San Diego Padres pitcher Ha-Sung Kim’s stock is high, high, high.
He’s now an indispensable player in San Diego. Kim went 1-for-3 with a home run, a walk, and two stolen bases in the Padres’ 4-3 win over the San Francisco Giants at Petco Park on Thursday. He stole his 30th base of the season in the first inning and added his 31st in the fourth.
He became the first Korean major leaguer to reach the 30-steal plateau.
Kim’s batting performance this season has been outstanding. He is batting .459 (126-for-169) with 17 home runs, 52 RBI, 77 runs scored, and 31 stolen bases. He’s batting .365 with a .429 on-base percentage and a .794 OPS.
It’s certainly not what it used to be. In his major league debut in 2021, Kim batted .267 (54-for-167) with eight home runs, 34 RBIs, 27 runs scored, and a .622 OPS in 117 games. Last year, he batted .265 (130-for-517) with 11 home runs, 59 RBIs, 58 runs scored, and a .708 OPS in 150 games. And this season, he’s shown even more improvement.
When Kim came to San Diego on a four-year, $28 million contract, South Korean fans expected him to hit well in the major leagues.
Kim was an offensive-minded shortstop who spent seven years in the KBO from 2014 to 2020, hitting .294 with 133 home runs, 575 RBIs, and 134 stolen bases. In 2020, his last year in the major leagues, he batted .306 with 30 home runs and 109 RBIs. In 2018, he won the Golden Glove for shortstop for the third consecutive year.
But Kim needed to adjust to the major leagues. He had to hit hardballs that were much faster than in Korea, and he had to deal with the major leagues’ murderous schedule of airplane travel and jet lag.
His first-year batting average of just .222 was not enough to satisfy fans in Korea or the San Diego organization. What kept Kim going despite his poor hitting was his defense.
Kim’s defensive prowess, which had been overshadowed by his batting in the KBO, was on display in the major leagues. Whether he was playing shortstop, third base, or second base, his hustle and unselfish play made fans fall in love with him despite his poor hitting. Last year, he was nominated for a Gold Glove, proving that his defense is among the best in the majors.
In the meantime, his hitting improved as he adjusted to the major leagues. With 17 home runs, he became the second Korean major leaguer after Shin-Soo Choo to join the “20 (home runs)-20 (stolen bases) club”.
Kim’s success in the major leagues can be a great lesson for rookies in the KBO. Many rookies have great hitting ability. However, it’s rare to find a player who can also play good defense. There have been many prospects who joined the league as a “one-tool hitter” and tried to win games with only their bat, but ultimately failed to succeed in the KBO. If you don’t have good defense, you can’t play unless you have good hitting. Even if you hit well in the second team and come to the first team, you can only play as a pinch hitter. The defense is not good, so even if you get a hit after one at-bat, you are often replaced in the next at-bat. If you’re not fast enough on the bases, you’ll be replaced as a pinch hitter right after you get a hit.
A player with a good bat will eventually drop to the second team if they don”t capitalize on their few pinch-hitting opportunities. On the other hand, players with good defense often stay in the first team longer because they can play center field.토토사이트
In the case of Shin Min-jae of the LG Twins, he started out as a pinch-hitter and defender, then gradually got a chance to hit, and when the main player was injured, he got a chance to start and showed his batting ability, eventually earning the starting job at second base.
For a lot of hitting prospects, Kim’s development is definitely worth following.