What if I told you there was a player who between Double-A and Triple-A had put up a wRC+ between 134 and 175 over a couple years including a .226 ISO in his most recent season? What if I told you he has 60 grade speed and a 60 grade on his fielding?
Lee Jung-hoo, widely considered the best all-round hitter in the KBO, is likely to be playing in MLB in 2024.— Baseball Brit (@BaseballBrit) April 16, 2023
Today, the Kiwoom Heroes stud-muffin, walked it off... pic.twitter.com/aC3hI6Ohld
Let me introduce you to Korean Baseball star, 25 year-old left-handed hitting outfielder Jung-hoo Lee who will be posted for MLB teams to negotiate with in this offseason.
You may remember that Cleveland traded for and embraced a former KBO star in its past in Shin-Soo Choo. Choo was beloved in his time in Cleveland, and I encourage Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff to sell Jung-hoo Lee and his agent on the advantges of having his career take-off in a place that supports its players and is desperate for a championship. When it’s all said and done, however, it will require Paul Dolan and David Blitzer to invest some of the increased attendance money they’ve seen in 2023 in an exciting young player.
In 2022, Jung-hoo Lee had a 175 wRC+, a 5.1/10.5 K/BB%, and a .575 slugging percentage with a .226 ISO. He had a tougher 2023, including ending the season early with an ankle injury that required surgery, but still managed a 139 wRC+.
Jung-hoo Lee fits the Cleveland Guardians’ profile in that he makes a ton of contact and plays good defense. However, he has also demonstrated a growing ability to get the barrel to the ball with some lift, including getting his highest hard-hit rate in 2023 of 37.6%. For comparison (while acknowledging the significant difference between leagues), that rate would lead the 2023 Guardians.
After you watch this video and drool over a clutch homer...
he can't be posted for MLB teams until after the '23 season but 24-year-old CF Jung-hoo Lee -- Ha-seong Kim's former teammate w/ Kiwoom -- had another huge season (.996 OPS) and is looking more and more like a future star— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) October 27, 2022
big HR in the KBO playoffs today: pic.twitter.com/wY3lFiCUfb
...read this scouting report with video clips included from Jake Tillinghast for Prospects Worldwide.
It’s no secret that the free agent market for outfielders in 2023 is slim pickings, unless one is a big believer in the Cody Bellinger comeback (and Dolan’s willingness to sign him), or in soon to be 31 year-old Teoscar Hernandez. Maybe the Guardians can trade for Taylor Ward, Anthony Santander, Randy Arozarena or, hey, maybe Mike Trout loves Jose Ramirez as much as his soon-to-be-former teammate Shohei Ohtani does and he asks Anaheim to deal him here. But, we KNOW that Jung-hoo Lee will be available and can be pursued if the team is willing to offer the kind of money he is looking for. And, Lee continues the Guardians’ apparent desire to have an all left-handed outfield.
Now, to Jung-hoo Lee: we are desperate for an outfielder to believe in here in northeast Ohio. Cleveland is the home for contact-first players of all kinds and you can prove your value by taking centerfield here and making it something than an utter black hole offensively. We will love you just like we loved your countryman, Shin-soo Choo. Let us prove it to you as you help us win a World Series.
I’ve done all I can, Dolan, Antonetti and Chernoff. It’s your turn.