Thursday, October 17, 2013

Yoo Hee-kwan Scouting Report

Yoo Hee-kwan (or Yu Heui-Kwan) was one of the KBO pitchers that statistically rated out as a possible MLB prospect, at least going by 2013's statistics. Yoo threw 145.1 innings in 2013, posting a 3.53 ERA and 3.58 FIP. This had to be one of the biggest surprises of the Korea Baseball Organization season, as he had just 16 innings under his belt in the KBO before the year started, and hadn't pitched with Doosan since 2010. Yoo also made two starts in the first round of the playoffs against the Nexen Heroes, striking out nearly a guy an inning, and giving up just 1 run. The 27 year old left-hander burst on to the scene rather suddenly, so he doesn't have a Naver scouting report. Standing under 6 feet, Yoo isn't the prototypical starting pitcher, which may be one of the reasons he was a late bloomer. As we will see below, he also isn't a traditional power pitcher.

First, however, let's take a look at his mechanics, starting with a side view

He brings a high leg kick, with a slight hip turn before coming forward, keeping his hands high. It doesn't appear to be what you would consider an extremely deceptive delivery, but it is clearly one that works for him. He threw low with great frequency, so it seems that he gets on top of the ball very well despite the size.

The following GIF is Yoo throwing a fastball by the best hitter in the KBO, Park Byung-ho

The first thing you notice is the velocity. The pitch is only about 82.46 MPH. In his two playoff starts, Yoo maxed out at just short of 84 MPH and averaged about 81.5 MPH.

He would pitch inside to right-handers at times despite the velocity, and as you can see above, was effective at doing so. Many times to left-handers he was trying to get the fastball outside and would basically fall off the mound, overcompensating to get the ball glove side.

Slider:

According to the way I classified his pitches, the slider averaged just above 74 MPH. It is pretty sweepy when it is going well, getting to the opposite side of the plate rather consistently. However, sometimes he would throw something gloveside that wasn't as sweepy, slowing it down to 71 MPH at times. Many times these pitches hung towards the middle of the plate, so there is a chance they were just badly thrown sliders. He did throw it to righties very rarely, going low and in, and mostly doing so effectively.

Change:

Averaging about 75 MPH, the pitch was extremely arm side heavy and his best and most frequent secondary pitch. It occasionally had good downward movement. While he almost always did a good job of keeping it low, there did appear to be two different movements on the change, as he would bury it sometimes, and other times he kept it up for a strike. Both of these looked to be by design. When he wasn't getting whiffs with the change, he was still getting grounders. It seemed to be most effective when he would throw fastballs low and away, and then follow with the change in a similar spot, causing major problems in the hitter's timing.

The change and the slider sometimes tended to blend, at about 74-75 MPH it would go inside and low to right-handed batters, sometimes looking like a weird 2-seamer.

Curve:

This was the least frequent out of his four main pitches (assuming the variations aren't different pitches), and of course the slowest, averaging about 66 MPH. It didn't always have great depth consistently and he had a tendency to hang it, but he could fool a left-handed batter with it every once in a while.

Obviously the fastball velocity alone limits him from being a MLB prospect, and it helps explain why it took this long for him to get his first chance in the KBO, but with that said, there is a good mix of pitches and deception here, enough that he should be effective in the KBO in coming years. Yoo probably won't continue to pitch at the same level as he did in 2013 as hitters begin to have more opportunities to adjust to him, but he should still be an above average starter in the league just because of his pitchability. 

1 comment:

  1. Yes. He's remarkable at pitching. I think he has a good feel for movement manipulation on his fastball as well as speed change. He kind of reminds me of Jamie Moyer. His lack of velocity at the prime age concerns me though.

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