Jung Ho Kang’s stellar debut season with the Pirates helped create opportunities for a number of players from the Korea Baseball Organization, including Byung Ho Park (Twins), Hyun Soo Kim (Orioles), Dae-Ho Lee (Mariners) and Seung-Hwan Oh (Cardinals), and if that group performs well this year, it could open the floodgates for more Korean talent, Anthony Castrovince of Sports On Earth writes. “We saw this with Cuba once Alexei [Ramirez] came over,” says Athletics GM David Forst. “Once players come over and have success or don’t, you have a better understanding of the data and the comparisons. So when Kang comes over and does well, all of a sudden you’ve got a huge datapoint there to judge everybody else in that league by. It gives you a lot more confidence in what they’re doing.” It’s still difficult to scout KBO games (due to a relative lack of plays that are relevant from a scouting perspective, as one scout tells Castrovince), and the feeling around MLB is that the KBO isn’t as strong as the NPB in Japan. But KBO talent is attracting increasing interest, to the point that some around the game have discussed the possibility of a cap on posting fees for KBO players, perhaps $8MM. Here’s more from around the game.
- MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is looking for a way to ensure that Cuban players can get to the US safely, and he could look to find a fix in the next CBA, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. One problem is that the US still has a trade embargo on Cuba, which means that an MLB team cannot pay a posting fee to a Cuban team. Manfred says MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem has been working with the White House to find a solution to the problem. “We will have a new system on Cuban player movement in place in the relatively near future,” says Manfred.
- Righty Justin Masterson will hold a showcase Monday in Phoenix, Jon Heyman tweets, adding that Masterson is pitching without pain for the first time in years. Masterson had arthroscopic shoulder surgery in September after a terrible 2015 season in which he posted a 5.61 ERA, 7.4 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 while hitting ten batters in 59 1/3 innings with the Red Sox before being released. Of course, Masterson expressed confidence in his health prior to last season as well. But he still could represent an interesting reclamation project, given the strong performances in Cleveland in his not-too-distant past.
- Despite a gap between the team’s recent won-lost records and computer projections, the Royals might just be able to pull off another AL Central title, CBS Sports’ Jonah Keri writes in his preview of the division. The team has a young core, and projection systems may struggle with valuations of defense and bullpens, both of which are Royals strengths.
- The Angels seem unlikely to make any more significant moves before Opening Day, writes MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. Left fielder Daniel Nava and second baseman Johnny Giavotella, both occupying positions that looked like question marks, have performed well in Spring Training. And the team’s ability to make trades has been limited by issues with their rotation, like C.J. Wilson’s shoulder issues and Jered Weaver’s velocity.
- New Tigers GM Al Avila wants to focus on creating consistency throughout the organization, the Associated Press writes. Avila garnered the Tigers headlines this offseason with the team’s signings of Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann, but he’s also focusing on longer-term issues relating to player development. “When you move a player from, let’s say, A-ball to Double-A, there should be consistency in everything — hitting approach, the way we run the bases, our fundamentals, our defensive strategy,” Avila says. “We’ll just create a Tigers’ manual, everybody will have it, and the players will be taught it.”