Current KBO Players Most likely to Join MLB in 2016

The only two players currently playing in South Korea’s KBO who I think have a reasonable shot at playing in MLB in 2016 are Eric Thames and Byung-ho Park.  They completely dominated KBO’s batting statistics this past season, both have proven records of performance, and both are still relatively young.

Eric Thames, who will be 29 in 2016, has already enjoyed some MLB success, batting a combined .250 with .727 OPS in more than 500 MLB at-bats in 2011 and 2012.  After a strong rookie year for the Blue Jays in 2011 at age 24, he slumped in 2012 and had an injury plagued minor league season in 2013.

Moving to KBO in 2014, he was an immediate success.  He was even better in 2015.  His slash line, .381/.497/.790 led KBO in all three categories.  He hit 47 HRs and stolen 40 bases in 48 attempts, becoming KBO’s first 40-40 player.

Byung-ho Park, who will also be 29 in 2016, hit 53 HRs in 2015, becoming the first KBO player to hit 50 or more in consecutive seasons, and he led the KBO in HRs for the fourth straight seasons.  His 146 RBIs set a single season KBO record.  His slash line, .343/.438/.714, were 5th/5th/2nd best in the league.

The only real concern about Thames and Park as MLB players is just how wildly their numbers are inflated by playing in KBO.  KBO is an extreme hitters’ league right now, and predicting how much Thames’ and Park’s performance would drop in MLB is hard to gage.

The pitcher with a shot moving up to MLB in 2016 is Hyeon-jung Yang.  His 2.44 ERA led the KBO by a lot — no other qualifier had an ERA lower than 3.13.

However, I’m not sold on Yang.  MLB passed on him when he was posted a year ago, so he’s now a year older (he’ll be 28 in 2016).  More importantly, his other numbers really don’t look significantly different from 2015 when he posted a 4.25 ERA.  He’s a good pitcher, but his K/BB ratios don’t suggest he’s capable of making the jump to MLB.

However, I could see any of Yang, Kwang-hyun Kim, Eric Hacker, Andy Van Hekken or Josh Lindblom moving on to Japan’s NPB next year.  For that matter, the odds are at least as good for either Thames or Park playing in NPB next year as they are for MLB.

Explore posts in the same categories: Baseball Abroad, Toronto Blue Jays

8 Comments on “Current KBO Players Most likely to Join MLB in 2016”

  1. Burly Says:

    Reports are the Ah-Seop Son wants to sign with an MLB team this off-season. However, his 2015 season wasn’t impressive. He finished 12th in the KBO in on-base percentage, but didn’t make the top 20 in OPS.

    • Burly Says:

      Ah-Seop Son was posted but received no bids from MLB teams, so he won’t be coming the MLB in 2016. He may still sign a deal with a Japanese team, for which I think he would be a better fit than MLB.

  2. Burly Says:

    The Nexen Heroes have announced that they will be posting Byung-ho Park next week. Bidding will end on November 6th and the results of the bidding will be announced on November 9th.

    • Burly Says:

      The Heroes have accepted a $12.85M winning posting bid for Park. To me that sounds like a $20M contract offer for three or four seasons will be forthcoming, but has predicted he’ll get $40M for five seasons. We shall see.

      • Burly Says:

        Actually, two years for a $16M guarantee with an option for a third season at around $8M also seems likely to me. It beats the hell out of anything Park could make in Japan or South Korea, and the bid winner won’t be competing with any other teams to sign him.

        Just because Jung-ho Kang succeeded in 2015 doesn’t mean that the bid winner is going to make a huge risk on Park.

  3. kabeiser Says:

    As a Twins fan I am cautiously optimistic about Park. Yes, the KBO is an extreme hitters league but 50 HR’s is 50 HR’s. I am hoping to see him play in Taipei this weekend.

    • Burly Says:

      Clearly, Park won’t hit 50 HRs in a season in MLB. My guess is that he could peak at 25-30 HRs in MLB. The biggest reported concerns with his transition to MLB are his long swing and his high strikeout rates.

  4. Burly Says:

    Hyun-Soo Kim also wants to play in MLB in 2016. He had very strong seasons in 2009 and 2010 at ages 21 and 22, but then went into a three year funk, where he didn’t hit nearly as well. 2015 was the first year that he was all the way back to where he was in 2010. He finished fourth in on-base percentage (.438) and ninth in OPS (.979). We’ll see if that’s enough to get an MLB team to bite.

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