His deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates now official, South Korean pitching prospect Shim Jun-seok has realized his dream.
"It's been my dream to play in the United States," Shim was quoted as saying by MLB.com, during his introduction as a new member of the Pirates' international class at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Thursday. "I wanted to pursue my dream to come here and play baseball."
The Pirates announced their signing of Shim, a product of Seoul-based Duksoo High School, and 21 other international free agents on Jan. 16. Shim flew to the US over the weekend and visited the Pirates' home park on the cold, snowy day.
"I've got a long way to go, but I'm very excited to be here," Shim said. "I can't wait to come here and pitch one day. This whole tour motivated me."
The 18-year-old right-hander had been ranked No. 10 among international prospects by MLB Pipeline. He skipped last year's rookie draft for the Korea Baseball Organization, where he would have been a high first-round pick, so he could sign with a big league club.
Shim, listed at 194 centimeters and 103 kilograms, has tantalizing physical tools. He has been turning heads since his freshman year in 2020 thanks to a combination of his signature fastball, which has touched the magical 100 miles per hour, and knee-buckling curveball. And it was in 2020 that he first came on the Pirates' radar, according to Max Kwan, the team's director of player personnel.
Junior Vizcaino, the Pirates' director of international scouting, told MLB.com Shim's fastball has "hop" and gives off the illusion that it rises, thanks to its spin and velocity. Shim is also working on a changeup and a splitter.
In his first high school season, 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. He was limited due to elbow inflammation.
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 then shut down in early August after suffering a toe injury, but he said Thursday he is "good to go."
Shim is 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.
Bucs' general manager Ben Cherington said Shim will spend some time in the Dominican Republic and join the organization's Florida Complex League team later. (Yonhap)