The year 2018 was a year of hope for Korean players in the Major League Baseball (MLB).
Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers successfully recovered from his shoulder injury and played in the World Series as a starting pitcher for the first time as a Korean player. Choo Shin-soo signed a 7-year, 130-million-dollar deal with the Texas Rangers as a free agent at the end of 2013 but he was blamed for not living up to his wealthy contract. In the last season, however, Choo has reached base in 52 consecutive games and made his MLB All-Star game debut. Choi Ji-man, who went to the U.S. in 2010 and spent most of the past few seasons as a baseball vagabond, has become an important asset of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Expectations are high for these players in 2019. Choi Ji-man is highly likely to be included in the starting lineup for the first time since his debut in the big league. The MLB.com added Choi to the list of five hidden gems in 2019 along with Luke Voit of the New York Yankees, a super rookie who hit 15 homers with a batting average of 0.322 last season. On the same day, CBS Sports said Choi is likely to start at first base and bat clean-up in 2019. Local media reports also expect Choi to start at first base or bat at designated hitter.
Health is a precondition for Ryu Hyun-jin’s successful season. He is considered as the third starter following Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler in 2019. But the Dodgers are interested in Cleveland ace Corey Kluber to win the World Series. Ryu, who is training in Seoul with his personal trainer Kim Yong-il, has to prove that he is consistent and healthy to ease the concerns of his club.
Choo Shin-soo, who has two more seasons until his contract expires, recently came to Korea and said he would like to play for one of the favorites to win the World Series. Despite his stellar performance last season, the Texas Rangers showed its intention to sell Choo since the team has become unlikely to win the World Series. Choo is capable of hitting over 20 homers and has trained eyes to better see pitches. Eyes are on whether Choo will move to one of the clubs that are likely to win the World Series.
Bae-Jung Kim firstname.lastname@example.org