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Is Hyun-Jin Ryu the Next Great Import from the Asian Baseball Leagues?

LHP Hyun-jin Ryu
LHP Hyun-jin RyuChung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterOctober 31, 2012

The Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization will post 25-year-old Hyun-jin Ryu this offseason, according to a report by Jee-ho Yoo of Yonhap News. The team may then welcome bids from each interested organization before ultimately deciding whether to accept an offer.

The South Korean left-hander emerged as a star in the KBO as a teenager, as he went 18-6 with a 2.23 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 2006 and garnered rookie of the year and MVP honors. However, he didn’t receive international attention until playing for South Korea’s Olympic gold-medal winning team in 2008.

Ryu’s exposure continued the following season as a member of South Korea’s runner-up squad in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Baseball America subsequently ranked him as the tournament’s fifth-best prospect and had this to say in their scouting report:

He just turned 22, but he already pitches like a veteran. Ryu has four average to above-average pitches, includes a 86-93 mph fastball with late life that he can add and subtract from when needed, a slow curve (75 mph), a tighter slider and a changeup. Already extensively tested in international play, Ryu's biggest asset is his feel for pitching. Scouts have said that he would be a first-round pick if he was in the U.S., and would likely need only a brief period of acclimation before stepping into a big league rotation.

Given his handedness, four-pitch mix and track record in big games, Ryu strikes me as a command-oriented, mid-rotation-to-backend starter. And considering that the southpaw is 6’2”, 215 pounds, he doesn’t involve much future projection.

It’s also important to remember that the level of competition in the KBO is significantly inferior to that of Japan’s NPB, so Ryu’s eye-popping stats over the last seven seasons should be taken with a grain of salt.

Still, there’s always a need for a left-hander with an advanced feel for pitching, so expect at least some type of bidding sweepstakes. And in accordance with the posting rules for both MLB and KBO organization, the Eagles may post Ryu as early as Nov. 1. He won’t have the market of Yu Darvish, but it’s reasonable to expect bidding for the left-hander to exceed $15 million.

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