Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hyun-jin Ryu

You should know this name. It will be in your living room sometime in the near future. I guarantee it. I’m now sure how soon, and I’m not sure in what context, but you will know the name Hyun-jin Ryu.

Let me preface everything I’m writing here by saying that I’m a rank amateur when it comes to the Korean Baseball Organization. The league is a good level of competition, and I check in occasionally to see who’s who and what’s what, but I can’t say I have any firsthand scouting of the league. I don’t know the rules of free agency, contracts, or if the Major Leagues has a special agreement with Korea. That having been said, there’s a good bet you’ll know it when a star is born. That star is Hanwha Eagles rookie Hyun-jin Ryu.

Ryu is a 6’3”, 215 pound left-handed pitcher who captured the KBO rookie of the year and MVP awards at the age of 19, winning the Triple Crown of pitching in the process. He also took home a gold glove and has led his Korean national team to a Bronze medal in the 2006 Asian Games. The young ace graduated from Dongsan High School in Incheon just last year, and jumped directly into the professional ranks despite recovering from what has been described as a “severe elbow injury”, although I can’t read Korean to search for the precise details of that situation.

Hyun-jin’s rookie campaign is noteworthy in the context of minor league pitching, if the KBO is a bit weaker than the Japanese professional competition, and the NPB is generally believed to be a kind of AAAA level. Let’s make the leap of faith that the KBO is AAA, or at worst between AAA and AA. Here are Ryu’s 2006 numbers at that level of play:

30 GS
18-6 record
2.23 ERA
1.046 WHIP
201.2 IP
159 hits
11 HRs
57 runs
50 earned runs
52 BBs
204 Ks
101 pitches per game

Reading into these numbers a bit more closely, Ryu produced a 3.92 K/BB ratio, and a 9.10 K/9 mark. He allowed only 2.32 walks per 9, and 7.1 hits per 9 inning pitched. If this was a guy in the Yankees minor league system, where would he be ranked in terms of future potential? Remember he’s 19 years old, and has excellent size. I think you’d have to put him a close 2nd to Phil Hughes, and probably a top 3 or 4 pitching prospect in the entire sport.

Just to remind you of his age and inexperience, it’s important to note that the Korean team’s 3rd place finish at the Asian Games saw Taiwan place 1st, and Japan 2nd. Taiwan fielded an excellent collection of talent, but the Japanese team was basically a bunch of amateur and industrial league players who spanked Ryu to the tune of 5 runs over 2.1 innings. Combined against Japan and China, Ryu pitched 6.1 innings and gave up 7 runs, 9 hits, 4 walks, and 2 home runs against 6 strikeouts. Not inspiring to say the least. In the end, those games are a blip on the radar for the young left-hander. If he stays away from any further arm trouble, and follows up his historic 2006 with another outstanding season in Korea, you can bet that the Big Leagues will come-a-calling, and soon.

I’ll keep my eyes out for more on Hyun-jin Ryu, and you should probably keep that name in the back of your mind as the Yankees make bigger and bigger splashes into international waters…


Mediaj33 said...

Zips Projections

W@ng projects to 12 wins? Rj predicts to win 19 ballgames next year. lmao.

ZIPS has not a single Yankee breaking a .500 SLG. I find that hard to believe.


Anonymous said...

It is too early to jump to a conclusion,
if Ryu is only at the age of 19,
he still has a long way to go,
as you said he did make a smooth transition to the professional level,
but who knows if it is just a fluke,
we shall see what his future looks like,
but I would suggest you not to give him that high of expectations,
and he is still no Philip Hughes,
that would be a joke if he can rank at the top 5 prospects in the U.S.

singlessss said...

The kid sounds good, and at his age, he should get better. While his numbers are good, they are relative to his league.

What kind of stuff does he have? 90+ mph fastball? What other pitches does he throw and how good/filthy are they?

J-Dub said...

He throws 93-94 mph heavy fastball with movement, and another weapon is exellent 'circle' changeup.
Of course, he has very good control of every ball he throws.
He had Tommy John Surgery when he was junior at high school. This year, as a rookie, he threw 200+ innings (regular season), and then post season & Asian Games. It was not surprisng to see his poor performance in Asian Game. You don't expect too much protection for the young arms in Korea.

Anonymous said...

there was another 19yrs old starting prospect (Gi-Zhou Han) who threw 95+miles.

Hey Mike, Do you anything about this other guy name Gi-Zhou Han? thanks

Anonymous said...

Ryu doesn't have an explosive stuff as Wang, but he was keen pinpoint control and pitches very smart. He mixes his wicked circle-change, 87~91mph fastball, big curve and 2 seamer up. He's more like Igawa than Wang.

I don't know how Ryu will perform next year since he threw TONS of innings this year.

Anonymous said...

Wang doesn't have explosive stuff either,
Wang is a ground ball pitcher.

