Let the Bidding Begin! SS Jung Ho Kang Posted.


     The Nexen Heroes have officially posted SS Jung Ho Kang for MLB bidding today and will be accepting offers from MLB over the next 4 business days. Kang is known for his herculean power in the KBO. In 117 games played in 2014, Kang hit .356 with 40 HR, 117 RBIs, and 36 doubles. Defensively he is a below average fielding SS with a very strong arm to make up for his range issues.

     Recent estimates expect the Nexen Heroes to expect a bid within the $10-$15m range. In addition to the bid, Kang is expected to request a 3 yr deal worth roughly $24m. On the surface, Kang seems like a no-brainer for clubs to go out and sign to fill their respective holes at SS. However, there are some serious concerns about how Kang's power and defensive skills will translate to the MLB. 

     The Korean Baseball Organization is widely known as being a heavy hitters environment. Kang's home field, Mokdong Stadium, is 322ft in the corners, 371ft in the allies, and 387ft in center field. By KBO standards Mokdong Stadium is an average size, other stadiums are as small as 312ft in the corners to a maximum of 328ft. The small stadiums help contribute to an insanely high league wide average of .807 OPS. The quality of pitching is also lackluster in the KBO. The average team ERA in 2014 was 5.22 runs per 9 innings. The average K/9 rate was 6.8 and average BB/9 rates was 3.8. The top pitchers in the league generally run their fastballs between 88-93mph, a far cry from the dominating 96-98mph fastballs of the most elite MLB pitchers.

For visual sake, here is a side by side comparison of the MLB to the KBO:


     It is very reasonable to believe that Kang's insane 2014 numbers will not translate to the MLB very well. However, as we can see, the HR rates between the 2 leagues are actually very similar. While we can safely assume that Kang will most certainly not hit .356 in the MLB, a high slugging percentage is not unreasonable.

     Defensively, Kang is considered league average in the KBO and evaluators believe he will translate into a below average defender in the MLB. One scout even went as far as to say that current Mets SS Wilmer Flores would be better than him. That is certainly a very troubling analysis to hear from talent scouts. One thing that has to be kept in mind though is that Kang played almost 75% of his games on fields with artificial turf as it's playing surface. 

     Turf infields play significantly faster then their grass counterparts and do not give fielders much time to react to hard hit groundball. One could reasonably assume that a transition over to grass fields will help Kang's defensive range by slowing the ball down and allowing his strong arm to make plays. Based on the available information and the differences between the two leagues I personally would forecast Kang posting the below stat line.

.260 Avg, .330 OBP, .430 SLG (.760 OPS), 25 HR, 150 K, 70 BB

     All in all, Sandy and his team have 96 hours to determine if Kang can be a reasonable upgrade to Wilmer Flores at SS. At $8m per season, a bust here would not be a earth shattering blow to the organization considering they spent $7.25m of dead money on Chris Young last year. If he proves out to be a strong bat but too poor of a defender at SS, the club will be able to find him a home in the AL before some of the younger talent in the minors is ready for the MLB.

Here is a video of Kang's 2013 highlights.

And Another of just his defensive play in the KBO.


Thomas Brennan said...

The Mets would have to make sure that 80% of this guys' homers would not be long outs in the still-difficult-to-hit-homers-in Citifield. Flip side, what if Ike Davis went to this league next year - would he hit 60 homers? Scary to project this guy. Wilmer, though, went 4 for 5 with a HR yesterday. I think WF will put up reliably strong #s in 2015. Just give Wilmer a chance.

Mack Ade said...

Let's remember all these 'stats' are against Korean pitchers that have no chance of ever pitching in the MLB

Anonymous said...

I watched the highlight reel over the weekend and could not help but notice three things: steady diet of 85 mph fastballs; 385 to dead center and MOST importantly, if he gazes at his homeruns like that in the Majors, he is going to see a steady diet of 95 mph fastballs at his head.

Pass, there are better ways to burn 10-15 million, like shove it at Moncada.

Anon Joe F

Lew Rhodes said...

I agree, Mack.

To me, this guy may make the most sense to a team that needs a 3b - if he has quick enough reflexes, sounds like his arm would play and .760 OPS would not be awful at 3b (would it?)

How was his OPS compared to the league average? Does anyone know? That would be more informative than looking at league rate stats - the league had a .807 OPS, his had to be over 1.000 with his other numbers - that actually is a positive for him overall - I still pass, go with Wilmer and spend the money on a real solid backup MI

Christopher Soto said...

Kang's OPS was 1.198 vs the KBO league average of .807

Anonymous said...

Save the money and free Flores
Spend the money on extensions and Moncada

Lew Rhodes said...

Thanks Chris - he may be hitting off of the equivalent of AA pitching, but an OPS 50% better than league average is nothing to sneeze at.

Sounds the true test for him will be if he has the bat speed to hit 95 MPH fastballs.

I still don't want him, though - I have flash backs to the other Matsui just thinking about it.

Thomas Brennan said...

It all depends on what level that Korean League plays at - is it the equivalent of A ball, AA ball?

OK, this guy had a high OPS.

Wilmer Flores at 22 had a .935 OPS in AAA. Not as high, but very substantial.

Excluding his first month in AAA the prior year, when he was 21, he had an OPS over .900.

This Korean player is older, playing inferior teams in smaller parks and he is 4 to 5 years older than Flores.

Flores might have a higher OPS if he played in that league in 2015. I am not convinced Flores is not the better option. I still think he is the option to go with.

Thomas Brennan said...

Has ANY Korean player come out of that league straight to the majors? If so, what drop off?

If not, that speaks volumes.

Michi L. said...

Its going to be this way:

The Mets sign him and he hits like Chris Young.

The Mets dont sign him and hes fighting against Tulowitzki for the All Star start.

bob gregory said...

Why does everything always have to be either or.....

Go for Kang if trusted talent evaluators give him a decent chance.

Go for Moncado also if the same is true.

Worry about having too much talent after wards.

It would be a refreshing change to the past few years of having not enough talent

Mack's Mets © 2012