Don’t steal Dodgers money, Jang Hyun Suk… That’s how desperately needed a “second Park Chan-ho.”
The relationship between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Korean major leaguers goes back to 1994. The Dodgers, who fell in love with the possibility of Park Chan-ho on the international stage when he was a student at Hanyang University, threw a fastball.
In fact, among the Class of 1992 classmates who were called the ‘Golden Generation’, there were some pitchers with a higher level of perfection than Park Chan-ho right away. Compared to them, Park Chan-ho was close to a raw stone, the story of the officials who remember the time. However, the Dodgers believed that the possibility was greater than that of any of the 1992 Golden Generation classmates, and they were confident in polishing this gemstone. The Dodgers’ pioneering plan hit the mark. Park Chan-ho shared his heyday with the Dodgers, earning the modifier “Korean Express.”
Park, who made his major league debut in 1994, began his major league career in earnest in 1996, won 80 games in 221 games (176 starts) until 2001, and then left for Texas after qualifying as a free agent. He performed well with a 3.80 ERA. The ERA seems to be high at 3.80, but you can think of it as the “steroid era.” Park achieved double-digit wins for the fifth consecutive year from 1997 to 2001 with excellent durability to throw 200 innings.
The Dodgers have continued their relationship with Korea since then. Even though there are not many players recruited, East Asian scouts are constantly observing the amateur stage. Each major league club has different likes and dislikes for Asian players, but the Dodgers, which have already seen enough East Asian players, led by Park Chan-ho and Hideo Nomo, are known to be very favorable. And 29 years after scouting Park Chan-ho, the Dodgers have another Korean prospect in their arms.
Jang Hyun-suk , a right-hander who is scheduled to graduate from Yongma High School in Masan, is the main character. Jang Hyun-suk is a top prospect who was sure to be the No. 1 rookie draft this year. His heavy fastball with a maximum speed of 157km from a strong physique is excellent. You can throw several decisive balls here, and the command and game management are not bad. Of course, it has the so-called “ace temperament.” It is no exaggeration to say that he is a more sophisticated player than Park Chan-ho from 1992 to 1993. The Dodgers continued to chase Jang Hyun-seok, and when he announced a major league challenge, he stepped up and wore a uniform.
In the industry, there is a story that the Dodgers staged a tremendous speed battle and sold Jang Hyun-seok. International prospect contracts must be settled within the bonus pool. Depending on the penalty or bonus pool transaction, each club has a slightly different limit, but most teams have already exhausted it last winter and spring. So did the Dodgers. The Dodgers, which have less money to spend (4.144 million dollars) than other teams due to penalties, spent all their money by recruiting several players in the spring.
According to Ben Bendler’s calculations of ‘Baseball America’, the Dodgers had only $1,500 (about 2 million won) left in the 2023 international prospect recruitment bonus pool. It takes a lot of money to recruit Jang Hyun-seok, but it was next year that the limit was re-established. In the meantime, I didn’t know how things would change. Then the anxious Dodgers made a trick. They sent prospects Aldrin Batista and Maximo Martinez to the Chicago White Sox. Instead, it has been receiving international signing bonus pools.
Exactly how much the Dodgers received was not disclosed. But the White Sox were the only team in the league with more than $1 million left in the bonus pool. Considering that he gave Jang Hyun-seok 900,000 dollars as a down payment, the local media speculated that he secured about 900,000 dollars through this trade and poured it all into Jang Hyun-seok. The Dodgers were in a hurry with Jang Hyun-seok to the point of sacrificing two prospects. For other teams, it may have felt like getting hit in the back of the head.
It was a transaction that was possible because he was convinced of Jang Hyun-suk’s potential. After Andrew Friedman, the current president of the baseball division, joined the team, the Dodgers not only made large-scale expenditures suitable for the size and name of the team, but also focused on maintaining the farm system. As a result, the Dodgers farm, which was in the lower middle of the league before President Friedman, is currently evaluated as being in the upper middle level. The evaluation varies depending on the players added every year, the players who graduate, and the players who are traded, but it is often evaluated as a top-notch farm.
It is interpreted that he made a bold bet because he saw that Jang Hyun-seok could have sufficient competitiveness even in such a Dodgers farm. This is because right now, about 15-20% of the international contract bonus pool the Dodgers spent this year was spent on one Jang Hyun-seok. This amount of spending should be seen as possible because Jang Hyun-seok was convinced that he had the potential to debut in the major leagues.
It is still unknown when Jang Hyun-seok will be able to debut in the major leagues. He is an issue that can vary depending on the level of the farm within the team. The Dodgers have a lot of right-handers who have already debuted or are about to debut in the major leagues. According to Major League Pipeline’s Dodgers prospect rankings, there are seven right-handed pitchers in the top 15. However, most of their major league debuts are between 2024 and 2025, and it can be said that Jang Hyun-seok was chosen as a player who could succeed him.
Given the level of the Dodgers farm, it is not easy to get promoted quickly compared to other teams. In the end, everything now depends on Jang Hyun-seok himself. Fortunately, it is positive that the Dodgers will continue to pay attention and anticipation to him in the future, as he is a player who has made unconventional investments, even trading the bonus pool. At the minor league level, it is not for nothing that the saying ‘down payment is the official’ comes out. Attention is focusing on whether the ‘second Park Chan-ho’ will be born three years later.