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This year’s roundup of Korean players in the MLB

Only four of the eight will start the season in the Major League
Apr 03,2017
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The Korean players are set for another season of Major League Baseball (MLB). Of the eight players, only four will begin the season in the major league, while the others will be starting in minor league affiliate teams.

Ryu Hyun-jin

Los Angeles Dodgers

After two surgeries, Ryu returned to the major league showing pitching as good as his first year with the Dodgers. Through spring training exhibition games, Ryu pitched 14 innings, recording 2.57 earned runs average.

When Ryu first signed with the Dodgers in 2013, with a six year $36 million deal through the posting system, he was by far one of the best Korean pitchers in the MLB, producing 28 wins and becoming the first Korean to be starting pitcher in the MLB postseason game. But he struggled to perform in his second season and had to end early due to a shoulder surgery.

Ryu’s return match as a starting pitcher will be against the Colorado Rockies on April 8, and the Dodgers will start their 2017 season at home against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday.

Oh Seung-hwan

Saint Louis Cardinals

Just like last season, Oh will continue to be a closer for the Cardinals. After playing for the Korean national baseball team at the World Baseball Classic (WBC), Oh pitched five scoreless innings in spring training. During the game against New York Mets on Wednesday, Oh pitched two scoreless innings without allowing a hit.

Looking at Oh’s performance in the 2016 season, he recorded six wins and three losses with a 1.92 earned run average. Although the Korean national baseball team played poorly in the WBC, Oh proved his value as the sole major leaguer on the team.

Choo Shin-soo

Texas Rangers

Despite a poor performance during spring training, Choo still managed to get his name on the Rangers’ active roster. He concluded his spring training with a 0.178 batting average with two runs batted in (RBI) and one stolen base. In the Rangers’ last exhibition game against the Kansas City Royals on Saturday, Choo produced two hits and one run.

Choo had to conclude his 2016 season early in August, due to a fracture in his left forearm. Entering his fourth season with the Rangers, Choo hopes to improve. In 16 MLB seasons, Choo recorded a 0.280 batting average with 146 home runs and 566 RBIs. In 2013, he signed a seven-year $130 million contract but had a disappointing first season due to an ankle injury.

Kim Hyun-soo

Baltimore Orioles

Kim will play in the major league for his second season, but this time he proved his skills in spring training. Throughout spring training, Kim recorded a 0.271 batting average with one home run, eight RBIs and four runs.

After an outstanding career with the Doosan Bears in the KBO, Kim signed a two-year, $7 million contract in December 2015. He showed poor performance through spring training exhibition games in 2016, but proved his ability over the season by producing a 0.302 batting average with six home runs and 22 runs batted in.

Park Byung-ho

Minnesota Twins

Park’s performance throughout spring training was nothing like his 2016 season. Based on his performance in exhibition games, averaging a 0.353 batting average with six home runs, he should’ve made it to the 25 man roster. But surprisingly, Paul Molitor, manager of the Twins, decided to assign Park to the Class AAA minor league.

Hwang Jae-gyun

San Francisco Giants

Hwang will also start his season in the minor league. Hwang, who signed a one-year split contract with the Giants with an invitation to spring training prior to the 2017 season, was another top Korean performer in the spring training exhibition games. Hwang was awarded the Barney Nugent Award by his teammates last week but Bruce Bochy, manager for the Giants, decided to assign him to the minor league as he believes Hwang lacks experience.

Choi Ji-man

New York Yankees

Choi finished spring training the fastest as he got demoted to the minor league. In 2016, when Choi made his MLB debut with the Los Angeles Angels, he recorded a 0.170 batting average with five home runs and 12 runs batted in. Once Choi was released by the Angels in December, he signed a minor league contract with the Yankees. But due to poor performance in spring training, Choi was assigned to Class AAA.

Kang Jung-ho

Pittsburgh Pirates

Unlike the other Korean players who were given chances to prove their ability, Kang is still struggling to get his U.S. work visa. As of now, it is uncertain if Kang will be able to play this season.

BY KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]