Top Ten Pitchers in KBO

Myworld does not profess to be an expert in Korean pitchers. We rely more on data since our ability to watch games is limited. We also tend to lean towards the younger pitchers since they have more opportunity for upside. So below are the pitchers myworld would place in the top ten pitchers to watch in the KBO.

1. Koo Chang-M0 LHP (NC Dinos) - It’s not like he has come out of nowhere to have success in the KBO. This is his fifth season. His first season he was used mostly in relief and his next two seasons he was used primarily as a starter with ERAs north of 5. Last year was considered a breakout season when he went 10-7, 3.20 with 114 whiffs in 107 innings. It was also a year when the KBO went to a less offensive ball. When you watch him pitch he will not dazzle you with an overpowering fastball. When he is in the low 90s is when he his sizzling. It is the slider that gets hitters out, and getting ahead of hitters. This year he has been phenomenal at 9-0, 1.35 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 80 innings. Because of his early start he could be a free agent in his mid-20s and available to major league teams. It will be interesting how his slider translates with major leaguers. Hitters in the KBO swing and miss at the pitch as much as major leaguers swing and miss at Yu Darvish pitches. This year clearly the best pitcher in the KBO and that includes foreign pitchers.

2. Lee Min-Ho RHP (LG Twins) - There are two Lee Min-Ho’s in the KBO. This is the younger version, at 18 years of age. Imagine a major leaguer at 18 years old. The fact that it took Koo three years to finally get hitters out in the KBO (or perhaps his slider is better with the newer ball) Lee does not seem to have any first year hiccups yet. In eight games, six of them starts he is 2-2, 1.80 with just 28 hits in 40 innings. His 29 whiffs indicates he has not established a swing and miss pitch. He has decent height at 6′2″ and his fastball sits in the low 90s. As he matures the fastball could increase in velocity. He also throws a splitter and slider. Drafted in the first round by the Twins last year, he is noted in high school for striking out the first nine hitters he faced.

3. Won Tae-in RHP (Samsung Lions) - Won made his debut last year as a 19 year old teenager. He started the season off strong but was hit pretty hard in the second half, elevating his ERA to 4.82. He lacked a swing and miss pitch (68 whiffs in 112 innings) and gave up more hits than innings pitched. Won hopes the 2020 season is different. He has started the year well (5-2, 3.12) but still lacks a swing and miss pitch. His command also appears to be lacking with 25 walks in just 66 innings. Regardless, he still gets wins, as his name would suggest and outs, as his ERA confirms. His fastball is not overpowering, moving in the high 80s to low 90s range. He also throws a change and slider. At 6′0″ and with a lack of command he needs to increase his velocity if he hopes to be a starter in the major leagues.

4. Choi Won-Tae RHP (Kiwoom Heroes) - After his 2017 season at 21 years of age he was considered one of the top pitchers in the KBO with 13 wins and a 3.95 ERA. He improved on those numbers last year with a 3.38 ERA, though his wins dropped down to 11. His hits to innings pitched sit at about a 1/1 ratio while his whiffs per innings pitched fall quite a bit below 1/1. As a pitcher in high school he threw a fastball consistently in the low 90s. A shoulder injury his first year made him go from a 4-seamer to a 2-seamer fastball, sacrificing velocity for command. This year he has been struggling, picking up the wins (4-3) but his ERA has elevated to 4.72. His other numbers seem fairly consistent so he should bounce back. In his last two starts he was roughed up for 11 runs in eight innings.

5. Bae Je-Seong RHP (KT Wiz) - Another young pitcher (23) that has been putting up good numbers. Last year was a breakout season for him (10-10, 3.76). This year he seems to be duplicating those numbers (5-2, 3.60). There is not a lot of swing and miss to his pitches and this year he has walked about .5 hitters per inning (30/43 walk to whiff). Normally you like to see major league pitchers at a one walk for every two whiffs. He also gives up about a hit per inning pitched. At 6′2 inches he has decent height that perhaps he can add some velocity to his pitches to get those whiff numbers up.

6. Lee Young-Ha RHP (Doosan Bears) - Last year, at 21 years of age Lee finished the season 17-4, 3.64. His first two years his ERA was north of 5 and he pitched mostly in relief. The 2019 season saw him become the ace of the Doosan Bears rotation as they won the KBO series for the sixth time. That ace mantle has disappeared in 2020 with his 3-5, 5.86 ERA. At 6′4″ he has good height for a pitcher, but he has yet to establish the velocity to get swings and misses. Last year he saw his homeruns numbers drop from 15 to 5. This year four balls have already carried over the park. In 2019 he only gave up 148 hits in 163 innings. This year those numbers have climbed to 87 hits in 66 innings. The season is still early so perhaps the effectiveness he had last year will return.

7. Lee Geon-Wook RHP (SK Wyverns) - At 25 years of age is this the breakout season for Lee. His first two years his ERAs were above 27 in only three appearances. This year he has started 9 games and made two relief appearances and his numbers are sterling (4-2, 3.08). His pitches get swings and misses and he does not give up a boat load of hits (37 whiffs and hits in 49.2 innings). In his last four appearances Lee has pitched at least six innings, winning three of them and getting a quality start. He did not complete six innings in his first five starts, so it appears his role is expanding.

8. Yang Hyun-jong LHP (Kia Tigers) - Don’t know what Matt Williams thinks of his ace pitcher. This is his first year with the Tigers and Yang has been far from himself (5-5, 6.31). Last year Yang was one of the better pitchers in the KBO (16-8, 2.29), winning the ERA title. In 2017 he was a rare 20 game winner in the KBO, winning the MVP award. He has four seasons of 15 or more wins. So Yang has a good resume. It could be that at 32 he has lost his stuff. This year he has given up a lot of hits per innings pitched, but he has had seasons where he has done that and still put up decent numbers. His strikeout numbers are on par with previous years. His past numbers have earned him a long string. He and now major leaguer Kim Kwang-Hyun won a gold medal for Korea in the 2006 junior baseball world cup. The Tigers posted him in 2014 but rejected the bids a couple major league teams posted for Yang. Yang pitched for Korea in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

9. Choi Chae-Heung LHP (Samsung Lions) - This appears to be the first year the Lions have entrusted Choi into the rotation. Last year he was a bit inconsistent (6-6, 4.81), giving up more hits than innings pitched. This year he has been more difficult to hit (6-2, 3.88), already equaling his win total from last year and limiting his hits to 56 in 60 innings. His first two years his walk to whiff ratio was 1/2 but this year he falls a bit short (25/46). Six of his 11 starts he has given up two or fewer runs. Three have been real clunkers where he has given up six or more runs. His fastball sits at 91 and he relies on a slider. At 25 years of age he has a bright future.

10. Seo Jun-Won RHP (Lotte Giants) - This is his second year in the KBO and he is still a teenager at 19 years old. Last year he was 4-11, 5.47 going back and forth between starting and relieving. This year he has found a little more consistency (4-3, 4.82). His last two starts has elevated his ERA giving up 12 runs, 9 earned in just seven innings of work. He does seem to be a little prone to giving up the homerun, equaling his total from last year (10) even though he has pitched 30 less innings. Keeping the ball in the park will lower that ERA.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.