Looking for the Next Ryu Hyun-Jin: Yoon Suk-Min and Lim Chang-Yong-Off the Radar

Over 2 months ago on this site, I profiled the left-handed pitcher for the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization Ryu Hyun-Jin. Since then, the Eagles have “posted” him, and the LA Dodgers bid 25.7 million dollars to have the right to negotiate with him. So it got me thinking about some other pitchers from Southeast Asia that may come to the Majors in the future. These two pitchers are not as high profile (and aren’t as good frankly) as Ryu is, but they have a chance of coming to the United States and pitching in the Majors.

Yoon Suk-min has expressed interest in coming to the United States, and like Ryu, he has even hired Scott Boras to represent him ). This isn’t something Korean pitchers do unless they are interested in coming to the MLB (mainly because free agency in the KBO is terrible). Yoon will turn 27 in the middle of the 2013 season (so he is a couple of years older than Ryu as well). In 2012, he had a 2.83 FIP and for his KBO career, he has a 3.26 FIP (he has a 3.12 ERA for both 2012 and his career). Yoon is not the workhorse Ryu is (it is probably safe to quit comparing him to Ryu), throwing over 170 innings just once (2011). Part of that is because he comes with an injury history. In 2009, he hurt his achilles and his shoulder (or had “shoulder pain”). The shoulder problems persisted into 2010, then suffered a finger fracture in the middle of the season. There are also some reports of him suffering from depression and anxiety. These are all issues that teams would have to deal with and consider before paying any money Yoon. As far as actually pitching goes, his delivery is relatively standard (as far as deliveries in Japan or Korea goes) for the most part, but he gets his body basically straight up and follows it with a leg sweep back:

This doesn’t lead to a high leg stride, but it also doesn’t lead to anything that leads to anything that requires abnormally high effort (in other words, it seems repeatable). The only problem that you could see is that since it is so timing based, that if his back or something is ever bothering him, he may have problems like we saw with Dan Haren this year.

Yoon has an extreme mix of pitches as his Korean Scouting Report says he throws 6 different pitches, the traditional fastball/curve/slider/change along with a sinker and a forkball. According to the report, his fastball sits anywhere between 86.8 MPH to 94.86 MPH on his fastball (that’s 90.83 MPH as a median, which is a below average MLB fastball by about a MPH. The curve is called more of a knuckle curve while the change is a circle change and it is a really good one with great late action and movement. The sinker (88-89 MPH) is thrown mainly against righties by Yoon.

The slider is considered his main weapon and it is a pitch that really just has vertical movement and works mainly as a splitter. He can throw it for strikes, but it is a better pitch when he keeps it low out of the zone (but he would probably have to throw it less to do so, which I think is fine because I think his changeup is his best pitch).

His changeup is what will be the finishing pitch in the Majors. While his fastball is obviously not a plus fastball, it is at least good enough. Along with mixing his other pitches, he should be able to use his fastball to set up hitters and then fool them with the changeup. Obviously he provides more value as a starter, and his expansive pitch options should allow him to do that if he is able to stay healthy. I would not be surprised if he showed that he could be a decent starting option in the Majors, especially as a back of the rotation starter. If not, a slight bump in fastball velocity along with the change should allow him to be a nice bullpen option.

Lim Chang-Yong is leaving the Yakult Swallows of  Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. The right-handed reliever is looking to either stay in Japan or come to America to play in Major League Baseball. He had elbow surgery in July and won’t be ready to start the season, but has been at the back end of a bullpen in the NPB since 2008. He threw in just 9 games in 2012, so just 233 innings since 2008, but he has a 2.09 ERA, 2.93 FIP (3.4 K/BB) in that time. He has also thrown up to 97.5 MPH:

However, his velocity has been declining, perhaps due to his injury, or perhaps simply due to age, he is 36. One wonders if he will continue to be able to have success since he is used to throwing hard, while the velocity has dropped to a point that he has to be more focused on pitchability.

The interesting thing about him is that he throws that hard with a weird arm angle (below is a bad picture, but I think it illustrates the point. You can also watch some video of him here).

It is obviously somewhat rare to see a pitcher from that arm angle throw hard. It reminds me somewhat of Steve Cishek, who has been really effective for the Marlins, especially on a platoon basis. It really looks like he is throwing harder than he actually is because the ball gets there so quickly. The delivery is really important for him, as he is just 5-11. That is not going to give him enough extension to be effective most likely. The delivery does this for him, or is at least unusual enough that it provides some deception. The fastball has some tail on it, especially arm side. He showed the ability, in video I watched, to backdoor the fastball (or having it come back on the inside part of the plate to lefties). The data seems mixed on whether or not he actually throws a sinker, and one could see what you might call a sinker as his fastball sometimes tails down. Obviously, he will probably be asked to get right-handed batters out with that arm action.

The slider works more like a changeup, and doesn’t sweep at all (which seems to be relatively standard for sidearm pitchers). It is another pitch he can throw for strikes though, which isn’t surprising as his walk rate is low, even for the low walk NPB. So even if he is unable to hit 96-97 MPH anymore, if he can get healthy, he could provide some very low cost value. Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker says he would definately sign Lim to a minor league deal and I agree. It is hard to give a injured 36 reliever with no MLB experience any guaranteed money, but he is at least worth giving a shot I believe.

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