PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – As the discrepancy in team salaries grows in Major League Baseball, the Pirates are banking on days like Thursday are ways they will separate themselves from the other organizations.
The Bucs announced the signing of the second-ranked pitcher in the international pool, 18-year-old South Korean Jun-Soek Shim. The Bucs have signed two of the top 26 (ranked by MLB.com) internationally this year and four of the top 12 over the last three seasons.
“We have to be great at it,” said Pirates General Manager Ben Cherington. “Every market is different and we know that typically you are signing players in international that are younger and further away. There is risk associated with that. Relative to our competitors, over time, we have to be getting more players.”
Cherington said the processes with these players take time, they first learned of Shim years ago. After they sign these players, then it’s developing these teenagers. They likely spend the next few months to years at their academy in the Dominican Republic. That’s where Cherington believes the money spent and resources available really pays dividends.
“We have to be operating at the upper end of the industry in terms of the overall talent we are getting internationally,” Cherington said. “Because of the risk we are not going to hit on every player, we know that. Over time we have to be getting more talent out of that market than our competitors.”
“We are looking to find ways to improve on that every day. I feel confident we will not leave a stone unturned in trying to do that. It’s critically important part of the operation.”
The right-handed Shim’s last two seasons in South Korea cut short by injuries-one a big toe and the other an elbow injury. This past season he did not allow an earned run in 14.1 innings pitched. Shim said Thursday he’s not worried about his health, he’s been cleared by doctors and really what set the Pirates apart from other teams looking to sign him was the Bucs master plan to get him to the majors-training and usage a big part of that.
According to MLB.com, Shim’s fastball hits 100 mph and averages 94-96. He has a plus curveball and shows good command with clean arm action and athleticism. He’s ranked as the 10th overall international prospect.
“He throws really hard,” said Pirates Director of International Scouting Junior Vizcaino. “The action of the baseball when he throws it. When it comes across the plate, some people call it ‘hop’, some people say he has the ability to make it look like its rising. Also, his composure, we saw him pitch in tough situations and the way he handled himself on the mound was really impressive. Plus, his ability to throw the ball really hard and spin the baseball.”
“It’s been my dream to play in the United States and I wanted to pursue my dream to play here,” Shim said through an interpreter.
“I’m really excited to be here.”
He will spend some time at the Pirates facility Dominican Republic and in also in Bradenton. Then they will start his process of training and will likely pitch in the complex league in Florida this season.
“It’s exciting, I started hearing about him a year-and-a-half ago,” Cherington said. “We benefit from having an international group that’s really well spread throughout the world. We have good people and infrastructure really in every place baseball is played. That gives us an opportunity to have a chance at a pitcher like Shim or a player in the DR. We don’t have to put all of our bets into one country. It increases our options.”
Bucs also signed 17-year-old outfielder Raymond Mola from the Dominican Republic earlier in the month. MLB.com ranks the right-handed hitter and thrower as the 26th best international prospect with the projection to be an everyday corner outfielder. MLB.com scouts were impressed with his makeup.