It's okay if up to this point you had not heard of Jung Hoo Lee. However, don't you forget this name because he could end up dominating the headlines at this time next year.
Lee is currently a member of the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization, or KBO. He debuted for the club back in 2017 at just 18-years-old and hasn't stopped raking since.
Lee, now 24, is an outfielder who is quietly emerging as one of the best international prospects in recent memory.
Last season for the Heroes, his stats were absurd. In 142 games, he hit 36 doubles, ten triples, 23 home runs with 113 RBI and had a batting average of .349. Oh, and he also walked 66 times and struck out just 32 times.
What's craziest about his line last year is that that wasn't even his career-high in regards to his batting average. In 2018 at just 19, he hit .355 in 109 games. In 2021, he hit .357. Point is, this guy can hit the ball.
Now, I don't blame the skeptics on this one. Yes, he is an absolute monster in Korea and has shown over six full years now that he is a dominant force with the bat. However, we've seen that these skills don't always translate in North America.
In the past decade, a total of nine position players have successfully been posted by KBO organizations and made the jump over to Major League Baseball. Of those nine, only four are still active. Amongst the entire group, there is a total of zero All-Star Game appearances.
Perhaps the most well-known position player to make this jump is longtime MLB outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who had a very successful 16-year career in America highlighted by a 2018 All-Star Game appearance and two top-15 finishes in MVP voting.
Today, only Hoy Park (Braves), Ha-seong Kim (Padres), Ji-man Choi (Pirates) and Ji-hwan Bae (Pirates) remain active players.
Yes, the odds are stacked against Lee, who has already made it known that he plans to play in Major League Baseball as soon as 2024 when he first becomes eligible to be posted. But I find it hard to believe that I have to do a whole lot more explaining to do on why he would be an excellent addition to the Blue Jays. For his entire career, he has a .342 batting average and a .407 on-base percentage. The guy is ridiculous but in the best way.
The current Blue Jays outfield alignment from left to right is Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Kevin Kiermaier and George Springer with Whit Merrifield on hand as a fourth outfielder/utilityman. Of that group, three of them are going to be free agents at the end of next season so there is absolutely going to be a spot for someone of Lee's stature.
To further the case for bringing Lee aboard, the Jays have one of the few pitching success stories to make the jump from KBO to MLB in Hyun Jin Ryu.
While it's far from a lock that Ryu even makes an appearance for the 2023 Jays, let alone sticks around past this upcoming season, there could be a possible "in" for the Jays to land Lee once he hits the open market. Just a thought.