Cubs discuss Korean prospect

The Cubs continue to make inroads in the Pacific Rim with the recent signing of Lee Hak-ju, an 18-year-old Korean shortstop, to a professional contract this month.

"The baseball in Asia is very good," notes Cubs Assistant to the General Manager Paul Weaver, who played a large hand in the signing of Hak-Ju.

"There are 40,000 high schools in Japan that play baseball and a bunch of them in Korea, and the quality of baseball is good," adds Weaver.

The latest product of the Asian pipeline is Hak-ju, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound shortstop.

Commenting on the signing for the first time this week, Weaver described the product of ChungAm High School (a left-handed batter with a right-handed arm) as a "very good athlete" with "very good running skills."

"I don't know if he reminds me of anybody I've seen in the past, but he has very good tools," Weaver told "He's got above-average speed, a better than average arm, very good agility, nice hands, and I think he has a chance to be a leadoff hitter in the major leagues, steal a lot of bases, and play shortstop every day."

The Korean press first reported the signing over a month ago, but it was not approved and made official by the commissioner's office until recently. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Hak-ju is not scheduled to graduate from high school until February.

"The next step is he'll come over probably to the Instructional League if he can get out of school," said Weaver. "There is a chance that he could play in the Australian Baseball Academy for a while this summer if everything goes according to plan."

If so, Hak-ju will be joined by two other recent Cubs signees on the international market in RHP Adam Spencer and LHP Cody Hams – both from Australia.

"We'll have three or four players in the Australian Academy," said Weaver.

The Cubs have scouted and signed a number of players from the Asian market since the appointment of former big league pitcher Steve Wilson as the club's head of scouting in the Pacific Rim in 2006 – one of which is Kosuke Fukudome.

"Through the Tribune Company and Jim (Hendry), Crane (Kenney) and Randy (Bush), they want to put an emphasis on expanding our market overseas, particularly the Asian market," Weaver said.

Weaver noted that the Cubs already have a strong presence on the Latin American stage and have also increased their scouting efforts in Europe with the signings of RHP Alex Maestri (Italy) in 2006 and INF Dwayne Kemp (the Netherlands) in October of last year. "We're trying to be more active internationally," said Weaver.

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