Ever since Hyun-Jin Ryu joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 becoming the first KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) player to play for a Major League ball club, many Korean sports fans have been expressing great hope and curiosity over who will be the next Ryu. According to Korea’s OSEN, the Global Sporting Integration (GSI) had published a scouting report regarding one of the best starting pitchers in the Korean league; Gwang-hyun Kim (Incheon SK Wyverns).
GSI noted in its report that Kim was a left-hand power pitcher with a fast ball that could be pitched from 88 to 91 miles an hour, and has a high release point. They also introduced Kim as a pitcher who has a good slider and has enabled him to be one of Korea’s top strike-out pitchers. Though they acknowledged that Kim is a player with many strengths that definitely qualify him to be an MLB player, GSI also pointed out that he is still recovering from injury and has rather unstable control.
Major League Baseball (MLB) has in fact been keeping an eye out on Kim for the past 5 years. Kim was first introduced to the MLB during the 2nd World Baseball Classic in 2009 when he pitched for the Korean national team against many MLB star players who were playing for their respective countries. During the tournament however, Kim was not in his best shape with a 32-point ERA after a disastrous start against the Japanese national team which was composed of MLB stars including Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners) and Daeske Mazuzaka (Boston Red Sox). At the time, Kim earned 8 runs in only 1 1/3 frames. The team moved him to the bullpen for the remainder of the tournament.
Despite this rather disappointing performance, by the end of the 2009 WBC, Kim was ranked 5th place in MLB’s list of rising stars, along with Hyun Jin Ryu, Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma, all players who ended up joining Major League ball clubs only 2 to 3 years after the 2009 tournament.
MLB scouts have been coming into Korea with their radar guns to see Kim pitch for his team. OSEN reported that scouts from the Chicago Cubs, NY Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers and LA Angels. There were some other MLB scouts that refused to identify what teams they were representing. The majority of the scouts who were able to witness Kim’s performance expressed that while they were impressed with his fast ball and slider, his past injuries and somewhat unstable control could cut down his potential MLB pay check.
After the 2014 KBO Season, Kim finishes his 7th year in his professional career, qualifying him to try out for baseball teams outside of Korea like in the MLB or even Japan. MLB insiders have expressed that Kim has good potential to be a reliever should he move to America.
Gwang-hyun Kim started his professional career in 2007 when he was signed by the SK Wyverns. Despite his ups and downs, he spent most of his rookie season in the Wyverns’ starting rotation. In 2008 he was selected to play for the Korean national team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he started and won 2 games against Japan, allowing Korea to win the gold medal for baseball. At the time, Korea was the only undefeated team in Olympic baseball.
In the 2009 season, when he returned from a fracture in the back of his hand, Kim earned the ERA title for KBO and was noted as one of Korea’s best starting pitchers alongside Hyun-Jin Ryu (LA Dodgers).