By: Drake Mann
The Cardinals have signed South Korean lefty Kwang-Hyun Kim to a 2-year 8 million dollar deal with 1.5 million dollars in incentives.
This deal is so interesting because Kim is relatively unknown by even baseball fansi. However, he’s been sneaky good for the SK Wyverns. Over a 12-year span, Kim went 136-77 with a 3.27 ERA and a 7.8 K/9 across 1,673.2 innings.
What makes this move so interesting is the amount of questions Kim raises going into 2020. Questions like, “How will his stuff translate going from South Korea to the MLB?”, “Will he have an innings limit after already having one Tommy John surgery?.” Plus, “What will his role be for the 2020 season?.” I will try to answer these questions and talk about Kim’s future and what the Cardinals are getting in Kim.
They get a lefty who can start and also be a multi-inning reliever. He’s very versatile in the way he will be used by Mike Schildt. He should get every chance to start come Spring Training. With him only averaging about 127 innings over 12 years in Korea, he’ll possibly be a 2-3 inning reliever and a spot starter every once in a while.
Now let’s talk about Kim’s stuff. He has a fastball that touches 95 MPH but is consistently 92-93 with some late life to it, and has an incredible slider 81-83 that touches 87-88 depending on his arm speed. He also has a slower eephus like curveball in the mid-70’s and even has a pitch that isn’t thrown a lot anymore in a forkball that’s about 82-83. His slider and curveball mix should translate well in the MLB, especially against lefties. Plus, if he’s used correctly, I think he should be the first out of the bullpen, especially after a pitcher like Jack Flaherty where all of his pitches are harder in terms of speed. This would take a major adjustment from the opposition and should make Kim that much more effective. Kim hides the ball really well and creates tons of deception. This makes him the perfect lefty killer. However, with this new three-batter rule implemented in baseball, this makes it really hard to find his actual role for 2020 and beyond.
There are a few crazy stats about his game. For example his H/9 is 8.5 which is rather high for a starter. However his HR/9 is an incredible 0.8 after only surrendering 143 home runs in 1,673.2 Innings. One more stat that has improved the past couple years is his BB/9 of 3.5. However, these stats are in a league with the equivalent talent of Triple-A players, so these may increase a little in the MLB. With the vast improvements to his walk rate and command mixed with the limited scouting reports on Kim, the Cardinals might’ve found themselves great value for only four million dollars a year. No matter what role he is in, Kim is going to be a great signing as he makes this pitching staff better suited for contention next year. The only barrier would be monitoring Kim’s innings and making sure he stays healthy. He had Tommy John back in 2007, granted that’s a long time ago but if a player gets Tommy John once they’re bound to get it again. I don’t think they put an innings limit on Kim and I do feel Kim gets about 150 innings in 2020.
There’s not that much to say about this deal for Kim. After 12 years in Korea, he’s finally on his way to the MLB. He’s going to be a 31-year old rookie with high intentions for his future in baseball. He gets a chance to show why he was one of the top Korean pitchers posted. Plus, he gets Yadier Molina everyday he pitches and that’s an instant win for any pitcher wearing the Birds on the Bat. Also having a gold glove infield isn’t bad either.
This is a low risk-high reward type of move for the Cardinals; they get another lefty in their bullpen, who has starting experience and could end up being a terrific all around pitcher for the Cardinals in the long run. As a Cardinals fan myself, I like this move. This helps the Cardinals solidify what was already an incredible pitching staff. All that’s needed now is a lefty bat and the Cardinals will be back atop the division again for the foreseeable future.
Oh and one more thing, I hope this means the Cardinals get Eugene Koo back as translator for these next two years. That would be great.
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