After seeing former teammate Jung-ho Kang sign with the Pirates this offseason, Byung-ho Park of the Korea Baseball Organization’s Nexen Heroes is hopeful that he will have the opportunity to make his way to MLB as well, reports Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency. Park, a two-time KBO MVP, told reporters prior to the season that he’s long dreamed of playing in Major League Baseball, according to Yoo.
Park is eligible to be posted for MLB clubs following the 2015 season if the Heroes choose to allow it. Yoo reports that Park has enlisted Octagon, the same agency that negotiated Kang’s four-year deal with the Pirates, to represent him if he is indeed posted. It’s worth reminding that the KBO posting process is not the same as the new posting process with Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. Under the Korean system, which is the same as the old NPB posting system, all 30 teams would have the opportunity to submit a blind bid for Park’s services, and the team to submit the highest bid would then have a 30-day window to negotiate a contract with Park. Should the two sides fail to reach an agreement, the posting fee would be returned to the team that won the bid.
Six Major League clubs, including the Pirates, have asked for credentials to send scouts to watch the Heroes this week, according to Yoo. However, teams regularly scout KBO and other Asian leagues, and one Heroes official said to Yoo that he “only heard they’re here to watch the whole league.” Yoo adds that Park’s agents at Octagon had contact with the Red Sox and A’s during Spring Training when the Heroes were training in Arizona. Additionally, a scout who attended Tuesday’s Heroes game told Yoo that there is indeed interest in Park among scouts, though that shouldn’t be entirely surprising based on the 28-year-old’s numbers.
KBO is known to be an exceptionally hitter-friendly environment, but Park’s .310/.434/.645 batting line over the past two seasons is nonetheless impressive. After hitting 31 homers in 2012 and 37 in 2013, Park’s long ball total soared to 52 last season, and he’s already belted six in 103 plate appearances this season. However, with the increase in power came an uptick in strikeouts, as his strikeout rate jumped from about 17 percent in 2013 to 25 percent in 2014. His 24 punchouts in 103 PAs this season seem to suggest that the increase in whiffs could be a lasting trend.
The right-handed hitting Park is listed at 6’1″, 236 pounds and is set to turn 29 years old this July, so if he were to be posted, teams would still be potentially buying some prime years. While his placement on the low end of the defensive spectrum likely limits his value somewhat, a potential prime-aged, right-handed power bat could add an interesting wrinkle to a class of free agent first basemen that is led by Chris Davis but also features mid-30s bats such as Mike Napoli and Justin Morneau.