FA Kim Hye-sung waiting for MLB? KBO appetite again?

The teams don’t just look at the short term. They set a timetable for at least three to four years out, create a long-term plan, and check in on the status of that plan along the way. Development is the main focus, but they also plan for external free agents (FAs) in case of emergencies.

The most talked-about player in the KBO club’s plan is Kim Hye-sung (24, Kiwoom). While Lee Jung-hoo is trying to make it to the major leagues, she is widely considered to be the biggest free agent to come along in the next two years. The head of multiple clubs said, “Kim Hye-sung is young enough to sign a six-year contract. If so, she could become a player with a total of more than 10 billion won,” he said. This is also the general mood of the KBO League.

Kim Hye-sung is not your typical big-bat type of player. After debuting in the first team in 2017, she has only 26 home runs in 826 games in the KBO. She also has a .393 on-base percentage. However, the consensus is that he has the skills and value to offset that.

She’s a sophisticated hitter who can basically hit triples. In her first-team career, Kim has just three triples. In each of her last three seasons, she’s hit over 30%. On top of that, she’s an excellent stealer. She’s one of the best stealers in the league. She has stolen 20 or more bases in each of the last six years. He’s also very versatile on defense. He can play both shortstop and second base. They’ve also been relatively healthy and don’t seem to be injury-prone.

Very few teams in the KBO have a long-term plan for both shortstop and second base. If one is full, one is short. That’s why many have been keeping an ear out for Nadon Hye-sung’s potential move to the majors in recent years. If Kim declares himself a major leaguer, it would mean the end of one of the biggest names in free agency.

Kim Hye-sung recently formalized her bid for the major leagues and continues to negotiate with teams. If Kim finishes this season on schedule, she will have completed seven seasons of eligibility. She will be eligible to challenge the major leagues through the posting system (closed competitive bidding). If she plays one more season, she will be eligible for free agency after the 2025 season. There’s nothing to lose by trying out. Reaching the majors at a younger age can be in a player’s best interest in their mid-20s.

Kim’s chances of making it to the majors didn’t come out of nowhere. There have been reports of major league scouts keeping a close eye on her for two or three years. She was on the radar of scouts who traveled to Gocheok Dome to watch Lee Jung-hoo. In fact, there are even stories that she got attention before Ahn Woo-jin.

What scouts are looking for is her tremendous athleticism, which is where Kim started to catch the eye of major league scouts. She doesn’t have the power of Kim, but she has similar tools. Some major league scouts believe she can also play center field. While it’s hard to categorize him as a solid starter, he could be valuable as a utility player who can play shortstop, second base, and center field.

Another positive is that with the introduction of pitch clocks in the major leagues and the physical size of the bases, players who can run are becoming more valuable. Some might even give him an edge over Kim in terms of pure on-base percentage.

What’s more, he’s a player who improves every year. With his defense becoming more reliable, Kim’s adjusted offensive production (wRC+, per Statcast) rose to 106.2 in 2021, 123.9 in 2022, and 142.1 in 2023. This is because she is getting better at hitting for extra bases while also getting more doubles and triples. This is why Kim’s journey to the major leagues in 2024 and beyond will be the talk of the KBO.

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