“I think we need to come up with a new rookie draft strategy.” On August 1, when “the biggest fish” Jang Hyun-seok (Masan Yongmago) announced his entry into the U.S., a key official of a club sighed as if the ground was going to turn off. He didn’t miss the No. 1 big fish like Hanwha, so what was so frustrating.
Lee Chan-sol (Seoul High School), who previously signed with the Boston Red Sox, and Jang Hyun-seok have already lost two leading candidates in the first round, the official said. “If this happens, our club’s players will be out in front of the draft.” “Then we have to pick the players we thought were going to be nominated for the second round in the first round,” he said.
It’s not just this year’s draft problem. The official said, “Starting last year and this year, there are signs that amateur prospects’ ‘Exodus’ to the U.S. will begin.” “The outflow of promising players overseas is likely to worsen in the future,” he said.
Meaning of contracts under $1 million
In fact, Shim Joon-seok (Pittsburgh Pirates), who was considered the leading “No. 1” last year, chose to go to the U.S., and Um Hyung-chan (Kansas City Royals), who was known as the biggest fish in the first round, also boarded a flight to the U.S. early. This year, No. 1 Jang Hyun-seok and “Prime 1 Rounder” Lee Chan-sol left for the U.S. The previous official said, “After Ryu Hyun-jin (Toronto Blue Jays) entered the U.S. with a posting system and succeeded, amateur prospects seemed to prefer to advance to the KBO League rather than go straight to the U.S. In particular, it was rare for big fish players to go straight to the U.S., but the atmosphere has changed recently, he said. “I’m worried that it will be like the end of the 1990s when top players such as Park Chan-ho, Kim Byung-hyun, Seo Jae-eung, and Choi Hee-seop left for the U.S.”
Jang Hyun-suk’s down payment, which was unveiled by the LA Dodgers on August 9, totaled $900,000 (about 1.18 billion won). Lee Chan-sol, who announced the contract on July 25, signed a total of $300,000 (about 390 million won) with Boston. The condition is less than $1 million, which leads to the lower limit of the down payment for promising players’ overseas expansion.
Why ‘$1 million’ is the lower limit. A scout from a local club said, “It is a kind of insurance to minimize the risk of failure following the U.S. 메이저사이트 baseball challenge.” Scout Lee said, “In the past, the U.S. farm system was a method of ‘grazing’ numerous prospects around the world and selecting surviving players. “I had to join the club with a high down payment to receive even a little more attention, support, and opportunities from the club and coaching staff,” he said adding, “That’s why the saying ‘I have to get at least $1 million to advance to the U.S.’ was considered an established theory in Korean baseball.”
Realistic reasons also played a part. A baseball player said, “In the past, even if I received $1 million, I didn’t have much money after deducting agent fees and living expenses,” adding, “If I failed to enter the big league and was kicked out of the club, I have to return home empty-handed.” He cannot join the KBO League club for at least two years due to the “two-year grace period for returning to Korea for overseas players.” Even if you get nominated in the rookie draft, you don’t get a down payment. Considering these risks comprehensively, a market price of $1 million would have been formed,” he said.
In fact, Kim Byung-hyun (Arizona Diamondbacks, 2.25 million dollars), Ryu Je-guk (Chicago Cubs, 1.6 million dollars), Baek Cha-seung (Seattle Mariners, 1.4 million dollars), Choo Shin-soo (Seattle Mariners, 1.37 million dollars), Seo Jae-eung (New York Mets, 1.3 million dollars), Park Chan-ho (LA Dodgers, 1.2 million dollars), Choi Hee-seop (Chae).
On the other hand, Jang Hyun-seok’s announcement of $900,000 is much higher than the down payment (500 million won) received by the KBO rookie draft over the past two years, but it is close to a “loose price” by past standards. The same goes for Chansol Lee. According to multiple scouts, Lee Chan-sol was likely to be nominated in the 6th to 7th places in the first round when he participated in this year’s draft. The down payment given to the nominees 6th to 7th in the first round over the past two years is around 220 million won to 250 million won. The $300,000 that Lee Chan-sol receives in Boston is about 390 million won at the current exchange rate.
Minor Leaguer’s “Teary Bread” is an old saying
Then, why did Jang Hyun-seok and Lee Chan-sol, the “special prospects,” choose to challenge the U.S. for a “low price” of less than $1 million. One misunderstanding needs to be cleared up here. A baseball official familiar with the U.S. baseball situation stressed, “Jang Hyun-suk’s $900,000 is never a bargain contract,” and said, “It is an old story that the Maginot Line to advance to the U.S. is $1 million.” The value of the down payment has changed from the past. “Now, the Major League Baseball Secretariat has set a limit on the down payment of international prospects for each club and strictly manages it, making it difficult for a large contract worth more than $1 million as in the past,” he explained.
