Former MLB Players to Watch in the KBO

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The MLB opening day may remain unclear. However, the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) season begins on May 5th, with games starting at one in the morning Eastern Standard Time. For those like myself that are desperately in need of baseball, this could be an intriguing option. With at least three former MLB players on each KBO team, here are the former MLB players fans can watch. 

Doosan Bears:

Raul Alcantara, RHP

MLB Stats: 2 seasons, 46.1 IP, 7.19 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 2-5 Record

Raul Alcantara broke into the big leagues with the Oakland Athletics in 2016 as a starting pitcher. However, he was never able to find success at the Major League level. Alcantara last pitched for the A’s in 2017, where he continued to struggle both as a starter and reliever. After electing free agency following a 2018 season where he did not reach the majors, Alcantara joined the KBO.  

Chris Flexen, RHP

MLB Stats: 3 seasons, 68.0 IP, 8.07 ERA, 2.13 WHIP, 3-11 Record

Chris Flexen initially broke into MLB back in 2017 with the New York Mets as a starting pitcher. After he struggled, the team moved him to the bullpen, where he continued to get rocked by opposing hitters. Walks were the critical issue for Flexen as he issued a whopping 7.1 walks, compared to only 6.5 strikeouts, per nine innings during his career. He last pitched for the Mets in August of 2019, before he was designated for assignment.   

Jose Miguel Fernandez, 1B

MLB Stats: 1 season, .267/.308/.366 splits, .697 OPS, 2 Home Runs, 11 RBIs

No, this is not the former Miami Marlins pitcher who died in a boating accident. This is Jose Miguel Fernandez, the former Los Angeles Angels first baseman. Fernandez played just one season at the major league level back in 2018, where he briefly filled in for Albert Pujols, who was injured. However, after that one year, he got DFA’d, and signed with the Bears in the KBO.  

Hanwha Eagles:

Warwick Saupold, RHP

MLB Stats: 3 seasons, 106.2 IP, 4.98 ERA, 1.58 WHIPS, 8-4 Record

Out of everyone on the list so far, Warwick Saupold is the one who had the most success at the MLB level. A career reliever, Saupold first broke into the bigs with the Tigers back in 2016. He would go on to play three MLB seasons, all with Detroit, before getting DFA’d in July of 2018. In November of 2018, Saupold joined the KBO, where he pitched well in 2019.  

Jared Hoying, OF

MLB Stats: 2 seasons, .220/.262/.288 splits, .550 OPS, 1 Home Run, 12 RBIs

Jared Hoying first got called up to MLB back in May of 2016 with the Texas Rangers. Hoying spent two seasons with Texas, where he struggled, primarily being used as a pinch hitter. He would elect free agency after the 2017 season to sign with the Hanwha Eagles of the KBO. 

Chad Bell, LHP

MLB Stats: 2 seasons, 69.2 IP, 7.11 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, 0-4 Record

Chad Bell and Warwick Saupold were teammates back with the Tigers as well. Bell made his MLB debut with Detroit in 2017, where he started his career by pitching 7.2 innings without giving up a run. However, it all went downhill from there, and he was out of the league after the 2018 season. Bell pitched well last season for the Eagles and is hoping that success will carry over in 2020. 

Kia Tigers:

Preston Tucker, OF

MLB Stats: 3 seasons, .222/.281/.403 splits, .684 OPS, 23 Home Runs, 68 RBIs

When he first broke into the MLB back in 2015 with the Astros, Preston Tucker was able to make an immediate impact. During that rookie season, he hit a career-high 13 home runs, along with 33 RBIs. However, he was never able to replicate that success. After a terrible 2016 season, Tucker did not play in 2017. In 2018, he had stints with both the Braves and Reds, but was out of the league following that season.   

