As first covered yesterday, the St. Louis Cardinals are on the verge of making a medium-sized splash in the international free agent market. Pending arrival in St. Louis for a physical (winter weather kept Oh in Detroit yesterday), it appears the Cardinals will solidify their bullpen by agreeing to terms with Seung-Hwan Oh, a 33-year-old relief pitcher given the revered nicknames of "Final Boss" and "Stone Buddha."
By now, you have likely read about Oh's statistics, but if not, you can take a look at his 11-year-career on the ever-handy Baseball-Reference. Oh tallied 41 saves in Japan last year, with 66 strikeouts versus 16 walks in 69.1 innings pitched. While the Japan Central League (JPCL) has higher quality hitters than the Korean Baseball Organizaiton (KBO), it is not fair to simply transfer Oh's 2015 statistics over to Major League Baseball.
Thus, while many are currently projecting Oh as Trevor Rosenthal's primary set-up man, and a good portion of this reasoning can be attributed to the unpredictability of Jordan Walden's future health, I would be much more comfortable inserting Oh into a middle relief role initially. Frankly, similar to the Mike Leake signing, I view this deal as more about raising the pitching staff's floor than raising the ceiling, which is a reasonable way of doing business after missing out on a prized target like David Price.
At worst, Oh will give manager Mike Matheny another middle relief option so that he does not have to run Seth Maness into the ground (Maness has the 10th most innings as a reliever since 2013). At best, Oh could serve as a set-up man to Rosenthal, and similar to what Kevin Siegrist did last year, he could fill in for some save opportunities as well (Siegrist notched six saves of his own in 2015).
As I stated earlier, Oh's numbers do not directly translate to the majors. So, the next logical step is taking a closer look at his repertoire to see if he possesses the stuff necessary for success in the big leagues. Simplicity is not a problem for Oh as he can throw up to five different pitches (if you include a fourseamer and a sinker as two different pitches). However, I only see four of the pitches translating to the big leagues, with him eventually becoming a three-pitch reliever.
Fastball (147 km/h = ~91 MPH)
I have now watched nearly every Oh YouTube video available, and while he does not necessarily "light up" the radar gun (147 km/h = ~91 MPH), he does display above average command, with the ability to touch 94-95 MPH. If Oh is able to command the fastball at 92-94 MPH, he will have MLB success. Sure, the level of success will likely be dictated by the transition of his offspeed stuff, but the baseline for success will be determined by fastball command.
Slider (133 km/h = ~83 MPH)
Some of Oh's sliders were filthy, and some were bendy like the one seen above. Oh's ceiling as an MLB reliever likely depends on the development of this pitch, so here is to hoping Derek Lilliquist (and other members on the staff) can fine-tune this pitch into a consistent delivery.
Curveball (113 km/h = ~70 MPH)
Remember how I said Oh will likely become a three-pitch reliever? This is the pitch I propose he drop from his repertoire. In all honesty, I do not see this pitch being used for much more than a "get-me-over" strike in the big leagues, similar to what it was used for in this GIF.
Splitter (131 km/h = ~82 MPH)
This pitch is a wild card for Oh. Similar to what I had to say about his slider, at times, this pitch was devastating to opposing hitters, but at other times (sometimes in the same at bat), it looked as if he had no idea where the pitch was going. Edward Mujica had sustained reliever success through the use of a splitter, and Oh could do the same.
As always, credit to @mstreeter06 for the GIFs used in this post.