After starting his spring 0-for-his-first-21, Hyun Soo Kim has finally found his groove. His batting average has soared to .200 and he’s got eight hits in his last 19 ABs (that’s a .421 batting average, you guys).
Kim was the butt of a lot of bad jokes (like the one above) and the target of some concerned Orioles’ fans on Twitter when the Birds lost nine of their first ten games in the Grapefruit League — they tied the tenth, by the way.
And while it’s been noted that Buck Showalter pulled Kim aside and watched footage of his games in Korea (I can only assume a bucket of popcorn was shared), I can’t say I’ve ever been too worried about Kim’s performance in Spring Training.
During his 0-for, Kim was still managing to put the ball in play. While the results weren’t entirely what we were hoping for, the indicators were all positive. He struck out just three times while grounding or flying out 18 times in his first seven games.
He has yet to homer and has just one sacrifice fly, which means (if my math is correct), he’s recorded a .228 batting average on balls in play this spring. For some perspective, the league average BABIP in 2015 was .299. To no surprise, we’re finally seeing some balls off his bat start to find holes. It was just a matter of time.
Kim might not have changed anything about his approach at the plate since his movie date with Buck. He’s just now getting the results he should’ve seen earlier in the spring.
We unfortunately don’t have access to Kim’s batted ball data in Spring Training, but his zero extra-base hits in 40 at-bats should tell us a little about his power. He also posted a career .488 slugging percentage over ten seasons in the KBO. Don’t expect him to mash like the rest of this lineup.
Personally, I’m more focused on the on base percentage and defense. Kim has walked just once this spring and managed to get hit by pitches twice. You’d like to see a more patient approach at the plate, but I expect we’ll start to see that now that the weight of a long hitless streak has been lifted from his shoulders.
Defensively, we’re kind of limited to radio calls and the occasional highlight from MASN at this point. My colleague and pal Scott Magness says that Kim is “at best an average fielder.” Here’s how Daniel Kim, a TV baseball analyst in Korea, described Hyun Soo’s defense to Dan Connolly back in December:
“He’s improved recently in terms of catching the ball. He’s made some nice catches near the fences. On some balls that would fall in front of him before, he catches now. He has good catching ability on tracking down line drives and he has made some spectacular catches. His arm is not strong, but he will make accurate throws. He doesn’t have a cannon, but he doesn’t make any bad throws. I think he’ll be OK as far as an overall outfielder. And on tracking down the fly balls, he’s slightly above average.”
Overall, Kim has settled in just fine with the Birds. There will definitely be a transition to the big leagues, all he knows is the KBO game. But every indication he’s given us in Spring Training has been positive, even during that rough start.
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