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Won-Bin Cho: Breaking Down the Cardinals’ Next International Star

A top prospect in his native Republic of Korea, what can we expect from the Seongnam Slugger?

Won-Bin Cho is all about taking risks.

The South Korea native put on a show at Brian Domenico’s annual High School Power Showcase, a home run derby-style tournament previously featuring stars like Bryce Harper and former Cardinal Randal Grichuk.

It was this performance that propelled Won-Bin into the national spotlight and onto MLB draft boards. Considered to be a premium prospect for the 2021 KBO Draft, he instead took the route less traveled and signed with the Redbirds for $500,000, a bonus on par with that of a fourth-round pick in the 2022 MLB draft.

He made his debut alongside other recent high school graduates in the Florida Complex League this past Summer, where he showed flashes of what his five-tool skillset could eventually develop into. Cho posted a 118 wRC+ at the level across 100 plate appearances, although this value is buoyed by a 20% BB% with poor barrel accuracy.

After receiving an invite to Spring Training, Cho was assigned to the single-A Palm Beach Cardinals. Won-Bin has still struggled to make consistent contact while having his raw juice and elite plate discipline play for him early on. Despite this, he’s posted some of the highest exit velocities in a pitcher-friendly Florida State League, doing so as a teenager.

2023 has seen much of the same so far for WBC, with his early returns dictating a tale of two halves.

Won-Bin Cho 2023 Offensive Breakdown by Date Range

Date range Sweet Spot % Hard Hit % Barrel % AVG/BABIP GB% wRC+ Avg EV (MPH) Max EV (MPH) BB% K%
Date range Sweet Spot % Hard Hit % Barrel % AVG/BABIP GB% wRC+ Avg EV (MPH) Max EV (MPH) BB% K%
4/6/2023-4/26/2023 26.3 15.8 5.3 0.122/0.133 57.9 65 79.6 106.2 14.3 20.4
4/27/2023-5/28/2023 22.6 37.1 3.2 0.341/0.443 62.9 148 86.5 111.1 13.7 21.1

Some batted ball event data was not fully available in the database I used

Cho’s raw toolset is amongst the best in the organization, but with such variance in his future outcome, he could end up fizzling out in the minors or could turn into St. Louis’s next star outfielder. Let’s break down both his advanced stat line as well as some raw data to predict where he will fall on this spectrum.

Offensive Profile

Barrel Accuracy

We begin with the largest question mark in Won-Bin’s game in the form of his burgeoning bat-to-ball skills. He isn’t expected to become Luis Arraez at the dish, but he ought to nail the sweet spot more consistently if he wants to fully extrapolate his plus raw power potential.

Launch angle density charts are a nice way to visually map out a player’s range of batted balls and see how often he’s hitting the sweet spot. The horizontal axis displays the range of launch angles while the vertical axis gives the frequency at which each range was exhibited. The red bars indicate the optimal barrel zone (between eight and 32 degrees). If you were to imagine a curve running tangent to each bar, it is more beneficiary for the hitter to have the highest peaks of the curve lie within this sweet spot scope.

So, what does this mean? He’s struggled to stay within the ideal threshold and has induced a wide range of batted-ball outcomes. Early on, Cho is burying everything while showing elite discipline and a low whiff rate. As the season has progressed, however, WBC has done a better job of barreling and giving his thunderous raw power a chance to do damage. This isn’t necessarily reflected by the sweet spot %, but rather by the increase in hard hit % and the majority of BBE clustering at or around barrel, as shown above. Barrel% is a function of both sweet spot % and hard hit %, so working on both will naturally skyrocket his overall production.

One aspect regarding Cho’s numbers is his low BABIP and batting average pre-breakout always suggested his production would eventually come around.

Just look at that bat flip!

