With many hardcore fans (myself included) finding themselves starved for baseball, here’s a list of former MLB players to watch for in the KBO.
One place that many fans have turned to is watching baseball leagues playing fanless scrimmages and games around China and Korea.
While the Chinese Professional Baseball League has little crossover in terms of ex-patriate MLB talent and in terms of sending players back to the Show, the Korea Baseball Organization has had plenty of crossover success, especially within the last decade. Hyun-Jin Ryu, who won the MVP and Rookie of the Year in the KBO at 19 years old, has had major success in the MLB, but it’s not only Korean-born stars of the KBO that make it to America.
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After stellar stints in the KBO, Eric Thames, Merill Kelly, and recently Josh Lindblom all signed major league contracts, a trend that should only continue to grow based on the increasing popularity of the game in South Korea and the revenue their game brings in. Thames, Lindblom, and Kelly all made upwards of $1 million in their time in Korea, helping them relaunch their MLB dreams.
Of course, not all MLB ex-pats find success and a return to the MLB following their time in the KBO. Phillip Humber, a former pitcher for the Chicago White Sox and famously pitched a perfect game on April 12, 2012, compiled an ERA over 6.00 in his single season in the KBO with the Kia Tigers, starting 11 games and allowing 11 home runs. Nyjer Morgan, Luke Scott, James Loney, Scott Van Slyke, and other notable MLB contributors also have found the KBO to be challenging, and not an easy walk-in-the-park to boost statistics and regain traction in a quest to return to the MLB.
With all of that being said, ESPN reports that the KBO is planning on bringing games back in early May, which is likely more than the MLB can say about its own schedule. Because of this, I wanted to take some time and run through some of the biggest names from the KBO that you have seen in the Major Leagues recently. Though many of these players were all peripheral when they left America to play overseas, keep in mind that there is an obvious path to return to the MLB after success in the KBO, as the players listed above all demonstrate.