Chicago Cubs introduce S. Korean high school senior as latest signee

August 17, 2015
South Korean high school baseball player Kwon Kwang-min (R) poses in his Chicago Cubs uniform next to Paul Weaver, the Cubs' international scouting cross-checker, during Kwon's introductory press conference in Seoul on Aug. 17, 2015. (Yonhap)

South Korean high school baseball player Kwon Kwang-min (R) poses in his Chicago Cubs uniform next to Paul Weaver, the Cubs’ international scouting cross-checker, during Kwon’s introductory press conference in Seoul on Aug. 17, 2015. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — The Chicago Cubs on Monday unveiled a South Korean high school senior as their latest international signee.

At a press conference in Seoul, Kwon Kwang-min, an outfielder for Jangchung High School located in the capital, donned the Cubs jersey and hat for the first time, becoming the 14th South Korean to sign with the club. He signed for US$1.2 million.

The 17-year-old has played in 41 games so far in his high school career, batting .339 (41-for-121) with one home run, 24 RBIs and 13 steals. He posted a .458 on-base percentage.

“It’s been my dream since elementary school to play in Major League Baseball,” Kwon said. “I am really excited to realize my dream. I am going to work hard and try to make quick adjustments to life in the United States.”

Kwon said he’s going through two-a-day weight training sessions and spending most of his day studying English, which he said will be a key part of his adjustments.

Paul Weaver, a long-time scout and the Cubs’ international scouting cross-checker, said the Cubs were excited to have Kwon in their already stocked farm system, saying he is a complete player.

“He’s got very good baseball tools: running, throwing, hitting and hitting for power; he can do all those things,” Weaver said. “One of the things that always excited me as a scout was that he loved to play. He loves baseball. I’ve watched him in practice, and he always works hard. He also seems to be coachable. He has a lot of passion for what he’s doing.”

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds, Kwon said he is most confident about his speed and his ability to make consistent contact at the plate.

Kwon, who was an infielder until his sophomore year, said he’d like to improve his defense in the outfield. At the plate, he said he hopes to handle breaking pitches better.

Of the current major league players, Kwon said he looks up to South Korean outfielder Choo Shin-soo of the Texas Rangers. A former high school pitcher, the versatile Choo, with three 20-20 seasons to his credit, has put together a solid career with four different clubs.

“Choo Shin-soo is my biggest role model,” Kwon said. “I think we’re also a similar type of hitter. I want to be like him.”

The Cubs have been active in the South Korean market for more than a decade. In 1999, they signed first baseman Choi Hee-seop as an international free agent, and in 2002, he became the first South Korean position player to appear in a major league game.

Most recently, veteran reliever Lim Chang-yong appeared in six games for the Cubs in 2013, after carving out a solid professional career in South Korea and Japan. Lim has since returned to South Korea.

In April last year, the Cubs signed a South Korean college dropout named Son Ho-young to a minor league deal.

“We like Korean players and their work ethic,” Weaver said. “It’s one thing to have the ability and another thing to have the drive and desire to make themselves a great player. In Korea, I think you can find players with baseball tools, as well as the drive to want to become a good player. Generally, they’re very well coached, and they know how to play. There’s a lot to like.”