Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First impression of Dodgers' Hyun-Jin Ryu: Not an ace, but not bad, either

Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched at Camelback Ranch on Sunday -- the last day of my spring training trip. I was lucky enough to see him on that day.

While it started off rough, he ended up throwing a gem (by spring training standards).

Ryu gave up a run on three hits in the first inning, with little help from his defense. Luckily for Ryu, Adrian Gonzalez hit a 3-run home run in the first inning, and the Dodgers were off.

Ryu ended up throwing 5 2/3 innings, allowed three hits, one run, two walks and struck out six Brewers. He retired the last 11 hitters he faced on St. Patrick's Day (hence the ridiculous green jerseys).

- Scouting reports have varied on Ryu and what I saw in spring training is just that -- spring training. But he showed at least one plus offering, an average offering, an offering that could be average soon and a below-average offering.

Four-seam fastball
- The scouting reports about Ryu have not been consistent. Some said he throws in the 87-92 MPH range, others said 92-94 MPH. On this day, Ryu was in the 88-90 MPH range with his fastball. He had just a little arm-side run (as all lefties do) and was able to locate it well enough. Hopefully for him and the Dodgers, he can increase his velocity going forward. Average

- This is absolutely his best pitch. The pitch dives away from right-handers, prompting a lot of swings and misses. He can change speeds on it. He threw it in the 78-81 MPH range, which is about right for his fastball velocity. The changeup will be the pitch he will be known for in his career -- and that necessarily isn't a bad thing. Plus

- Ryu worked with Sandy Koufax early in camp on the pitch and it might be developing into his third-best offering. He can throw it at different speeds -- anywhere from 71-78 MPH. It still needs work, but it could be a nice weapon against left-handed hitters if he can be consistent with it. Average soon

- His slider, like most lefties, can be effective against both types of hitters. As of now, it's not a pitch he can go to with the utmost confidence. It's a pitch that sits in the upper-70s and can touch the low-80s. But the fact he throws four pitches at this point in his career is encouraging. The slider doesn't have the greatest tilt and depth to it, but he shouldn't ditch it just yet. Below-average

His delivery isn't picturesque, but it works for him and shouldn't lead to many injury issues down the road. His frame is such that he should be able to handle a heavy (I swear, no pun intended) workload, but we'll see how he handles his first season in the majors.

When Ryu hit the market, everyone knew he wasn't an ace. People knew he wasn't a No. 2 starter. But with work and his potentially good four-pitch mix, he could be a No. 3 starter at his peak. If not, he'll likely be an inning-eating (again, no pun intended) back-of-the-rotation starter -- a pitcher who has value in baseball.

With Chad Billingsley not certain to make it through the season, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, and Ted Lilly's spring struggles and Zack Greinke's elbow (though, he should be OK), Ryu might be the most durable Dodger pitcher this side of Clayton Kershaw.

Photo credits: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue


  1. Hasn't he been a professional pitcher for what 5 or 6 seasons? Shouldn't be that much of a surprise he has a complete (if not great) mix of pitches.

  2. This is true. Still, some pitchers struggle to throw three pitches, let alone four. Bodes well for his future if he can have a plus and three average pitches.

  3. Sure enough. Also, I keep forgetting but you guys should get Chad on the podcast to talk about his awesome gifs. (Not to mention his other works which are also great.)

    1. Definitely will look to have him as a guest sometime. :)

  4. Back off on Billingsley...his arm is fine!!! Whether he's the pitcher that finished last season or the guy from the last two years is more of the point. But ligaments heal, and one gets tired of reading every sentence about him ending with "if his arm doesn't come off at the elbow in June".

  5. I would love to see him throw a 94 mph fastball for a strike at least once during the season. Why so many conflicting reports on his fastball?! Does this happen all the time with players from the far east?

    1. Not sure. That's what BA had him at, while others had him lower. We'll see how he fares this season.

  6. @anon - I tend to agree with you. With this kind of stuff, it's basically he's fine until he's not.

    @joe - I might be wrong but Ryu might be the first Korean player to be posted to the MLB. So the knowledge of Korean baseball just isn't as deep.

  7. Dodgers suck donkeydicks