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Straight to the Majors: (A Two-Week Series) – Chan Ho Park

Over the weekend the Yankees played against Garrett Crotchet, a relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox who throws hard, pitches well, and has yet to ever play a game in the minor leagues. After getting drafted 15th Overall in the 2020 MLB Draft, he signed, and went straight to the majors.

This got me wondering about what other players were who went straight to the MLB, of which there have been 22 since the MLB Draft was implemented in 1965. This week we will be looking at 5 former Yankees who skipped playing in the minor leagues before their first MLB appearance.

Today’s player is: Chan Ho Park.

 

Road to the Show:

The top pitcher in High School at Gongju High School (Gongju, South Korea), Chan Ho Park was a 3-time team MVP and also the winner of 4 MVP awards in national tournaments around South Korea. His early prominence on the mound earned Park the opportunity to pitch with the South Korean National Baseball Team in 1992 and 1993, during which he notably pitched to a 2.76 ERA to help South Korea win silver in the 1993 Asian Baseball Championship. In 1992 he also enrolled at Hanyang University (Seoul, South Korea), and participated in the 1993 Summer Universiade (think: College Summer Olympics) while leading the South Korean team to another silver medal.

After this success coming in international competition, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Park as an amateur free agent for $1.2 million on January 11th and a month later went through Spring Training with the 1994 Dodgers team. And, just 4 games into the season on April 8th against the Atlanta Braves- and during a game that the Dodgers would end up getting no-hit- Chan Ho Park made his professional baseball debut, starting in the MLB. At the time, he was the 18th player to do so without first playing in the minor leagues (post-1965) and Park was the first South Korean to play in the MLB.

Though, while Park did start his career in the MLB, he would only play 2 games at the MLB level in both 1994 and 1995 while spending the vast majority of the season in Triple-A. However, Park cemented himself as an every-day player in 1996 (at age 23) while playing in a journeyman role before becoming a solid starting pitcher from 1997-2006 while mostly playing for the Dodgers (through 2001) and Texas Rangers (2002-2005), as well as the Padres (2005-2006). During this 10-year stretch, Park was a solid staring pitcher, earning 15.8 bWAR while pitching to a 4.40 ERA (97 ERA+) and becoming an All-Star in 2001.

Starting in 2007 through the end of his MLB career in 2010, Park would be transitioned into a journeyman reliever role while bouncing around 5 teams and having his best season in the later half of his career when he returned to the Dodgers in 2008. He also bounced around the Mets (2007), Phillies (2009), and Pirates (2010) and one other team also in 2010…

 

Road to the Yankees (and a little beyond):

Chan Ho Park’s Yankee career lasted just 27 games and 35.1 innings during the first half of the 2010 season while recording 2 wins and finishing 15 games.

That offseason the Yankees signed Chan Ho Park to a 1-Year/$1.3 Million deal with an extra $300,000 in incentives. The Yankees had been expressing interest in Park, but many thought it was to drive up the price of the then-veteran reliever. The season before, Park pitched a scoreless 3.1 innings of work against the 2009 Yankees in the World Series and had pitched to a 4.43 ERA (95 ERA+).

Unfortunately, the Yankees did not get the best out of Park during those 27 games (he pitched to a 6.50 ERA/78 ERA+) and fans learned far too much about him after a poor performance in April when he answered his critics. Though, that did make his short time wearing the pinstripes memorable. But, on July 31st, 2010 the Yankees DFA’ed Park and he was claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates to pitch for them (which he did well with a 3.49 ERA/117 ERA+) for the rest of the season. This would be the end of Park’s MLB career, as he earned 2 wins with the Pirates to become the most winningest Asian-born pitcher, passing Hideo Nomo by one.

For 2011 he pitched for the Orix Buffaloes in the Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. And in 2011, for the first time in his professional career, Park pitched in his native South Korea, pitching one year for the Hanwha Eagles. After 18 years, Park made it back home.

#ChanHoPark #StraighttotheMajors

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