Aaron Brooks, RHP

MLB Stats: 4 seasons, 170.2 IP, 6.49 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 9-13 Record

Aaron Brooks first broke into the MLB back in 2014 with the Kansas City Royals, where he allowed 13 earned runs in 2.2 innings that year. After struggling in 2015, and spending 2016 and 2017 in the minors, Brooks signed with the Oakland Athletics in 2018. Brooks last pitched for the Baltimore Orioles last season, where he had a 4-5 record with a 6.18 ERA in 14 appearances.  

Drew Gagnon, RHP

MLB Stats: 2 seasons, 35.2 IP, 7.32 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, 5-2 Record

Like Chris Flexen of the Doosan Bears, Drew Gagnon spent two seasons with the New York Mets as a bad relief pitcher. Gagnon was ineffective in 2019, allowing 22 earned runs in just 23.2 innings of work. He was DFA’d by the team at the end of last season, and signed with the KBO in December. 

Kiwoom Heroes:

Taylor Motter, Utility

MLB Stats: 3 seasons, .191/.263/.312 splits, .575 OPS, 10 Home Runs, 37 RBIs

Motter first cracked the big leagues with the Tampa Bay Rays during the 2016 season. In three MLB seasons, Motter played every position on the infield and in the outfield, but didn’t bring much to the plate as a hitter. His last MLB stint came with the Minnesota Twins in 2018, before he signed in the KBO.  

ByungHo Park, 1B

MLB Stats: 1 season, .191/.275/.409 splits, 684 OPS, 12 Home Runs, 24 RBIs

A long-time standout in the KBO, ByungHo Park was given a chance to play in the MLB by the Minnesota Twins back in 2016. Park battled injuries and never made much of an impact in the MLB. He underperformed, and the team gave up on him after just one season.   

Jake Brigham, RHP

MLB Stats: 1 season, 16.2 IP, 8.64 ERA, 2.17 WHIP, 0-1 Record

If you remembered Jake Brigham, and aren’t either a Braves fan or member of his immediate family, then congratulations to you on being a baseball expert. In 16.2 innings with Atlanta back in 2015, Brigham was quite ineffective out of the pen. He never got another chance at the MLB level after that year.   

Eric Jokisch, LHP

MLB Stats: 1 season, 14.1 IP, 1.88 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 0-0 Record

Eric Jokisch got called up by the Cubs during the September roster expansion back in 2014. Despite pitching well, allowing only three runs in 14.1 innings, Jokisch never got another chance at the MLB level.  

KT Wiz:

Odrisamer Despaigne, RHP

MLB Stats: 6 seasons, 363.0 IP, 5.11 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 13-26 Record

When Odrisamer Despaigne first broke into the MLB back in 2014 with the San Diego Padres, he was able to make an immediate impact. During his rookie campaign, Despaigne posted a 3.36 ERA in 16 starts, while allowing just six home runs in 96.1 innings. However, he was never able to replicate the success he had that year. After rough stints with the Orioles, Marlins, Angels, and White Sox, Despaigne is hoping to revamp his career in the KBO.   

William Cuevas, RHP

MLB Stats: 3 seasons, 22.1 IP, 8.06 ERA, 2.02 WHIP, 0-3 Record

Cuevas got called up by the Red Sox towards the end of the 2016 season, where he allowed two runs in five innings of work. After making one appearance with Detroit in 2017, Cuevas re-joined the Red Sox in 2018, where he struggled in 17.0 innings pitched. He pitched well for the KT Wiz in 2019 and is hoping to replicate that success in 2020.   

Jae-Gyun Hwang, 3B

MLB Stats: 1 season, .154/.228/.231 Splits, .459 OPS, 1 Home Run, 5 RBIs

After ten seasons in the KBO, Jae-Gyun Hwang got the chance to play in the MLB with the Giants in 2017. Hwang hit a home run in his first MLB game but completely fell off after that moment. He provided next to nothing the rest of that year and got DFA’d by the Giants after one season.  

