New Orioles outfielder Hyun-soo Kim told reporters at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea that he wants to finish his career in the Major Leagues, as Jee-ho Yoo of Yonhap News writes. “I want to do well and retire in the U.S. before coming back to South Korea,” Kim said to the media. “If I return here before then, it would mean I’m no longer desirable to U.S. teams. I’d consider myself a loser if I take a U-turn to the Korean baseball league.” It’s understandable that Kim would set lofty expectations for himself after dominating the KBO over the past decade. In 10 professional seasons, Kim is a .318/.408/.488 hitter, and the 27-year-old enjoyed arguably his best season in 2015 when he belted a career-best 28 homers with the second-highest OPS (.979) of his career. Kim said he most looks forward to facing David Price — a pitcher he greatly respects — and is excited for the challenge of facing greater velocity throughout the league in American ball.
Here are a few more notes on the international market…
- Eric Longenhagen breaks down a number of international players in an excellent piece for ESPN (Insider subscription required and recommended), including right-hander Kenta Maeda, who reportedly reached an agreement with the Dodgers on New Year’s Eve. Per Longenhagen, Maeda has an 87-92 mph fastball that can scrape a bit higher on the radar gun at times, though as he notes, we’re unlikely to see more velocity out of Maeda now that he’s pitching every fifth day instead of once a week. Maeda also features a slider, changeup, cutter and curveball, with the former two pitches being above-average to plus and the latter two being fringe offerings at best. Longenhagen opines that Maeda has a fifth starter’s arsenal that will play up to a No. 4 type of starter due to his control and pitch sequencing. He adds that while durability may be a factor — Maeda has 1500 pro innings under his belt at just 28 years of age — the Dodgers have quite a bit of rotation depth to make it through the upcoming season (even if several others arms are question marks themselves).
- While Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez has not yet been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball, he’s “poised to sign” with Cincinnati upon clearance, per Longenhagen. Rodriguez probably won’t sign until after July 2, so his bonus will count against Cincinnati’s 2016-17 pool rather than its 2015-16 pool. The 21-year-old Rodriguez is said by Longenhagen to be a premier defender with enough speed to wreak havoc on the bases but little pop in his bat. Longenhagen writes that he could profile as a regular due to his glove and speed, though probably one that hits near the bottom of the order.
- Part of the reason for Yaisel Sierra’s recent showcase was that he’s yet to receive a good offer from teams, Longenhagen hears. He calls Sierra a “good-bodied, two-pitch 24-year-old,” noting that many clubs see him as a middle reliever but some feel he could develop into a No. 4 type of arm with more reps. The best fit for Sierra, in Longenhagen’s estimation, is a rebuilding team that can afford to make a strong offer and patiently try to develop the hard-throwing righty as a starter.