The Red Sox showed interest in investing in the Korean market last year when they came to a strategic partnership with the Nexen Heroes of the KBO. Those efforts are starting to manifest itself, it appears. According to multiple reports out of South Korea, the Red Sox had a scout at Nexen Heroes Spring Training who was taking a particular interest in star first baseman Byung-Ho Park.
MyKBO had some pictures of the scout's visit to Heroes camp.
Ryan Sadowski, an American-based scout for the Lotte Giants of the KBO, told Over the Monster Tuesday morning that the 28-year-old Park was one of the standout players that he thought had a chance at playing at the major league level. As seen with the success of Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, the KBO can produce major-league talent. At the moment, however, that talent is relatively scarce, as the range of players in the league peak at players who could play in MLB while bottoming out at players who probably couldn't play professional baseball in the United States.
Park put up mammoth, Ruth-ian type numbers for the Heroes in 2014, hitting .303/.433/.686 with 52 home runs, 124 RBIs with 16 doubles, 142 strikeouts and 96 walks. While the KBO typically inflates offense -- former Red Sox demigod Yamaico Navarro hit .308/.417/.552 with 31 home runs and 98 RBI for the Samsung Lions of the KBO in 2014 -- Park's raw power is off the charts. Check out this 475-foot home run from this past season (which comes alongside a song about Park).
And some more highlights from Park.
There is a long way to go for Park to play in the US. He would, first, have to be posted by his team, at which point any major league team would have the opportunity to bid for the for his services. With that said, Mike Napoli is, indeed, scheduled to become a free agent after the 2015 season. The Red Sox have historically been a team interested in the international market and there's a decent chance that the team is just doing their due diligence on Park.
While Park is far from a sure thing (the Red Sox will surely be watching how Jung-Ho Kang translates with the Pittsburgh Pirates), the growth of Korean baseball in the last decade is undeniable.
Update: Brian Cartwright from The Hardball Times has some projections for Park.