Hyun-soo Kim, one of the most consistent hitters in Korea for the past decade, plans on signing with a major league team this offseason and continuing the influx of top Korean players into the big leagues, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Kim, a 27-year-old left fielder, is an international free agent, meaning he is free to sign with all 30 teams rather than going through the posting system that solicits blind bids and offers a player’s rights to the highest bidder only.
His arrival would come on the heels of the Minnesota Twins bidding $12.85 million for the rights of Byung-ho Park, a power-hitting 29-year-old first baseman. Dae-ho Lee, a massive power hitter who spent the last two seasons in Japan, is expected to come to MLB next season as a free agent, as is Seung-hwan Oh, the lockdown closer nicknamed “The Final Boss.” And the Lotte Giants plan to post outfielder Ah-seop Son and could consider doing the same with third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang.
The commitment of Kim, whose .318 career batting average is third highest among active Korean Baseball Organization players, only reinforces the drastic shift in attitudes from major league teams toward everyday players in the KBO. The 2015 breakout season of Jung-ho Kang with the Pittsburgh Pirates cemented the notion a Korean player could succeed in the major leagues.
Teams have scouted Korea significantly more this season, and in Kim they saw a 6-foot-3, 220-pound, left-handed-hitting outfielder putting up his best numbers in more than five years. Kim hit .326/.438/.541 for the Doosan Bears, who play in one of the KBO’s toughest hitting environments. Especially impressive was Kim’s plate discipline; he walked 101 times compared to 63 strikeouts, figures similar to his career marks of 597 walks and 501 strikeouts.
One scout who saw Kim this season said he is an everyday option in left field – and occasional fill-in at first base, where he played some last season – whose game stands to translate well to the major leagues because he blends enough power with superior plate discipline.
“He doesn’t have raw power like Park or Lee,” the scout said, “but he’s exactly what teams are looking for. He’s just great at putting bat on ball. He’s got a Royals-type offensive profile.”
Kim currently is hitting third, ahead of Lee and Park, for Korea’s WSBC Premier 12 tournament team. While he’s entering a crowded market, with Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes potentially commanding $100 million-plus, Kim could find himself toward the top of the next tier of corner outfielders.