22 January 2012

Cup of jO's: Pita Rona and Kim Sung-min

As many have noted, two of the players the Orioles have signed this week are 17 and hail from New Zealand and South Korea.  I know next to nothing about these players, but have been asked repeatedly about them.  What I know about Rona is that he is an athletic softball player who played in the infield and needs help in refining his baseball mechanics.  Sung-min is a left handed pitcher who was mentioned in a Korean paper as being a top notch prospect.

What does this all mean?

I don't really know.

The odds are long against Rona.  No Kiwi has ever made the climb to play in the majors.  Australia has been able to punch in a baseball player into the bigs on almost a yearly basis, but no one from New Zealand has had the honor.  Toronto's Scott Richmond is often mentioned as the sole citizen of New Zealand to play in the Majors, which he is through his father who was born in Aukland.  Richmond, as best as I can tell, was born and lived most of his life in British Columbia.  In BC, they actually have advanced amateur baseball.  In NZ, softball is the most dominant stick and ball game.  It is pretty difficult to take mechanics learned from softball and seamlessly transition to baseball.

I'd have to say the best baseball prospect New Zealand has yielded has been Scott Campbell.  He was an infielder in the Blue Jays' system.  His calling card was a solid average and strong plate discipline.  However, he tore his groin in 2009 and chose to rehab the injury.  It did not get better, so he had surgery to repair his hip labrum and missed all of 2010.  The next Spring Training, the hip was still an issue.  Further review found that his femur was oddly shaped and would continually tear at his labrum, so he had another surgery and missed all of 2011.  The Jays are hoping that they can bring him along at 3B and see what he can do.

The Red Sox have been particularly active in New Zealand, signing brothers Mona and Boss Moanaroa in 2008 and Te Wara Bishop in 2011.  Mona Moanaroa took three years to emerge from rookie ball, but looked decent in short season A ball if you solely look at the numbers.  He displays good discipline and power.  Boss, on the other hand, appears to be a bit of a free swinger.  I think Bishop was still in the academy last year.  I think a major problem for many of these players acclimating to baseball is probably their swing.  A severe uppercut swing that works in softball does not work well in baseball because the bat moves too quickly through the zone.  The limits the amount of contact that can be produced.

South Korea, on the other hand, is a nation that has produced several baseball players.  However, if the Orioles did in fact sign the best amateur in South Korea...it may not exactly mean much.  There are years where the talent out of Korea is very good and years where it is not.  I think if we compare these nations to the talent produced by states in the United States.  I would compare South Korea to Rhode Island and New Zealand to maybe Wyoming.  That said, the populations of South Korea and New Zealand are greater than those respective states, meaning that the potential to find talent is greater than those states.  The problem is often having the proper infrastructure and instruction in place to develop players who will succeed in the American game.

So, to answer your question about what does it mean that the O's have sign Pita Rona and Kim Sung-min?

I am not really sure.


Anonymous said...

Rona's also been playing baseball on the side.

Did you notice that we've also signed a pitcher out of Brazil?

The odds are long, but look at Dennis Martinez, the first baseball player out of Nicaragua. (And there haven't been many since.) Somebody's got to be first.

Anonymous said...

Somebody got to be the first!

In 1985, Fred Ferreira, a former NY Yankees scout had signed a player from Curacao, Hensley'Bam Bam' Meulens. Bam Bam Meulens became the first player from Curacao to play in the big leagues. And then, the rest is history.

Seung said...

I am South Korean baseball fan of O's and have many excitement for strong 2012 O's team.

Unfortunately, I know of Sungmin Kim High Scool pitcher in Korea as I am frequent fan of High School league in Korea. O's signing this lefty is too confusing, as he is not top talent here. Sungmin Kim's fastball is somewhat poor usually only 81 MPH not a lot of strikeout. He is not tall.

Jon Shepherd said...

Interesting...I have not seen him pitch or know much about him, but if he works in the low 80s then the Orioles must be projecting him pretty far with respect to him improving upon his current numbers.

Anonymous said...

lol Duquete/Pontevit tandem pullin another fishy Korean deal. they were famous for this when they were together in boston.

Anonymous said...

This link lists Kim Sung-Min at 179cm (just a shade under 5'11), and his fastball at 144 km (89 mph). (I know it's all in Korean, but look at the second paragraph and then go to freetranslation.com). Not sure what the truth is but if we really did shell out half a million for him, those numbers make more sense than 5'9 and 81mph.


Anonymous said...

Rumors are we signed a Brazilian player, Rafael Moreno. Any confirmation on that. Does anyon ehave any info?

Jon Shepherd said...

Follow me on Twitter @CamdenDepot . . . yeah, it happened. Little info on him.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we got it! The O's have signed from Guatemala, Andres Aguilar, a 5-foot-11, speedy centerfielder. The next station wil be.........