Chan Ho Park, the first South Korean to play in the major leagues, ended his 17-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010. The Pirates hope their newest player from that country can have as successful of a career.
The Pirates agreed to terms with Jun-Seok Shim, a pitcher generally regarded as the top amateur prospect in South Korea, on Sunday as Major League Baseball’s international amateur free agent signing period began.
The right-hander is ranked as the 10th-best international prospect, according to MLB.com. Shim was not among Baseball America’s top 40, though that publication limited its list to players in Latin America.
The Pirates also signed outfielder Raymond Mola from the Dominican Republic. He was No. 26 on MLB.com’s list. In all, the Pirates signed 22 players from eight different countries.
The 6-foot-4 Shim has a fastball that reaches 100 mph and usually sits in the 94-96 range. He also throws a big-breaking curveball along with a slider and changeup that are still in the developmental stages.
“He has the traits to be developed as a potential middle- to top-of-the-rotation type pitcher but has the power, aggressiveness and makeup to be a shutdown, end-of-game type pitcher,” Pirates director of international scouting Junior Vizcaino said. “He has a plus fastball and is continuing to develop his secondary pitches.”
Jun-Seok Shim has drawn comparisons to Park, a right-hander who won 75 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers over a five-year span from 1997-2001.
Park had a 124-98 record with two saves and a 4.36 ERA with the Dodgers (1994-2001), Texas Rangers (2002-05), San Diego Padres (2005-06), New York Mets (2007), Los Angeles Dodgers (2008), Philadelphia Phillies (2009), New York Yankees (2010) and Pirates (2010).
“Jun Seok has been on our radar for a few years, and we are fortunate with the opportunity to bring him into the organization,” Pirates assistant director of player personnel Max Kwan said. “He has quality power traits coupled with a strong ability to spin the ball. We are really excited to collaborate with Jun Seok on his development to the big leagues.”
Shim will officially sign his contract later this month in a ceremony at PNC Park.
Mola is considered to have above-average power potential while also showing a penchant to hit the ball to all fields. He is said to be an average fielder, who will likely be limited to one of the outfield corners, and a below-average runner.
“He is an aggressive hitter who can drive the baseball to both gaps and turn on the baseball with power,” Vizcaino said. “He has an aggressive approach to his defensive play and on the bases.”
One of the most interesting signees is David Matoma, a right-hander from Uganda.
No Ugandans have ever played in the major leagues. Infielder Gift Ngoepe became the first African to reach the big leagues when he made his debut with the Pirates in 2017.
“The fastball is a potential power type that already reaches the mid-90’s,” Vizcaino said of Matoma. “His secondary pitches are developing, and his frame needs to get stronger, but David has the natural tools to develop into a solid professional pitcher.”
Here is the complete list of the Pirates’ international amateur free-agent signings:
- Jun-Seok Sim, RHP, Seongman, South Korea
- Nicolas Carreno LHP, Barcelona, Venezuela
- Carlos Castillo RHP, Las Mercedes, Venezuela
- Ronal Gomez LHP, Jamundi, Colombia
- Janderson Linares LHP, San Felipe, Venezuela
- David Matoma RHP, Luwero, Uganda
- Angel Perez C, Barquisimeto, Venezuela
- Jonathan Rivero C, Los Teques, Venezuela
- Miguel Rodriguez CF, Caracas, Venezuela
- Joenelly Van Der Linden SS, Sta Cruz, Aruba
- Andres Villafane CF, Cartagena, Colombia
- Gimenez Yosmar SS, Ocumare, Venezuela
- Joseph Sequera C, Reynosa, Mexico
- Angel Aquino OF, Dominican Republic
- Keury Almonte LHP, Bonao, Dominican Republic
- Dariel Francia RHP, Villa Altagracia, Dominican Republic
- Cristian Jauregui OF, Cienfuegos, Cuba
- Dioris Martinez RHP, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
- Carlos Mateo RHP, San Jose de Acoa, Dominican Republic
- Raymond Mola RF, Peravia, Dominican Republic
- Bladimir Pichardo RHP, Montecristi, Dominican Republic
- Antonio Pimentel SS, Samana, Dominican Republic