Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kim Kwang-Hyun Scouting Report

Kim Kwang-hyun is a left-handed Korea Baseball Organization pitcher who turned 25 last month. Once considered one of the top prospects in the KBO, the SK Wyverns pitcher, listed at 6-1 and 183 pounds, has a 1.3 ERA RAA and 5.4 FIP RAA on the season. Prorated over a full season (133 games), this is about a 9.2 FIP RAA, nearly a win over an average KBO pitcher, not exactly dominant, but pretty good.

His best year was in 2010 when he had a FIP WAA of about .6 in over 190 innings (by ERA his 2008-2010 stretch was more impressive, worth about 70 runs above average over those three seasons while current Dodgers' left-hander Ryu Hyun-Jin was worth about 55 runs above average over the period). The next two years he struggled, pitching at a well below average rate and not getting close to a hundred innings either season. He actually suffered a stroke, before having some arm problems. He has already pitched more innings in 2013 than he did in either 2011 or 2012. 

Before looking at his pitches, it may be helpful to look at his delivery from his last start through screenshots.

Here is the giant leg kick Kim uses to begin his delivery:

His glove gets tucked behind his thigh to give him some deception. But it also is an action that could be difficult to repeat, especially if he had any kind of hip or leg injury.

After the leg kick, Kim's leg still moves out as he comes forward and lowers his body angle, going from the straight up set to bending his knee as he comes forward, leading with his glove:

Here is what his release point looks like from behind, a relatively low one, without great posture, with the head somewhat tilted:


Here is what his stride looks like from the side, as he tucks his glove in and stretches pretty far:

Kim's arm angle from the side:

That is mostly an over the top motion that doesn't play that high thanks to a lowered release point. This may hurt his ability to get horizontal movement on the ball, but it also shouldn't be easy for right-handers to see.

When I saw him, he often overthrew, causing an inconsistent landing point, and with it, inconsistent command. I assumed that the Naver scouting report velocities were out of date, so I just used it to help with classifications, but took the broadcast velocities from his last start.

4-seam fastball: 87-92 MPH, Kim can bury it and it has some movement. He would go into righties with it as well, not throwing just away with it. It got down to 83-86 MPH as the game wore on into the middle innings. He lost his velocity very quickly, but at least so far this year, he has been better as the game went along. Kim did get back up to 87-88 MPH with an occasional 89-91 MPH in the 6th. It seemed that he just turned it down for a little while and ramped it back up. His changeup also moved like his fastballs did, so it was easy to confuse the two at times, especially when he lost velocity.

2-seam fastball/sinker: 86-89 MPH that still was inside to righties, not like a usual 2-seamer that stays arm side. He would occasionally throw it away from lefties. The movement showed the difference between his 4-seamer and this pitch.

Slider: 80-84 MPH, not much sweeping action, thought it has horizontal movement. It is not the baby slider you see a lot in the Far East, and not really a natural slider either. To fellow lefties, he did get it down occasionally. Clearly not a plus pitch, and he would try to throw it in to righties as well.

Fork: 74-81 MPH, more of a change, with not a lot of movement. It honestly moved a lot like the slider, but was just thrown a little slower. The pitches are somewhat hard to distinguish except by velocity, and at times, platoon.

Curve: 66-70 MPH didn't always command it, no real feel for it. He rarely used it, and there is no reason for him to use it more.

Overall, he was a low ball pitcher in the full outing I watched, and threw more glove side than arm side in the game I saw. Despite this approach and lack of a consistent fork/change, he has actually been a reverse split pitcher so far in 2013, at least by batting average. His K/BB and homers (3 to righties one to lefties) probably suggests this isn't real.

To me, Kim didn't show a plus pitch except when he was able to get the fastball up to 92 MPH with movement. As a starter, it is pretty clear that he can't do that consistently. In the KBO, he will obviously stay as a starter, and should, if he is healthy, keep throwing at about an average to slightly above average rate. However, for him to have a future in the Majors, he would have to convert to a reliever (and prove that he is healthy long term considering his long health history). He may not want to, so my bet is that he will just stay in Korea and give the Wyverns a nice domestic option in the rotation.

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