It’s worth mentioning a batted ball failing to land in the sweet spot range can still have a high expected batting average (xBA) if hit hard enough, which, aside from the high BB%, is why the Korean import is still having some batted ball success despite the lapse in contact aptitude. Additionally, we shouldn’t compare a young prospect’s hard hit % on an MLB scale because younger players tend to take longer to fully convert raw strength into playable power, so a 35% hard hit % while maintaining a ~20% K% for a nineteen-year-old is nothing to scoff at.

Pitch Type Breakdown

Like many young hitters, Cho handles fastballs and is capable of managing breaking balls, but has struggled mightily against offspeed pitches. He’s excelled at extending the barrel of the bat against pitches away but is unable to drop the hammerhead against changeups plaguing him since his amateur days in Korea.

Won-Bin Cho 2023 OPS By Pitch Type

Pitch Type Plate Appearances OPS
Pitch Type Plate Appearances OPS
Fastball 73 0.805
Offspeed 23 0.488
Breaking Ball 27 0.875

Pitch Location Breakdown

Mastering bat control is an essential part of any prospect’s ascension to the big leagues. Won-Bin struggles to get the barrel of the bat through much of the upper half. Conversely, he’s also capable of extending to the outer half to catch up to breaking balls and will torch anything on the zone’s lower half. His quick bat speed should eventually allow him to catch up to high offerings once he learns to better time up non-fastballs, while a tweak in his attack angle could take care of the rest.

Power Output

One of Won-Bin Cho’s biggest selling points is his power potential at a 6’2 frame with plus athleticism. The difference in average EV shown above is a product of a small sample size variance and a higher hard-hit% in the latter date range.

With fringy barrel accuracy, it’s reasonable to expect Cho will go yard 25+ times a season. His power will play more toward the gaps as a young professional, but his raw thump will yield higher production values as he gets older. WBC’s 111.1 MPH max EV on a groundball single this year is his personal best, a number ranking second amongst all teenagers in the FSL behind his teammate Joshua Baez (112.0 MPH).


If his max exit velocities weren’t impressive enough, Cho’s wheels round out the pop/speed profile so many teams covet in their projection models. It is his athleticism that allows me to believe he can eventually be a 60-grade centerfielder someday. Most analysts write him off as a future 45-speed, but I’d argue his acceleration is also a plus. He could slow down some as he continues to add weight yet he’s already filled out a majority of his frame, so his quickness will age well.

His 3.93 HP-1st time on this bunt-single would rank in the top 100 amongst the thousands of competitive running events in MLB this year, which is defined as any sprint speed of 23 MPH or higher on a given run. You don’t get the best view here, but one can get an idea of how fast he is just from his twitchiness out of the box.


Won-Bin Cho has patrolled all three outfield spots in his professional career, including 64 innings in center field this year. Most major prospect writers project him as a long-term corner outfielder, especially as he continues to physically mature and fill out. He’s played a majority (176) of his innings in right field this year, but I think ops could benefit from trying him out in centerfield more often. His route running, initial jump, and reaction times should all improve as the game continues to slow down for him. Cho has proven he’s more than capable of covering a great deal of real estate to track a ball down; this catch from a few weeks ago demonstrates his range. He covered 132 feet of ground (D-Cov) on this play, which is the most by any fielder in FSL play this year.

Arm Strength

An overlooked aspect of his game, Won-Bin Cho is equipped with an above-average arm, allowing him to consistently keep runners rounding second at bay. It grades out as a 50 in right field as his 91.2 MPH average throw velocity from the outfield is suitable for those at the 9, but if he moves to center full-time like I think he can, it’ll play as a plus arm.


Cho’s archetype is exactly what Major League teams should be selecting for when scouting amateur talent: a projectable, power/speed frame with an outside chance to hit. While plenty at the major league level fit this mold, even fewer do so as a left-handed bat with an eagle eye at the plate, but there are a few standouts.

I want to emphasize once again Cho is still extremely raw as a hitter, and these are not one-for-one comparisons. Still, it’s interesting to see the different avenues his development could take should he continue ascending prospect lists.