Mike Plugh said...

I've never seen this kid pitch, but if he'd put up those numbers at AA, Baseball America would have him ranked as a top 3-5 pitching prospect in the entire world. That much I'm sure of.

I'd like to see him pitch. He's big, although his conditioning looks a bit suspect. That bodes well for more power in the future. If his control is already there (3.97 K/BB at 19!) then I think he'll be something special.

All the early indicators are there.

TiredKim said...


I'm a Korean baseballholic.
I read an article that there is one post of a blog that complicated Ryu and I come here.

Yes, he was great in the 2006 season. Although he is 19-year-old player, his mind-control ability is very good. Let me take an example.

In the postseason, he was the second starter. In a game, with a score 2-1, he got a grandslam! The score became 6-1, but he didn't even became weak. He strongly made two more strikeout, and went back to the bench.

He has two adventages-Mental and physical ability.

But, I think there are two disadvantages with him.

First, he has not solved the obligatory military services. Surely, in Korea, any player who is in the team that got the gold medal in the Asian Games or gold, silver or bronze medal in the Olympic games. But, in the 2006 Doha Asian Games, the Korean Baseball team failed to get the Gold medal. And In the 2008
beijing Olympic games, Asia got only two teams excepting for China. Even going to the second round of baseball will be difficult for Korea. But maybe Korean Military Manpower Administration will give the exemption from military services to the players who got the first grade in the WBC. And because he is very young, if he keep his record, he will have many chance to have it.

Second, his physical ability. In the late season and the poseseason, he showed the weak point to the others. He got tired for he pitched over 200 innings.

I don't know he will keep his record until 40. He may be eat-and-run player because of his tiredness. Fotuneately, he didn't play hard in his highschool years unlike other Korean player for his injure.

And, once his manager had complicated him for his easylearning. He has openmind, and he can succeed, I think.

I want to have your anwser and have a contact with you. Would you mail me after you saw it if you have any question about Korean baseball league?

mandu6403 at
(delete at and add @)

Anonymous said...

Yeah you are right. Only IF he could even post that type of numbers at AA,
but who in the world would let a minor leaguer to pitch that many innings anyway??

Ryu had a great season last year,
but so far?
That's just his first season,
who knows what he is gonna be like in the future,
maybe he is gonna be great,
but other then,
you made too many assumptions and too many if,
he may have electric stuff,
he may have great potential,
but he still has a long way to go.

Mike Plugh said...

Thanks tiredkim!! I appreciate your thoughts. I'd like to learn more about Korean baseball, so I'll contact you soon.

I think he pitched too many innings (200!!) at the age of 19. No one should pitch that many innings that young. He threw 3020 pitches at such a young age, even after having Tommy John surgery on his elbow in high school. It seems that someone is trying to kill him.


I don't think I made any assumptions about Ryu. I simply think that a guy who put up those kind of results at AA or AAA would be the darling of every scout in the world. Baseball America would have him in it;s top 10 prospects and people all over the US would be buzzing about what a great future he has. Since he's in Korea and there's little scouting available to most Americans, they don't know him. That's where I come in. I don't know much, but I know enough to introduce him to people.

Hosan said...

The Korean Baseball Organization has a rule that prevents players to move to foreign leagues for a mandatory 7 years once they sign with a professional korean team. After 7 years they allow to bid foreign teams using the posting system like it's done in Japan. Only after 9 years they become free agents and can sign with any team they like. By then Ryu will be 28 and probably sought after by japanese teams, if not major league teams.

Mike Plugh said...

Thanks Hosan.

I wasn't sure if there was a rule, so your information is very helpful.

I'm sure Korea will soon appear on the radar of the Major League teams and a posting situation may bring a lot of money to Hanwha if they decide to let Ryu go in a year or two.

Thanks again. Kamsamnida.

ccc6588 said...

I just saw this blog when I searched to find out more on Ryu while watching the Olympic Finals between Cuba and Korea. Ryu is very poised with excellent command. He does not throw many fat pitches. He isn't overpowering, but had excellent control away from the middle of the base. He is more like a Greg Maddox type, but a lefty. I think he can pitch in the MLB. Now that he doesn't have to go to the Military, we may see him in 5 years. Hopefully, his arm is not dead by then. I wonder what he would have been like if he didn't have the Tommy John...

I was also very impressed with the starting pitcher lefty that won against Japan in the semi-finals. He is also a youngster and a good prospect. Both of these kids had pin point control.

Congratulations to South Korea. They played with a lot of poise and showed moxy. I think we are going to see a lot more Koreans in the MLB in the future.

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Jun said...

Just to let you guys know, Ryu had a phenomenal 2010 season. He finished the season with an ERA of 1.82 in 25 games(192.2 IP.) He also had 187 Ks while allowing 45 walks. I definitely want to see him pitch in the majors:)