Hae-In Lee (follow @heynlee7164) is a former translator for mlbkor.com (mlb.com’s Korean page). Lee resides in Seoul, South Korea, and is an avid baseball and Blue Jays fan. He currently runs his own blog about the Toronto Blue Jays and joins us to share a unique, overseas perspective.
Oct 14, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) reacts after hitting a three run home run during the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers in game five of the ALDS at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
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What sparked your interest in the Toronto Blue Jays?
I’m a fan of the LG Twins in the KBO and this team is notorious for lacking home run power. I searched for an MLB team with power in their lineup and a friend recommended the Blue Jays and specifically Jose Bautista. At that time, Edwin Encarnacion was in the midst of one of his crazy months of May and the team’s captivating style of play immediately made me a fan! This shows how important it is for an organization to have superstars that can grow a fanbase.
What is your take on the Blue Jays offseason? Being a fan in Korea, would there be a different perspective compared to Canadian Blue Jays fans?
I think the mind of a fan is the same anywhere. You hope that the team keeps franchise stars and also strengthens the roster. However, as fans, we should also try and understand the decision of the front office. It’s sad to lose Encarnacion, but I think the front office did well to use the given payroll efficiently.
Oct 7, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (2) rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the Texas Rangers during the second inning of game two of the 2016 ALDS playoff baseball series at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
As KBO stars are starting to gain respect from MLB organizations, do you see any current KBO players that should interest the Blue Jays?
I believe that the current generation of KBO superstars have all already taken their talents to the MLB. This, however, doesn’t mean the KBO is completely depleted of baseball talent. One name to watch out for is Ha-Seong Kim, a young shortstop who is set to play in the upcoming WBC. As a rookie in 2016, his slash line was .281/.359/.477 (20 HR, 28 SB) and I think the Blue Jays would be wise to monitor his development and consider him a possible candidate to replace Troy Tulowitzki.
In your opinion, why haven’t the Blue Jays pursued KBO talent (hitters)?
KBO talent is extremely hard to analyze. Projecting how stats in another league would translate into the MLB is essentially impossible and even more so with the KBO, as it has recently become an extreme hitter-friendly league. I think the Blue Jays didn’t want to invest in a resource with so much uncertainty especially since their lineup was already one of the best in the league.
September 6, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu (99) pitches the fifth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
What has kept the Blue Jays from investing in KBO pitchers?
Many Korean pitchers don’t (or can’t) throw high velocity fastballs, which seems to be the trend in MLB today. Instead, the pitchers of the KBO thrive off of breaking balls and this creates potential for arm injury. Also, the arm management of pitchers in Asia is terrible compared to North America. Pitchers often throw 125-150 pitches per game when they are still very young and this leads to the frequent injuries of Asian pitchers that you see today with stars like Yu Darvish and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Again, the Blue Jays might have been uncomfortable with investing in a unknown risk even if it could later on prove to be a valuable gamble.