A scout from a Major League National League club also said, “Now, even if we receive only $500,000, we are at the top of international contracts.” $300,000 is never a small amount, he stressed. In fact, outfielder Cho Won-bin, who signed with the St. Louis Cardinals two years ago, is ranked third among international prospects in the team that he signed that year. An agency official said, “The recent rise in the value of the dollar is also something that cannot be ignored for players.”
“It should also be noted that the U.S. minor league life and training environment have improved significantly since this year,” he pointed out. The MLB secretariat and the players’ union signed a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in March, including improving the treatment of minor leaguers ahead of the opening of the regular season. The signing of the CBA, which is considered a “historic agreement,” has raised the salaries of minor league players by two to three times compared to the previous one, and will be able to receive medical and pension benefits.
The agent said, “The ‘Tear-soaked Bread’ that comes to mind when you think of the minor league is now a story that only appears in movies.” Now you don’t have to eat peanut butter bread and go around cheap motels. “Minor league players will also exercise while receiving a good diet, training environment, and residential facilities,” he said. Another agency official also said, “The treatment of minor leaguers has changed noticeably. “From the Rookie League stage, hotel food will be provided and interpreters will be obtained from the club,” he hinted.
The LA Dodgers, which recruited Jang Hyun-suk, are a team that boasts the best player development system in the U.S. baseball along with the New York Yankees. Choi Hyun-il, who is currently a minor team under the Dodgers, said, “The team has an exclusive chef who cooks with them. A container vehicle with a kitchen follows every away game. “There are hotels and homestays everywhere I go, so I don’t have to pay for accommodation,” he said. It is said that other team officials are surprised to see the bodies of Dodgers minor leaguers because they thoroughly manage their diet and nutrition. Boston, joined by Lee Chan-sol, is also the best prestigious club in the United States and boasts the best training environment and facilities.
There’s one more thing. Another important point is that the time it takes from minor leagues to debut in the big leagues has been greatly reduced. A scout from a major league club earlier said, “It takes less time for promising players to join the team than in the past to make their big league debut,” adding, “It is the effect of the minor league restructuring that took place after COVID-19.”
In the past, Major League Baseball clubs had at least seven minor league clubs, ranging from the Rookie League to Triple-A. However, as a major minor league reorganization took place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, most clubs now have only five minor league clubs. The rookie draft, which was an “unlimited nomination,” also has a 20 round limit from this year. The previous scout said, “In the past, there were many players in minor league teams that were hard to see as promising players. It was a system that existed to gain the experience of very few promising players, he said. “Now that the minor league structure has been slim, only valuable prospects who are really likely to advance to the big leagues are carefully gathered and systematically fostered from building a body to putting in the actual game.”
For this reason, many people skip the Triple-A stage and make their major league debut immediately. Jang Hyun-seok is said to be able to make his big league debut as early as 2025 among major league scouts. If the world’s best players are provided with the best facilities and accommodation, scientific and systematic training, and even make their big league debut in a short period of time, it is a good reason for players to be attracted to the U.S. This is why more and more players are expected to choose to challenge the U.S. for “low price” contracts based on the past.
deeply distrusted of the leader
The succession of promising players to the U.S. is a major negative factor for Korean clubs, which are suffering from a lack of players. A club official said, “Not long ago, at a presidential meeting, a club proposed to “reduce the eligibility for posting from seven years to six years” but withdrew it due to opposition from other clubs.”
Of course, improving the system that allows overseas expansion a year earlier cannot be a fundamental solution. The biggest problem is that the KBO League from the perspective of promising baseball players is not very attractive compared to the U.S. Major League. The down payment for the first round of the KBO Rookie Draft has been “frozen” at the level of 200 million won to 500 million won for more than 10 years. Even if it is more advanced than in the past, the KBO League’s training environment, system, and leaders’ skills do not reach the level of U.S. baseball. A student player’s parents confessed, “There is a deep distrust of the ability of domestic clubs to foster players and the coaching staff’s guidance method.”
The “SSG 2nd Division Team Violence,” which broke out in July, showed the current status of Korean baseball, which is only professional in pattern and still has old-fashioned practices. The parents earlier complained, “Professional baseball, which is monitored by many media and fans, is at that point, so why not amateur baseball in the blind spot of surveillance?” The “MZ Generation” players prefer a U.S. baseball culture that respects individual individuality and autonomy to the KBO League, where rigid senior and junior culture and “kondae” leaders remain. There is a clear limit to the method of filling shackles such as the “two-year grace clause” to prevent entry into the U.S. Rather, efforts to create an “attractive” league for baseball prospects come first.