won-bin-cho-st-louis-cardinals-011622
won-bin-cho-st-louis-cardinals-011622

The Major League Baseball offseason has been rather quiet for the last six weeks due to the ongoing lockout, but the St. Louis Cardinals made some major news when they signed South Korean outfielder Won-Bin Cho on Saturday, the first day of MLB's international signing period.

While the Cardinals have brought several veterans overseas during the last 20 years — Japanese outfielder So Taguchi and South Korean pitchers Kwang Hyun Kim and Seung Hwan Oh — Cho is the first Asian player to sign with the Cardinals straight out of high school. He's one of a select few Korean players, including Ji-Man Choi, Shin-Soo Choo, Byung-Hyun Kim, Chan Ho Park and several others, who have headed overseas as teenagers rather than beginning their careers in the Korean Baseball Organization and being posted once they establish themselves professionally in their native country.

Cho, 18, was viewed as a strong candidate to be selected in the KBO territorial draft — essentially the first round of the league's selection process, in which each of the 10 teams can draft a player from its local market. However, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound outfielder pulled out of the draft in order to pursue an opportunity in North America.

Cho, a left-handed hitter, slashed .357/.458/.614 with three homers and 17 RBIs in 19 games as a high school junior in 2020, then posted a .367/.519/.550 slash line with two homers and 12 RBIs in 18 games as a senior last year. He's regarded as a potential five-tool player and flashes game-changing power — a skill he put on display when he won the National Power Showcase home run derby for underclassmen in Nov. 2020 at Globe Life Field, the Rangers' home ballpark.

As if Cho's skill set wasn't already intriguing enough, he also showed this weekend that he's a team player who's willing to share the spotlight.

Henny, a three-year old golden retriever owned by Cho's agent, Han Lee, appeared in Cho's signing photos, as ESPN's Jeff Passan detailed. The dog may have received just a little bit more social media attention than the power-hitting prospect, but Cho was more than happy to get in on the fun, tweeting a photo of himself and Henny wearing matching Cardinals caps on Sunday morning.

Cho is likely destined for rookie ball in 2022, and even if his development goes completely according to plan, he may be half a decade away from reaching the majors. But as a player who possesses such an intriguing skill set and will be somewhat of a trailblazer in the Cardinals' system, he immediately becomes one of the organization's most interesting prospects.

Top photo of agent Han Lee, Won-Bin Cho, Cardinals special assistant to the GM Matt Slater and Henny courtesy of Cardinals Player Development.