPB for 8 yrs. Daeho , one of the successful slugger playing in Fukuoka Hawks, is different from them because he is a high-average-hitter with his own inherent power rather than pure slugger.

    • Burly Says:

      NPB would snap Lee in an instant if he wants to play there. Dae-ho Lee currently has the second highest OPS in NPB’s Pacific League (.993), and Byung-ho is every bit the prospect Dae-ho was three years ago. In fact, Byung-ho will be a year younger in 2016 than Dae-Ho was when he went to Japan.

      NPB wants power from its foreign position players, and Byung-ho has that in spades. He will be offered, at a minimum, a two year $5 million contract by one or more NPB teams next off-season if he is on the open market.


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