Big leaguers expected to join KBO stars for S. Korea at World Baseball Classic


A handful of current and former big leaguers should join domestic league stars when South Korea announces its roster for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) this week.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) is scheduled to unveil the national team roster for the March 8-21 tournament on Wednesday. As of Tuesday morning, however, it hadn’t been determined whether national team manager Lee Kang-chul will announce the 35-man provisional roster or the 30-man final roster on Wednesday, well ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline. 안전놀이터

Lee and his staff currently have a 50-man “interest list” with which to work, but they can also pick players not currently on that list for the final roster.

The 30-man squad must include at least 14 pitches and two catchers, and Lee has already stated that he will select 14 pitchers, three catchers and 13 position players.

There are some no-brainer choices from the 50-man list. From the KBO, three former major leaguers made the interest list: SSG Landers pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun, Kia Tigers pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong and LG Twins outfielder Kim Hyun-soo.

Current major leaguers from South Korea on the 50-man list are Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Choi Ji-man, San Diego Padres infielder Kim Ha-seong, and former Pirates infielder Park Hoy-jun, who has been traded twice and designated for assignment three times this offseason and currently remains without a team.

One potential future big leaguer in the mix is Kiwoom Heroes outfielder Lee Jung-hoo, the 2022 KBO regular season MVP who will be posted for MLB clubs after the 2023 season.

The WBC also allows players to compete for countries of their parents’ birth, even if the players themselves weren’t born there. For the first time in its WBC history, South Korea could take one such player in Tommy Edman, the 2021 National League (NL) Gold Glove winner at second base for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Edman was born in Michigan to an American father and a Korean mother. He will offer excellent glove and positional versatility — he split most of his time last season at second base and shortstop, while also appearing at third base, right field and center field. Over the past two seasons, Edman has stolen an NL-best 62 bases and got caught just eight times.

Boston Red Sox outfielder Rob Refsnyder, also on the 50-man interest list, was born in South Korea but was adopted by an American family as a baby. In 2022, his first season with the Red Sox, the 31-year-old veteran of six major league teams had a solid .881 on-base plus slugging (OPS) in 57 games. He has played all three outfield positions over his major league career.

South Korea should be fairly strong up the middle. Doosan Bears backstop Yang Eui-ji, a perennial MVP candidate in the KBO, has long been considered the most complete catcher in the South Korean league, combining great game-calling abilities with excellent hitting. Two major leaguers could form an effective double play duo, with Edman and Kim Ha-seong, the 2022 NL Gold Glove finalist at shortstop, able to play both second base and shortstop. The starting center fielder, barring any catastrophic injury, will be Lee Jung-hoo.

And even if Refsnyder doesn’t commit to the WBC, South Korea is fairly deep in the outfield with KBO talent. Na Sung-bum of the Tigers brings middle-of-the-lineup power. Kim Hyun-soo has always batted well in international competitions. Kim’s Twins teammate Park Hae-min is the best defensive center fielder in the KBO who can be a late-inning option as a pinch runner or a defensive replacement.

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