LG Twins:

Hyun-Soo Kim, OF 

MLB Stats: 2 seasons, .273/.351/.368 splits, .719 OPS, 7 Home Runs, 36 RBIs

After earning a two year, seven million dollar contract with the Orioles prior to the 2016 season, Hyun-Soo Kim’s career got off to a rough start. Kim refused a minor league assignment, which earned him a spot on the opening day roster, and fans booed him on opening day. After a decent 2016 campaign, Kim struggled in 2017 before being traded to the Phillies. Following the 2017 season, Kim re-joined the KBO, where his career had begun.   

Tyler Wilson, RHP

MLB Stats: 3 seasons, 145.1 IP, 5.02 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 8-10 Record

Tyler Wilson broke into the bigs in 2015 with the Baltimore Orioles, where he spent all three seasons of his career. Wilson’s best season was that rookie year, where he had a 3.50 ERA in 36.0 innings of work. Wilson struggled the next two seasons before he was DFA’d by the team in September of 2017. Wilson has spent the last two seasons in the KBO.   

Casey Kelly, RHP

MLB Stats: 4 seasons, 85.2 IP, 5.46 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 2-5 Record

Casey Kelly first made the majors back in 2012 at age 22 with the San Diego Padres. The most notable part of Kelly’s career was being traded along with Anthony Rizzo from the Red Sox to the Padres in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, Kelly missed the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He last pitched in the MLB with the Giants back in 2018.  

Lotte Giants

Dan Straily, RHP

MLB Stats: 8 seasons, 803.1 IP, 4.56 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 44-40 Record

Out of everyone on this list, Dan Straily is easily the most notable player. After a brief stint with the Oakland Athletics in 2012, Straily placed fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting with Oakland in 2013. In total, Straily pitched for six different ball clubs. His best season came in 2016, when he posted a 3.76 ERA for a 14-8 record in 31 starts, despiting allowing an MLB-leading 31 home runs. He last appeared in the MLB with the Orioles last season.    

Dae-Ho Lee, 1B

MLB Stats: 1 season, .253/.312/.428, .740 OPS splits, 14 Home Runs, 49 RBIs

Like the other Korean-born players on this list, Dae-Ho Lee had success in the KBO, before getting signed by an MLB team. Lee had a solid year in 2016 at age 34 for the Mariners, before returning to the KBO. Lee has been one of the best players in this league over the last 15 years, highlighted by an MVP award in 2010.   

Dixon Machado, INF

MLB Stats: 4 seasons, .227/.285/.295 splits, .579 OPS 2 Home Runs, 37 RBIs

Dixon Machado spent four seasons with the Tigers from 2015-2018, primarily as a backup. His best year was 2017, where he hit .250, with one home run and 11 RBIs. After playing in the Cubs minor league system last year, Machado signed in the KBO.   

Adrian Sampson, RHP

MLB Stats: 3 seasons, 153.0 IP, 5.71 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 6-12 Record

Adrian Sampson first broke into the bigs back in 2016 with the Mariners. After spending 2017 recovering from injury, Sampson returned to the majors with the Rangers in September of 2018. Sampson struggled in 2019, posting a 5.89 ERA in 15 starts and 35 appearances for Texas last season. 

NC Dinos:

Aaron Altherr, OF

MLB Stats: 6 seasons, .219/.307/.401 splits, .708 OPS, 37 Home Runs, 150 RBIs

Phillies fans like myself are guaranteed to remember Aaron Altherr. After a strong second half to the 2015 season, many fans believed Altherr could be the Phillies’ starting center fielder of the future. Altherr had a good season in 2017, hitting 19 home runs, with an OPS of .856. However, it all went down from there, and he was DFA’d by the team in May of 2019. He also played for the Giants and Mets last season. Out of every hitter on this list, Altherr arguably has the most impressive résumé.   

Mike Wright, RHP

MLB Stats: 5 years, 258.0 IP, 6.00 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 10-12 Record

Mike Wright first cracked the major leagues back in 2015 with the Baltimore Orioles. He was never able to find much success at the MLB level. After four seasons with Baltimore, Wright appeared in nine games for the Mariners last season. At the end of the 2019 season, Wright elected free agency, allowing him to join the KBO. 

