If there’s one certainty regarding the front office group of the Dodgers, it’s that they almost never leave any stones unturned when it comes to players on the open market.
Some recent rumors surrounding the Los Angeles camp have the team linked to lefty Kwang-hyun Kim, the latest international player who has expressed his desire to be posted this winter.
“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to pitch on a major league mound,” Kim said in a recent statement.
The 31-year-old native of Korea broke into the KBO at the age of 18, staying with the SK Wyverns for the entirety of his 12-year career. He had Tommy John surgery and missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign, but most international scouts feel that he hasn’t missed a beat since his return.
In 2018, he posted an 11-8 record with a 2.98 ERA and 130 strikeouts over an even 136 innings of work. In 190-1/3 innings least season, he went 17-6 with a 2.51 ERA and 180 punchouts. After averaging 5-1/2 innings per start returning from surgery in 2018, he ended up hitting almost 6-1/2 frames per start last year.
Lifetime, he has a 136-77 record with a 3.27 ERA and 1456 strikeouts in 298 career games, 276 of which were starts. Perhaps his most impressive state is his career 0.8 HR/9. Last season, he continued to prove that he has the ability to keep the ball in the yard by posting a 0.6 HR/9.
Kim was posted to the MLB once before back in 2014, with the Padres subsequently winning his negotiating rights for $2 million. No agreement was ever reached.
Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs has Kim ranked as the 41st best free agent available on the market.
Being that he throws left-handed and hails from Korea, some folks are making comparisons between Kim and free agent southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu. However, their builds are completely opposite—Kim tips the scales at 175 lb. while Ryu weighs in at 255 lb.—and Ryu seems to have the more extensive repertoire.
Nevertheless, scouts feel that Kim’s arsenal is developing much more effectively as he settles into his thirties.
According to Sung Min Kim, a scout in the KBO, Kim’s fastball sits in low-90s but can reach mid-90s when needed. His slider has a sharp break and is a sure MLB pitch. He’s become a better pitcher in recent years utilizing more of his secondary pitches (curveball and forkball) and showing much better control in 2019.
The starting rotation of the Dodgers—as it stands right now—is setting up with Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, with the possibility of youngsters Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May seeing a significant amount of time. Front office boss Andrew Friedman has also stated that right-handed swing man Ross Stripling will be given his fair share of chances to earn a spot in the rotation during spring camp.
There have been no reports to date indicating that the Dodgers are having negotiations with Ryu, although many feel that discussions between both sides at some point this winter are inevitable.
According to a few MLB scouts, Kim has the potential to slide into a No. 4 or No. 5 spot in an average big league rotation, or he could end up thriving as a decent swing man.