Kwang-hyun Kim (김광현)
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 2", Weight 183 lb.
Kwang-hyun Kim won five important games from October 2007 through August 2008 after a disappointing rookie season in Korea. He then was South Korea's dominant hurler in 2008. More than a decade later, he made his debut in Major League Baseball.
Kim was a top high school prospect. In 2004, he had a 0.74 ERA in a national high school tournament. He pitched in the 2005 Asian Youth Championship and a World Youth Championship. He tossed four innings for South Korea in the finale of the 2006 World Junior Championship, in which they beat the USA to take the title.
Kim was signed by the SK Wyverns for a 500 million won bonus. He was 3-7 with a 3.67 ERA in his rookie campaign, allowing 80 hits and 41 walks in 77 innings in a disappointing season. In the postseason, he turned in a gem. In game four of the 2007 Korean Series, he faced MVP Danny Rios and out-dueled him, allowing just one hit in 7 1/3 innings and struck out nine for a major victory to help the Wyverns to the Korean Series title.
Kim joined South Korea's national team for the 2008 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament and helped them win a spot in the Beijing Summer Games. He shut down a Mexican national team with several former major leaguers, allowing only a Miguel Ojeda homer in a 6-1 win. Against host Taiwan, he allowed two first-inning runs before settling down for a 4-3 victory. He was 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA, finishing 8th in the tourney in ERA. He tied Alexandre Periard, Steve Green, Scott Richmond, Chien-Ming Chiang, Chien-Fu Yang and teammate Min-han Son for the most wins in the event.
Kim got two good starts for South Korea against Japan in the 2008 Olympics, including a win in the semifinals to help Korea win Gold. He was 1-0 with a 1.26 ERA in Beijing, striking out 12 in 14 1/3 IP.
Kim almost won a pitching Triple Crown in 2008, leading the Korea Baseball Organization in wins (16) and strikeouts (150). His 2.39 ERA was .06 behind leader Seok-min Yoon. He was named KBO MVP, getting 51 of 94 votes, 24 more than runner-up Hyun-soo Kim. Kwang-hyun won a bonus of around $15,000 for the award.
Kim was then a total bust in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, when he was the worst hurler on the runner-up team. He was 0-1 with a 21.60 ERA, allowing 10 hits and 9 runs in 3 1/3 IP. He tied Roy Oswalt (who pitched many more innings) for second in the tourney in runs allowed, one behind Jeremy Guthrie. Kim tied Jake Peavy for the most earned runs surrendered. Kwang-hyun allowed 8 runs in just 1 1/3 innings in a start against Japan in South Korea's first game, including a three-run homer by Shuichi Murata.
Kim was posted by his team, SK Wyverns, on November 4, 2014, after a season in which he had a 3.42 in 173 2/3 innings, following battles with injuries from 2011 to 2013. The San Diego Padres submitted the top bid, at $2 million, but SK Wyverns was hoping for a much larger sum, making an eventual transfer agreement unlikely. Indeed, they failed to agree on a contract with the pitcher, and he returned to his team for the 2015 season. On December 5, 2019, he was posted again by his team. This time, there was a taker, as the St. Louis Cardinals signed him to a two-year deal worth $8 million on December 17th.
He had a very solid first season in the majors, going 3-0, 1.62 in 8 games (7 starts) in a season abbreviated by the Coronavirus pandemic, even more so for the Cardinals who had a breakout among team members. He allowed just 28 hits in 39 innings, with 12 walks and 24 strikeouts. He started Game 1 of the Wild Card Series against the San Diego Padres on September 30th but but did not have a great day, as he allowed 3 runs on 5 hits in 3 2/3 innings and was not involved in the decision as the Cardinals won the game, 7-4. After the season, he was named the lefthanded pitcher on the 2020 Topps All-Star Rookie Team.
Kim pitches a fastball usually sits around 90 mph (tops out at 96 mph), and his change-up, slider and curveball are all major league average pitches. As a young pitcher, Kim had problems with his control and command.