Drew Rucinski, RHP

MLB Stats: 4 seasons, 54.0 IP, 5.33 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 4-4 Record

Forgot about Drew Rucinski? We don’t blame you! Rucinski first made it to the majors back in 2014, where he appeared in three games for Angels. Rucinski then made four appearances for the Angels in 2015, and two appearances for the Twins in 2017. His best season was also his final MLB season in 2018, where he carried a 4.33 ERA in 32 appearances for the Marlins. 

Samsung Lions:

Seunghwan Oh, RHP

MLB Stats: 4 seasons, 225.2 IP, 3.31 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 16-13 Record

Out of everyone on this list, Seunghwan Oh definitely had the best individual season. During his age 33 rookie season with the Cardinals in 2016, Oh was one of the best relief pitchers in MLB, recording a 1.92 ERA, and 19 saves in 79.2 innings of work. However, 2019 was a disaster for him. Playing with the Colorado Rockies, Oh posted a 9.33 ERA in 18.1 innings of work, before undergoing surgery and getting released. At age 37, Oh decided to return to the KBO for 2020.   

Tyler Saladino, Utility 

MLB Stats: 5 seasons, .226/.278/.330 splits, .608 OPS, 19 Home Runs, 92 RBIs

The former Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewer’s utilityman, Tyler Saladino never made a significant impact at the MLB level. His best season came in 2016, when he hit eight home runs while batting .282 with a .725 OPS. After hitting just .123 in 65 at-bats for the Brewers in 2019, Saladino was non-tendered by the team, allowing him to join the KBO.   

David Buchanan, RHP

MLB Stats: 2 seasons, 192.1 IP, 5.01 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 8-17 Record

David Buchanan broke into the bigs back in 2014 with the Phillies, where he pitched very well. During his rookie campaign, Buchanan posted a 3.75 ERA in 20 starts, giving the Phillies some hope for the future. However, he completely fell off the map in 2015, as his ERA and WHIP ballooned. After spending the last three seasons in the Nippon Professional Baseball League of Japan, Buchanan joins the KBO for 2020. 

Ben Lively, RHP

MLB Stats: 3 seasons, 120.0 IP, 4.80 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 4-10 Record

Very much like Buchanan, Lively got called up by the Phillies in 2017 and initially gave the team hope for the future. In 15 starts in 2017, Lively posted a 4.26 ERA on a team with horrible pitching outside of Aaron Nola. After struggling in 2018, he was DFA’d by the team, and he signed with the Royals. After making one appearance with Kansas City last year, Lively will be joining the KBO for 2020.  

SK Wyverns:

Nick Kingham, RHP

MLB Stats: 2 seasons, 131.2 IP, 6.08 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 9-9 Record

Nick Kingham made his major league debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018. After a lackluster season, Kingham was atrocious at the start of last season, leading to his being designated for assignment. After signing with Toronto, Kingham pitched well, posting a 3.00 ERA in 21.0 innings of work. However, that wasn’t enough to get him a spot on a roster for 2020, and he signed with the KBO.   

Ricardo Pinto, RHP

MLB Stats: 2 seasons, 32.0 IP, 8.44 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 1-2 Record

As a die-hard Phillies fan, even I forgot about this former Philadelphia pitcher. Pinto struggled in 29.2 innings of work for Philly in 2017, posting a 7.89 ERA, and allowing seven home runs. He made two appearances for the Rays in 2019, before joining the KBO in November for the 2020 season.   

Jamie Romak, 1B

MLB Stats: 2 seasons, .167/.231/.250 splits, .481 OPS, 0 Home Runs, 4 RBIs

Out of everyone on this list, Jamie Romak arguably had the least notable career. In two seasons from 2014 to 2015, with the Padres and Diamondbacks, Romak logged all of 39 plate appearances. But hey, that’s 39 more plate appearances than I’ll ever have!   

It should be exciting to get live baseball back when the KBO league starts on May fifth!

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