27 January 2012

O's Kim Sung-min in Dan Duquette's version of Rashomon

Kim Tebow
Kim Sung-min was signed by the Orioles.  That is pretty much all we know for sure.  In an apparent ode to Kurosawa's Rashomon we have a South Korean paper, a Baltimore Sun beat reporter, and a national baseball talent writer giving somewhat different accounts of the player.

South Korean Paper
I do not read Korean and the Google translator is confused by a few words.  I assume "maximum strength fat guts" means something equivalent to having nerves of steel.  I don't know.  What we can glean from the article is the outline of a pretty impressive talent.  Sung-min is a high school left handed pitcher who has a 89.5 mph fastball.  He also has a curve and a "remarkable" circle change.  He is listed as 5'10.5 and weighing in at 181 lbs.  There is no information on the financials.

The Baltimore Beat
The Sun's Eduardo Encina talked to a team source and came up with the following pitcher.  Sung-min at 17 is the best left handed high school pitching prospect in South Korea (which is similar to being the best high school left handed pitching prospect in Rhode Island--that can be quite good and it could be quite poor).  He is 5'10 and 180 lbs with a high 80s fastball, an above average 12-to-6 curveball, and an above average change up.  They expect him to become 6'1.  These pitches are expected to progress as he ages (this means that all three pitches will be plus pitches).  He will play a few weeks at the academy in Los Angeles before heading over to the Orioles' facility in Florida.

The National Writer
Keith Law reminds me of Frau BlΓΌcher.  You mention his name in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and you will surely hear some snorting and gnashing of teeth.  That certainly was the case when the following was written from his twitter account:
The O's gave $550K to a 5'9" Korean HS lefty throwing 80-83 with no feel for a breaking ball. Nice use of savings from cutting pro scouting.
 With respect to the Orioles projection of Sung-min growing a few more inches, Law wrote in a chat:
Predicting body development is a big part of scouts' jobs, although it's usually about a frame filling out more than a player growing three freaking inches after his 18th birthday, which is pretty rare. A scout would also want to meet the parents and see how tall they are, how broad, how heavy, etc. I'm much more comfortable looking at a 17-year-old Tyler Skaggs and telling you he'll add velocity because he's tall and thin with broad shoulders rather than looking at a 17-year-old Jarrod Parker and telling you he'll grow from 6' to 6'3" because I like his fastball.
I agree with Law on this last point.  Final height determinations are quite difficult and are often guesswork even when you understand family genetics and have a long term growth pattern documented from the player.  You could get even more exact with more invasive medicals procedures, but that seems an unlikely scenario for an upstart operation in South Korea.  I really do not know if anyone is using that approach.

Like Rashomon, I do not know what the reality is.  I am drawn into Encina's article as something I want to be true.  Sung-min, a player on a well covered Junior national team, somehow slips through the cracks even though he is a lefty with potentially three plus pitches.  Typically, a player like that would be followed by many teams and would be worth a couple million.  The South Korean paper appears more tame, but we don't really know if the papers used the same source.  Many aspects are similar between the two players with the Baltimore account having a greater eye to the future and what Sung-min could become.  Law's account is a dousing of cold water.

In all honesty, all three could be accurate.  Law's information could have come from an earlier outing or on one of the player's bad days.  The Korean article may be an account from an Orioles' scout highlighting the performance when everything was clicking.  The Baltimore Sun account may be a summation of the high points and a focus on the top 1% outcome.  When he reports to Florida, we will likely have much of this progressing toward some answers.

Right now, I would not put too much stock in any of these evaluations.  How could you?


Anonymous said...

i get the feeling that if the Os went out and signed Fielder, Law would find a way to complain about it
He had a chance to get into baseball this year with the astros, but decided having to keep his opinions too himself would be just too much for his adoring public to handle

Anonymous said...

does keith law have people believing that he actually has seen all of the players on whom he decides to offer his opinion? I really cannot figure out why a guy who knows so much about everybody and how to run a ballclub couldn't make a zillion dollars running some ballclub instead of tweeting about 17 yr old korean pitchers and what teams do with their money.hey, he might even get a few movie offers.

Anonymous said...

keith law is worried about the Os pro scouting departmentand 550k? Note to Keith: The Os have won about 280 games in the last 4 years. they could have done that WITHOUT a pro scouting department.You really think that having fewer pro scouts is going to impact the Os all that much?Ummmm, when the players and the manager start griping, then i'll believe it. when the players start executing like actual major leaguers, they can get their pro scouts back.

Jon Shepherd said...

Keith hasn't seen the guy. He never claimed to have seen him. He is very well connected to people who have.

Seung said...

I have seen Kim Sungmin's pitch before. He is not valuable player. Many playr like him every year. He never throw speed of 90 MPH before, not even near 90 MPH.

Anonymous said...

@John, I figure until the Orioles show some progress here, criticism will continue and at an increasing rate...I must have missed any comment that Law might have made on the signing of Chen, his 19th rated FA...
I look at this signing as a simple move by Duquette to get the Os brand, if we want to call it that, into some of these markets where they have no presence. At the end of the day, relatively inexpensive move that may pay off in the long run in this kid or other future signees. I really don't see it as anything more than that.

Jon Shepherd said...

If the move is simply to get the Os brand out there...isn't it an expensive move? 550k buys you a lot of international talent.

That would constitute half of the 2010 IFA budget. Guessing here, but that amount will probably rank in the top 50 of IFA signing bonuses for this IFA season.

Money doesn't buy you a presence...it is a history in the area and people knowing you. If a team focuses on big money expenditures then they likely are paying a premium on players other, richer teams know as well.

Anonymous said...

how does the Os 2010 IFA expenditures rank with the rest of MLB? It seems as though Duquette is attempting a plunge rather than wading into the market, and wonder what he has already spent this year. Considering the team's reluctance to play(ignorance, apathy, disgust with the process) in the IFA market, perhaps the budget will increase. Why Duquette feels the need to overpay(that seems to be the case?) would be a question for him. The fact that the Os are doing anything at all in these markets is kind of refreshing.
I'd gladly look this stuff up, so if you have some links, i'd appreciate that.

Jon Shepherd said...


Jake said...

Love the Rashomon idea. Classic cinema at its finest. And it's totally apt in this setting, I'd agree - I'm sure everyone is sure of what they believe and the truth lies somewhere in the murky middle.