This photo captured from the Twitter page of the St. Louis Cardinals' player development department on Sunday, shows the club's new South Korean signee, outfielder Cho Won-bin (C). (St. Louis Cardinals' player development department's Twitter account)
South Korean high school baseball prospect Cho Won-bin has inked a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, months after pulling out of the domestic league draft in pursuit of an American dream.
Cho was one of 12 international free agent signings announced by the Cardinals on Saturday (US local time). He is the first Asian amateur to sign with the Cardinals.
Cho, set to graduate from Seoul Convention High School, had been regarded as a strong candidate to be selected during the territorial portion of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) draft last summer.
In the territorial draft, the 10 KBO clubs get to pick an amateur player based in their region, while another, free-for-all draft is set to follow later in the year.
However, Cho withdrew himself from draft consideration so he would be able to land a deal with a major league club.
By pulling out of the KBO draft, Cho is ineligible for the draft here for the next two years, per league rules.
Cho batted .367/.519/.550 in 18 games in 2021 with two homers and 12 RBIs. In 2020, Cho put up a .357/.458/.614 line with three homers and 17 RBIs in 19 games.
Cho had been drawing interest from major league clubs since winning the home run derby for the underclass players at the National Power Showcase in November 2020 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Cho also had a showcase before big league scouts last year.
The Cardinals are no strangers to South Korean players. They had a South Korean-born closer Oh Seung-hwan from 2016 to 2017.
Former KBO MVP-winning left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun pitched for the Cards from 2020 to 2021 and is now a free agent.
In 2009, KBO veteran Choi Hyang-nam drew a $101 bid from the Cardinals in posting, though Choi never suited up for the team. (Yonhap)