Thursday, February 2, 2017

Failed Prospects Pt. 17: Seung-Jun Song

In the late 1990's/early 2000's, Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette seemed to be obsessed with finding low-cost, high-reward pitching from Asia, in particular from the Korean league.  Seung-Jun Song was supposed to be the crown jewel of the foray into the Asian market.  Unfortunately, only Tomokazu Ohka was able to have any kind of success in the U.S., and most of that came after being traded to Montreal.

Song was signed as an international free agent in 1999 before he played professionally in Korea.  He started his professional career at the same time that most players his age were starting college.  He was impressive from the start.  In the rookie league, Song was 5-5 with a 2.30 ERA and a 3.05 K/BB rate and 10 strikeouts per nine innings.

He rose through the ranks fairly quickly.  With Low Class-A Lowell in 2000, he was 5-2 with a 2.60 ERA.  He struck out 93 and walked just 20 in 72.2 innings.  Across two levels in 2001, he was 8-4 with a 1.90 ERA.  He had a 3.75 K/BB rate and a 9.9 K/9.

Prior to the 2002 season, Song appeared on Baseball America's Top 100 prospect list at #60.  It was the first time he was ranked on the list.  Song had also moved to the top of the team's top prospect ranking.  Unfortunately, he struggled for the first time in 2002.  It was not a huge deal.  He was still just 22 years old, but he started out the season at Double A Trenton and was 7-7 with a 4.39 ERA.  However, his K/BB and K/9 rates were close enough to his previous numbers that the increase in ERA was not much of a concern.

At the trading deadline in 2002, Song was packaged along with fellow Korean Sun-Woo Kim to Montreal for Cliff Floyd.  Duquette was not very good at building up and retaining a decent farm system and wanted another bat for the stretch run.  Ultimately the move did not pay off.  Floyd was a good hitter, but Boston still fell short of the postseason and allowed Floyd to walk after the season.

Song pitched in just one game in Montreal's system the rest of the way in 2002.  He had a good season in 2003, making it to Triple A for the first time and going 12-4 with a 3.08 ERA.  Unfortunately, that was the last of his success.  His career stalled after that due to injuries and ineffectiveness.  In 2004 he was 4-2 with a 4.78 ERA over three levels.  He had a little more success in 2005, but was moving backwards.  He last appeared in the U.S. in 2006 in the Royals system.  After that season he returned to Korea where he has pitched ever since.  He is still active in Korea.
Seung-Jun Song never appeared in the Major Leagues.  He moved through the Red Sox system quickly and looked to be ready to make the leap to the Majors after the 2003 season.  But injuries derailed his promising career.  It is a shame.    

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