It’s rare enough that we know by August or September that a star player from Asia is going to be posted or otherwise made available in an upcoming offseason. We can – and do! – speculate about who might be coming over when, but whenever there are games to still be played, it doesn’t always make a lot of sense to declare a posting plan.
So it’s a bit of a rare thing that we already know, for sure, that Korean star outfielder Jung-hoo Lee is going to be posted to MLB after this upcoming KBO season:
Lee, 24, is considered by most to be the single best player in the KBO. He was so good that he was already a well-above-average player at just 18 years old when he debuted in 2017, and this season will already be his seventh in Korea’s top league.
You know as well as I do that it’s almost impossible to translate stats from an international league to MLB, and the scouting matters as much or more as the stats. But Lee definitely has some impressive numbers. For example, he hit .349/.421/.575 this past season, which, according to FanGraphs, translates to 75% better than league average for his league (175 wRC+). And that was his age 23 season! His wRC+ has improved every single year he’s been in pro ball, and his peripherals just keep getting better and better (dude had a 10.5% BB rate this year and a .226 ISO … against a 5.1% strikeout rate).
I mention this all today primarily because it was made official today. But even setting that aside, it’s good to know way in advance that Lee is coming, which will allow teams to plan ahead of time for how they might pursue him, and will allow fans to follow him more closely this KBO season. I’ll be fascinated to hear how he is expected to translate in MLB, because I truly don’t know much beyond the fact that he’s considered by many to be the best bat in that league (and at such a young age).
For a frame of reference, Ha-Seong Kim came over from KBO as the best hitter in the league at the time, also after his age 24 season. But his wRC+ that year was 141, so it’s not really all that close to what Lee is doing. Moreover, after struggling in his first year, Kim has adjusted well to become an above-average bat (.251/.325/.383/105 wRC+) and superlative glove man (12 DRS, 3.7 WAR in 2022). Different players, different translations, etc., but Kim’s success demonstrates that coming from the KBO to MLB is not some impossible leap for hitters. Jung-hoo Lee could wind up a very good one.
And, yes, he’s got hype videos: