Suk-Min Yoon’s First American Season Ends with a Whimper and Other Minor League Notes
South Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon, who some (including myself) had hoped might follow Hyun-Jin Ryu as the next KBO pitcher to succeed in MLB, ended his season with AAA Norfolk without ever having put it together against International League hitters. While he showed that he had some idea of how to pitch, his stuff just didn’t miss many bats.
Yoon finished the season with a minor league ERA of 5.74, because he allowed 125 hits and 15 home runs in less than 100 innings pitched. Like I said, he didn’t miss many bats.
Yoon really was good in the KBO in 2008 and 2011, recording a pitcher’s Triple Crown (wins, ERA and Ks) in the latter season. However, he’s a small right-hander who hasn’t handled well the heavier workloads of his best years in the seasons that followed. He had arm problems in 2013, and while his arm seems to have been relatively healthy in 2o14, I don’t think his stuff is back to where it was in 2012, let alone 2011, when he was truly terrific.
The Orioles are on the hook for two more years of Yoon at a about $2 million per, and Yoon has expressed no intention of returning to KBO until his current contract is through, so it looks like he’ll be back in Norfolk in 2015. We’ll see if he can regain some of his old magic, or has at least learned enough in his first AAA season to show significant improvement. In the meantime, it’s likely to be awhile before we see another MLB team take a chance on another KBO starter.
Meanwhile, in another interesting minor league development, the Mariners have placed former super-prospect Jesus Montero on the suspended list for the remainder of the 2014 season. Since the minor league season is effectively over (Seattle’s AAA team in Tacoma didn’t make the Pacific Coast League play-offs), I have to think that the move was made primarily to free up a slot on the team’s 40-man roster.
Montero was one of the most highly touted minor league prospects when he was a catcher in the Yankees’ system, but after he was traded for Michael Pineda, he proved he couldn’t play major league defense at catcher, and he didn’t develop as a hitter playing his home games in Safeco Field. There were also concerns about his work ethic, and then he got hit with a 50-game suspension when his name came up in the Biogenesis America PED scandal.
Montero spent most of the season at AAA Tacoma and hit reasonably well there (.839 OPS), although not so much for a guy who is now a 1B/DH rather than a catcher. He got hurt late in the season and was sent down to the short-season Northwest League to get some rehab at-bats, where he got into an altercation with Mariners’ scout Butch Baccala.
I don’t have all the information, of course, but from what I’ve read it sounds like Baccala heckled Montero about his weight (Montero reportedly arrived at Spring Training this year 40 pounds overweight and presumably hadn’t lost enough of it by late August) from the stands and then had an ice cream sandwich sent down to Montero in the dug-out. Montero blew a fuse and reportedly threatened Baccala with a bat at the edge of the stands.
Again, there may be more to it than that, but if these are the basic facts, the Players’ Association will probably file a grievance on Montero’s behalf (as a former major leaguer on the Mariners’ 40-man roster, he may still come under the collective bargaining agreement even though he was playing in the minors at the time), since it sounds like the scout provoked the whole thing in an incredibly unprofessional manner.
According to one source, Baccala some years ago got himself thrown out of the park while scouting a player in a high school game for the M’s because Baccala berated an umpire too vociferously from the stands for blowing a call at first base. In other words, it sounds like Montero’s suspension has more to do with past offenses than the latest blow-up.
The M’s could, of course, simply release Montero, but it sounds like they want to have their cake (i.e., punishing him) and eat it (i.e., not giving him the chance to go somewhere else and possibly become a star since he’s still only 24 years old) too. At any rate, it sounds like bulls#$% to me — if the Mariners are tired of Montero’s act, just release him, rather than putting him on the suspended list so they don’t have to pass him through waivers in order to clear a space on the 40-man roster. That’s not what the suspended list is for.