Two KBO Left-Handers Will Be Posted
Two of South Korea’s top starting pitchers, Kwang-hyun Kim and Hyeon-jong Yang, will be posted this off-season. They have both had considerable success in the KBO, and both are still young. Kim will be 26 next season, and Yang will be 27.
That said, I’m not convinced that either will be successful in MLB, mainly because I don’t think either one has major league command. Neither has a 2/1 K/BB ratio and neither has a walks rate better than 4.1 per 9 IP in their KBO careers. Kim is six months younger and has the better numbers, so I like him better than Yang, but without having any idea of KBO park factors, it’s hard to say if Kim is really better. What I am sure of, however, is that both walked too many hitters in KBO to suggest they’ll throw enough strikes to be successful in MLB.
By way of comparison, Hyun-Jin Ryu, the only pitcher to have gone from the KBO to MLB success so far, had 3.2/1 K/BB rate in KBO and walked only 2.7 batters per 9 IP.
If their stuff is good enough, I’m sure an MLB organization would give them a shot. Even so, their chances of continued success are much greater if they move on to Japan’s NPB.
This fact is, of course, true for any pitcher coming out of the KBO. However, both Kim and Yang strike me as being players right at the cusp between NPB and MLB — in the former, their chances of success are high; in the latter, their chances of success are low.