Prospect Retro: Chan Ho Park
Chan Ho Park was signed by the Dodgers as a free agent in 1994, out of South Korea. 21 years old, he was considered to be equivalent to a first-round pick, due to his low-to-mid-90s fastball and power curve. His command was inconsistent, and there were concerns about the language barrier and how well he would adjust to North American culture. Assigned to San Antonio in the Double-A Texas League, Park went 5-7, 3.55 in 20 starts, with a 100/57 K/BB in 101 innings. His K/IP was very good, but his walk rate was high, leading to a below average K/BB ratio. Eddie Epstein gave him a Grade C in the 1995 Minor League Scouting Notebook, which was probably at least a notch too low. Eddie was concerned about Park's control, which was certainly a legitimate issue, but given his age and background, I think I would have cut him enough slack to give him a B-.
Promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque in 1995, Park went 6-7, 4.91, with a 101/76 K/BB in 110 innings. An unimpressive ERA and a too-high walk rate, even taking into account the difficult pitching environment of the PCL and Albuquerque. However, Park made progress according to scouts, gaining 3-4 MPH on his fastball, now consistently in the mid-90s and hitting 99 MPH at times. He also improved his curve, although his control remained inconsistent. Despite the not-great stats, I gave him a Grade B+ in the 1996 book.
Park was used as a swingman in Los Angeles in '96, then moved to full-time starting in 1997. He was an effective, and at times overpowering pitcher for the Dodgers, although his park/league environment certainly helped him. As you are no doubt aware, Park has pretty much stunk since moving on to Texas, dogged by injuries, control problems, and a park/league context about 100% removed from Dodger Stadium.
Park's two minor league seasons were marked by strong K/IP ratios, but too many walks and not-great overall performance, despite strong scouting reports. The question for you readers: how much of Park's success in Los Angeles was illusion?
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