With the announcement that ESPN will be broadcasting KBO games, I will now introduce each team. I think it would be good to decide which team to cheer for after seeing this introduction.
To know more about the KBO itself, please read my previous introduction to the league and the layout of the league’s city’s here.
There are 10 teams in the KBO league, and they will be listed in the order of league standing in 2019. You can find the KBO’s English homepage here. Below I will include the foreign players on each team. You can find a full list of foreign players in the KBO here.
The Bears have been one of best team in recent years. They have many star players despite few FA signings, thanks to one of the best farm systems. They are a well-balanced team (2nd R/G, 2nd ERA).
If you want to watch more winning games, like you saw with the Rays last season, the Doosan Bears will be the best choice; however, the closer experience will be with the next team. The Bears won it all in 2019 and are odds favorites to win the KBO this year too. Fortunate for me, the Bears are my favorite KBO team.
Note: like the 2010 Rays, after this season there may be a drop off due to many important free agent departures.
The Heroes is act like a small market team, and like the Rays, they are nevertheless a good team. Their farm system is good, as they have learned a lot througha partnership with BOS since 2014. They post players actively to MLB (Kang, Park) and they will post their star SS, Ha-sung Kim (FV 45+ player per Fangraphs), next year.
They are playing in a dome like Rays, and Taylor Motter will be playing for this team. For your information, he is the lowest-paid foreign player. You can read more about the Heroes in a recent news story here.
MIA coach Trey Hillman have been their manager for years, so their play style is relatively similar to MLB.
If you have been to Korea, you may have been to Incheon International Airport.
Incheon is hometown of Ji-Man Choi who joins their training now while living at home during the pandemic. A few years ago, they signed Merril Kelly (former Rays farmhand) at a low cost and he became their ace. He is now an MLB player. Now they may hope to do the same with Pinto.
The Twins are the team that draws the most attendance and accordingly they spend lots of money; however, the results are not good as expected. Their home stadium is one of the bigger one, and is in line with MLB standards.
You may be wondering what they have to do with the Minnesota Twins, but the nickname was made because LG’s headquarters building is a twin tower. Of course, they may have also meant this as a not to Minnesota, but do not officially admit it.
NC is the team who hit most HRs in 2019 due to big FA signings. It is known their front is running the team based on Sabermetrics, and also like Tampa Bay, they hired a person who has no baseball career as a field coordinator, like Rays hiring Jonathan Erlichman
Korea’s mobile game market is very big, and NC is the biggest mobile game maker. They give some in-game items when they win.
KT is a recent expansion team. Following the same path, they spent a lot of money like as Diamondbacks and Devil Rays did before. But, as we learned for the Devil Rays, that was not enough to be a winning team. It will take some time for this team to be good team.
Then again, OF Beak-Ho Kang is legit, young player worth following. He is a Korean version of Bryce Harper or Juan Soto. For his first two years, his career stats have been .311/.383/.511 and he is just 20 years old. He could be a MLB player a few years from now.
KIA is the team that has won the most titles. However, recently they have struggled. So, they hired Matt Williams as a manger and many other MLB players as coaches in search of a drastic reform. This season will be interesting to follow for that reason.
One of their best hitters is Preston Tucker (Plant HS and Florida Gators product). Jae Weong Seo, formerly with the Rays, is their pitch coach. If you need another reason to like this team, maybe you’ve been riding Kia Motors...
Samsung is the biggest company in South Korea. They did not make aggressive investments in baseball recently, even though they have the potential to spend a lot, which is somewhat of a disappointment.
The team’s SS is former Rays farmhand Hak-Ju Lee, who hasn’t shown stable defensive skill as expected since his devastating injury that ended his Rays career, but he still makes highlight reel plays sometimes. Here is KK reminiscing on his time playing with Lee (2:00 mark):
Rays NRI RHP Deck McGuire played for them in 2019. McGuire struggled mightily, so much that a fan who was upset by his poor performance wrote on social media that he would purchase a high-end apartment for every fan who wants it if McGuire recorded a no-hitter.
McGuire’s first win after that post was a no-hitter, and the panicked fan apologized and quickly donated some money.
Hanhwa has been weakest team in the KBO for years. Nevertheless, there are many diehard fans. This is similar to Philadelphia, both of which have teams called the Eagles.
In the league, more and more KBO teams are focusing on young players and farm system development, but they prefer to sign veterans. They are also the home team to one of the most successful Korean Major League players, Ryu.
Hanwha fans believe Ryu has a strong mentality because he has been the ace of the weak team since he was young.
Lotte was the lowest-ranked team, but they are going to be also the most interesting team of the season.
In order to overcome the continued slump, Sung Min-Kyu, who worked in the Cubs front office, was recently appointed as GM, with several other interesting additions, including Kim Sung-min (former FanGraphs writer), Hank Conger, Larry Sutton and Julio Franco.
During the offseason, Min-Kyu made a lot of surprising moves, just like Friedman did in the mid-2000s when he took over the Devil Rays. I wonder if the results of these movements will be good or bad.
I hope this guide has helped you select a team to follow.
If you want to know more about KBO, Leave a comment below or DM to @Homein22. And if you want to watch video from Korea’s intra-squad games on YouTube and more, follow @mykbo who keeps updating their Twitter.