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S. Korean teen pitching prospect signs with Pirates

Catpured image from the official twitter account of Pittsburgh Pirates
Catpured image from the official twitter account of Pittsburgh Pirates

Shim Jun-seok, a highly touted South Korean teen pitching prospect, has signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates confirmed their agreement with Shim as part of 22 free agent signings Sunday, when the 2023 international signing period opened. The Pirates had a base signing pool of $5,825,500,

Shim, a hard-throwing right-hander out of Duksoo High School in Seoul, had skipped last year's rookie draft for the Korea Baseball Organization in hopes of signing with a major league club.

The 18-year-old has been turning heads since his freshman year in 2020 thanks to a combination of his signature fastball and knee-buckling curveball.

Listed at 194 centimeters and 103 kilograms, Shim throws a fastball well over 150 kph (93.2 mph) and MLB.com claimed he has touched the magical 100 mph with the pitch. Shim has drawn comparisons to one-time Pirates right-hander Park Chan-ho, the first South Korean to play in the big leagues and the all-time leader among Asian-born pitchers with 124 career wins.

As a freshman, Shim went 4-1 in eight games with a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings. He struck out 32 and walked nine.

He was even more dominant the following season, as he tossed 14 1/3 shutout innings across five appearances, with 21 strikeouts against 10 walks.

Shim's KBO draft stock fell significantly in 2022, when he pitched to an underwhelming 5.14 ERA over 20 2/3 innings in 12 appearances. Hobbled by a lower back injury, Shim had 40 strikeouts but also walked 22 and hit 12 others.

He was shut down in early August after suffering a toe injury.

Shim becomes the third South Korean player in the Pirates organization, joining major league first baseman Choi Ji-man and infield prospect Bae Ji-hwan, who made his big league debut late last season.

In January last year, another South Korean prospect, outfielder Cho Won-bin, signed with the St. Louis Cardinals during the international signing period after pulling out of the KBO draft. (Yonhap)

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