Sunday, September 15, 2013

Scouting Reports on Three Notable KBO Free Agents

Even though the baseball season is still ongoing, it is never too early to look at the off-season. In this post, I will look at three Korea Baseball Organization players that can be free agents this off-season. These three players are somewhat similar players in style because there aren't really any notable pitchers (other than Seung-hwan Oh and Yoon Suk-Min, who I have already written about) or power hitters (other than Kang Min-ho, a catcher) that are free agents this year. The following three hitters are guys who don't strikeout a lot, have decent walk rates, and rely on speed without a lot of power.

The salary data (including the conversion rate) comes from Baseball in Korea and is this year's salary. If another KBO team signs them, they have to pay either twice or three times as much of their 2013 salary (depending on whether or not they send a player back to the original team). While I doubt they will garner much MLB interest (only one is making the equivalent of over the MLB minimum), this report will at least give a brief summation of their skill sets in case teams were interested.

Lee Yong-Kyu: .312 million
2012 WAA: 1.62, 14th best overall. 4.08 hitter FIP.
Lee is a 28 year old left-handed outfielder CF that is a decent stolen base threat, 21 for 30 on the season, with 245 career steals. Even though his walk rate has fallen some this year, he still has more walks than strikeouts. His OPS is up, but so is the rest of the KBO's.

His reputation is that breaking balls from lefties are a problem, but from his swing, and all the timing mechanisms that go into it, I wouldn't be surprised to see him struggle with top end velocity. He did chase at times while I watched him, but breaking balls over the plate were hit well by him because he does a good job of staying back. He has the big leg kick with the crouch and hip turn before that, but the plate coverage and bat control seem to be mostly there. He's not going to pull fastballs with that swing, but always seems to have long tough at-bats and takes the breaking balls where they are pitched.

Lee Jong-Wook: .181 million
2012 WAA: -.611, 3.56 hitter FIP
Lee is a 33 year old centerfielder that seems to have some range to go with decent reads. His strikeouts are up this year, and his walks are down (basically a 1:1 guy from 2010-2012) but the average and power are both up. He has 26 steals in 33 chances, more steals than his previous two years. He's clearly not the elite stolen base threat he was several years ago, but still swipes bags and speed is his game, with as many triples as homers this year.

He has good size, bigger than the other two players in this post. The bat looks quick to me, and he can pull up and in pitches with some authority. However, he doesn't pack the punch behind it you would expect for his size. He often seems to get started late with his leg kick. Because he has a lot going on mechanically, it looks like he struggles against lefty fastballs as I saw that they could blow it by him. Lee has good plate coverage and contact tools, but will chase with two strikes. He moves a lot in the box and reaches for outside pitches well with enough strength to drive it the other way with a bit of authority.

Jeong Keun-Woo: .506 million
2012 WAA: .169, 4.61 hitter FIP
A 30 year old (soon to turn 31) second baseman, Jeong seems to have good range and athleticism at the position. His walks and strikeouts are both up this year, and he has walked more than he has struck out 4 of the last 5 seasons. He steals some bases but also gets caught a lot and has never hit 10 homers in a season (tied his career high with 9 so far in 2013, so he has a shot).

He likes to bunt and show bunt even though he is a right-handed hitter. Not exactly a possessor of a smooth swing path, he often tries to pull the outside pitch, but overall seems to have a groundball swing, looking to push the ball somewhere. Has some raw strength and doesn't look like a second baseman, but I don't like his swing, a swing that seems to take away from having bat speed and punch behind the swing.

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