Founded in 1982 with just six initial teams, the South Korean baseball league is in its infancy stages compared to MLB. However, the amount of talent it has produced in the relatively short period of time is undeniable.
Currently 22 players have made the strides from South Korea to MLB, with Chan-ho Park, Byung-hyun Kim, Shin-soo Choo and Hyun-jin Ryu, the most notable. We may soon see a 23rd player added to that list, as Hyeon-jong Yang is expected to seek MLB opportunities for next season.
A former MVP of the KBO league, the South Korean major league, Yang Hyeon-jong Yang is completing a two-year contract with the Tigers, the team he has played for his entire 14-year career. Back in 2014-2015, Hyeon-jong Yang’s name was thrown out there for possible entry into the Major Leagues. At the time, MLB teams could make a bid on the amount a Korean team would be willing to take to release a player. The Tigers didn’t bite at the Rangers’ offer at the time and Hyeon-jong Yang remained with the Tigers.
Although Hyeon-jong Yang struggled somewhat this year, posting an ERA approaching 4.50, he still recorded over eight strikeouts per nine innings, his highest mark in six seasons. There is no denying that Hyeon-jong Yang has been impressive for a significant period of time, posting an ERA of 3.52 with 90 wins over the past six seasons with a 20-6 record in 2017.
Having said that, MLB teams will be considering what the future holds for Hyeon-jong Yang, who will turn 33 in March, compared to what he did from ages 26 to 32, arguably the prime years for a pitcher. However, MLB teams are continually looking to upgrade pitching, so there’s no surprise that Hyeon-jong Yang will at least get a look.
Just last year, the Cardinals took an $8-million gamble on Kwang Hyun Kim, however he is younger and coming off of better production. The market has changed somewhat for pitching, which seemingly is in increasing demand. Hyeon-jong Yang has a career record of 136-85 with 1524 strikeouts. It’s difficult to envision a huge monetary deal for Hyeon-jong Yang, but it won’t be surprising to see a team take a shot and seeing Hyeon-jong Yang on a Major League field next season.