While a relatively stagnant off-season has left some Orioles fans to overwhelming feelings of distraught and negativity, general manager Dan Duquette pulled a rabbit out of the hat with another pitcher added to his roster from the Far East.
CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported Korean RHP Suk-min Yoon agreed to a three-year, $5.575 million deal with Baltimore Thursday just as the Orioles’ pitchers and catchers were reporting to Sarasota, Fl. for spring training.
The Birds, along with the Twins, Cubs, Rays and Royals were in the running for the 27-year-old according to MLBTradeRumors.com, but when the prospect tweeted out this photo Tuesday night from his Twitter account — in English, the caption translates to: “Ta-Da!” — many began to speculate as to whether or not his landing destination would ultimately end with the orange and black.
So what is there to learn about this Yoon and how can he contribute to the Orioles this season?
Showing up to work is the first step.
Many will look at how Duquette brought in LHPs Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen from the Far East and how durability has been the chief concern in terms of their games translating to what the big league game demands. 162-game seasons are grinds. That’s a fact. But Wada never found a way to stay healthy, nor his way into the Orioles’ bullpen, let alone starting rotation. Chen has suffered injury issues and has failed to crack the 200-inning plateau, which has alluded a lot of Orioles starters in recent history, but has been a steady addition to a rotation that has lacked consistency since Mike Mussina departed from Baltimore during the beginning of the “bad years”.
Prior to 2013, Yoon had two fairy strong seasons in the KBO — Korean Baseball Organization — where he was the league’s MVP in 2011. His splits that season:
*All statistics courtesy of http://www.mykbo.net/statistics*
His 2012 was quite good too as he posted these numbers:
- 3.12 ERA
- 8.1 K/9
- 1.9 BB/9
- 0.53 HR/9
- 153 innings
- 9-8 W-L
- 3 complete games, 2 shutouts
These numbers are important to note as he was primarily utilized as a starter during these campaigns, but his 2013 was somewhat worrisome.
He only started 11 games last season and appeared as a relief pitcher in 19. He suffered a shoulder injury that hindered his ability to compete as a starting pitcher and ultimately “seemed serious” as Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency described to MLBTradeRumors.com. He closed for his franchise the Kia Tigers when the team lacked a man for that role last August and he saw himself post a 4.16 ERA as a starting pitcher, but a 3.60 ERA as a reliever.
Overall, his splits for last season were:
- 4.00 ERA
- 76 strikeouts in just 87 2/3 innings of work
- 28 walks
- 9 home runs — matching his previous total from 2012 and one less from his 2013 total
- 3-6 W-L, 7 saves, 2 holds
- 1 complete game
Positives to take from Yoon when looking at the splits and his history?
Sure, the KBO is not the MLB… a far cry in fact. NBCSports’ Craig Calcaterra equivocates it to a level of baseball not even matching Triple-A. However, his ability to be a role player and serve whatever his team needs him for is something the Orioles need. They have had “tweeners” before and it can be a tough task to manage a plethora of them. Finding a role for Yoon must be done early as a position on the club should be figured out by the end of March.
You also have to like the strikeout potential with Yoon.
Super agent Scott Boras told George A King of the New York Post that he envisions Yoon as a Kyle Lohse type of pitcher. A guy who can top out his fastball at roughly 93 MPH, use a hard slider and an “above-average” change-up. A pitcher with three solid pitches usually has some staying power in the big leagues.
But the durability concerns and the transition of skill level from the KBO to the MLB have to be red flags before the season begins. Giving Yoon that kind of money suggests that he is healthy and the Orioles want to work him on to the roster, but it all depends on how he works out and develops over the next month and a half.
There are still a lot of question marks surrounding this team and the direction they plan on going, but further branching out into the international market gives the sense that Duquette is trying to build a rotation/bullpen for manager Buck Showalter.
Buck can only play with the best cards he is dealt.