Korean stars Jae-gyun Hwang and Byung-ho Park may soon be joining countryman Jung-ho Kang in making the KBO to MLB transition. (Hwang will be posted next Monday, while Park is in a negotiating window with the Twins.) But perhaps the most interesting trans-Pacific baseball story is playing out on the Korean peninsula. Former big league outfielder Eric Thames was recently named the 2015 KBO MVP. Thames, who just turned 29, showed some pop and promise in North America, but never quite seized an opportunity and moved to Korea after he failed to receive a big league call-up in his age-26 campaign. All he’s done since is devastate his new league, putting up consecutive seasons with an OPS of over 1.100. Thames is under contract with the NC Dinos for one more campaign, but figures to draw strong interest from Japan’s NPB as well as major league organizations if he can post anything approaching his 2015 numbers, which were ridiculous even for the hitter-friendly KBO: .381/.497/.790 with 47 home runs and 40 stolen bases in 595 plate appearances.
If you’re interested in taking a peek at Thames’ exploits, check out this Naver Sports highlight video. Here are some other notes on the international market:
- Free agent first baseman Dae-ho Lee — a South Korean who has been playing in Japan — will visit the United States in early December to meet with MLB clubs, according to another report from Yoo. The 33-year-old power hitter is drawing interest from “multiple” teams, his Korean agency (Montis) tells Yoo. He’s already shown he ability to excel in both the KBO and NPB and last year was his best in Japan, as he slashed .282/.368/.524 with 31 home runs.
- While the Asian markets have grabbed much of the recent attention, Cuba remains a hotbed for international activity. Baseball America’s Ben Badler has the latest on a variety of intriguing players from the neighboring island. The Reds appear to be in the lead to sign slick defender Alfredo Rodriguez, says Badler, while the Cubs and Dodgers are expected to lead the charge on other bonus-pool-bound players that become eligible to sign out of Cuba.
- Badler also has some updates on a group of other touted players. Outfielder Guillermo Heredia and righty Vladimir Gutierrez are training in Florida and holding private workouts, while pitchers Norge Ruiz and Cionel Perez are set to hold showcases in the coming weeks.