KBO slugger Park Byung-ho scouted by 17 MLB clubs

July 1, 2015
Park Byung-ho, first baseman of the Nexen Heroes  hit 52 home runs last season. (Yonhap)

Park Byung-ho, first baseman of the Nexen Heroes hit 52 home runs last season. (Yonhap)

SEOUL, July 1 (Yonhap) — South Korean baseball slugger Park Byung-ho, eligible to be posted for Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs after this season, has been scouted by more than half the big league clubs, an official on his current team said.

Kim Chi-hyun, in charge of international affairs at the Nexen Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), revealed Tuesday evening that scouts from 17 of the 30 MLB clubs have seen Park in action this year.

With the blessing of the Heroes, Park, 28, can be posted for interested MLB clubs this winter. Teams will submit bids in a silent auction and if the Heroes accept the winning bid, then that MLB club will have the exclusive right to negotiate a contract with Park for 30 days.

Should the two sides reach a deal, the Heroes will pocket the money submitted in the bid.

Park, a hard-hitting first baseman who has won two of the past three MVPs in the KBO, has been helping himself with another strong season. He has led the KBO in homers in the past three years — 120 long balls in that span — and is currently tied for first with 24 home runs in 73 games. He’s among the leaders with 97 hits (first), .349 average (second), 62 RBIs (fifth) and 1.116 OPS (fifth). He hasn’t missed a game since the start of the 2012 season, a stretch of 462 games through Tuesday.

Park is trying to follow in the footsteps of his former Nexen teammate Kang Jung-ho. Kang, a shortstop who belted 40 homers for the Heroes last year, signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates via posting, and has settled nicely into a utility infielder role there. Prior to Wednesday’s action, Kang, the first South Korean position player to reach the majors after getting posted, was batting .265 with four homers and 25 RBIs in 60 games for the second-best team in the National League as of July 1.

Kim attributed MLB’s interest in Park to Kang’s better-than-expected performance in his rookie year. Also, the official said the scouts are trying to learn more about Park’s intangibles.

“They ask questions about things that they can’t see on the field,” Kim said. “They want to know more about his family relationships, personality and his camaraderie in the club house.”

Kim said he tries to be as upfront about the player as he can be.

“It’s really important to tell it like it is,” he said. “If we exaggerate anything, it affects the reputation and credibility of our ball club.”

According to Kim, Park is interested in learning more about American culture and likes to spend time with his American teammates.

In the past couple of spring camps, Park saw some action at third base, perhaps a move designed to drive up his value for big league clubs.

“Some teams have asked about his defense at third,” Kim said. “I tell them he has played some third in the minors and in spring camps, and that they should really find out (about his defense) themselves.”

Though Park has been seen by more scouts this year than Kang at this time last year, Kim said it is premature to accurately gauge teams’ interest in Park.

“We have to wait until late summer or early autumn,” the official said. “If we get more senior scouts, it will mean those clubs are really interested.”