Won-Bin Cho Comparables

Player Sweet Spot % Hard Hit % Barrel % AVG/BABIP GB% wRC+ Avg EV (MPH) Max EV (MPH) BB% K% MLB OAA Percentile
Player Sweet Spot % Hard Hit % Barrel % AVG/BABIP GB% wRC+ Avg EV (MPH) Max EV (MPH) BB% K% MLB OAA Percentile
Won-Bin Cho 23.5 32.1 3.7 0.268/0.341 57.7 120 84.9 111.1 13.9 20.8 N/A
James Outman 33.3 41 11.4 0.238/0.333 36.2 117 88.4 110.7 9.6 35 87
Brandon Marsh 37.1 48.5 8.2 0.273/0.396 45.3 131 92.8 110.6 13.6 30.7 93
Brandon Nimmo 32.3 49.4 5.5 0.306/0.371 49.4 138 92.3 111.9 11.2 19.1 85
Lars Nootbaar 29.1 44.4 9.4 0.266/0.327 53.9 118 89.8 109.8 15.8 20.7 78

James Outman

No introduction is needed for James Outman. The Dodger rookie appeared to be running away with not only the NL Rookie of the Year Honors, but his play launched him into the NL MVP conversation early on. Like Cho, both struggle to make consistent solid contact. Similarly, however, both play an elite outfield and patiently hit for power from the left side. Outman differs in his ability to lift, as shown by his 36.2% GB% and numerous moonshots on national television. Cho already hits for more raw power despite being six years Outman’s junior, so it’s possible that with added lift could come more production at the expense of a higher whiff rate.

Brandon Marsh

The first of two Brandons, Mr. Marsh was acquired by the Phillies in exchange for premier catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe. He’s a more well-rounded version of what Cho could become, as he combines both barrel accuracy and bat speed while playing an elite centerfield. Marsh is whiff-heavy, however, and his raw power doesn’t compare to Won-Bin’s. Still, Marsh runs an impressive contact rate and projects to be one of the better centerfielders in baseball someday.

Brandon Nimmo

Brandon Nimmo is the other and compares very similarly to Marsh except for his whiff%. He resigned with the New York Mets after a standout 2022 season. Throughout his career, Nimmo has struggled to stay healthy but he’s been on the field for all but one rest day in 2023. Nimmo more closely resembles Cho; both maintain a stellar K% while walking, playing elite defense, and hitting for power. Brandon’s biggest offensive kryptonite is his inability to generate consistent lift, a habit WBC will seek to shake before he reaches the big leagues.

Lars Nootbaar

Lastly, we have our very own Lars Nootbaar. This is probably the closest comparison I could find for Cho, as both labor to match barrel accuracy with their impressive raw power numbers. Nootbaar hits the ball harder more often, but the rest of their peripherals look eerily similar. Either is capable of playing centerfield with elite wheels and a solid arm for the position. Won-Bin is lightyears behind in the contact accuracy department, but it’s easy to see how the two stack up against one another, especially when considering their respective stardoms.

Final Thoughts

It’s no secret the Cardinals have themselves a project in Won-Bin Cho; he’s a groundball machine whose inability to barrel the ball might be his ultimate demise as a prospect. On the other hand, he has tools loud enough to become yet another Randy Flores success story if he puts it all together.

Although still too early to know for sure, I personally believe that he’ll at least be a major leaguer someday. His approach is far too advanced for his age and current level, and his bat-to-ball skills will only continue to blossom as he better adapts to changes in pitch velocity and tweaks his swing. Even so, his strength and athleticism give him such a high ceiling that he could become a star if he can expand his wheelhouse.

He’s one of the stronger players in the minors, and given power carries hitters in the absence of contact skills, few prospects in baseball have his type of overall package and helium; I’m excited to see where his career takes him.

Be sure to follow @adamakbani on Twitter for up-to-date news and analysis on the St. Louis Cardinals!