What are fans to make of Jung-Ho Kang? Does anyone really know what his value will be in 2019? There are so many questions. The Pirates boosted his perceived value by promoting him for the final regular-season weekend in Cincinnati. When he singled to left field in his first game back, it was as if he’d hit another tape-measure home run. The instant Twitter feedback was unmistakable. Sign him! Pick up his $5.5 million option! The funny thing is that the incumbent third baseman, Colin Moran (who only platooned during the team’s second-half hot stretch), started hitting for extra-base power in September. But that’s another story.
For all of the past history and hype surrounding Kang, he’s never played nearly a full season. He seems to be injury-prone. He hit 15 homers in 126 games as a rookie in 2015 and 21 homers in 103 games in 2016. Those numbers, extrapolated, would look pretty good for a full year. But it’s not reasonable to expect a full season from Kang, now that he’ll be 32 on April 5.
He doesn’t gave the range to play shortstop — the team has already stated he won’t play there, further limiting his versatility. Second base is still possible, but it’s be asking a lot from a player whose seen plenty of welcomed and unwelcomed adjustments over the last few years.
But Kang’s still got what the Pirates most covet.
The Pirates totaled 157 home runs in 2018. By comparison, the Los Angeles Dodgers led the National League with 235 homers, followed by Milwaukee (218) and Colorado (210).
Only two NL teams hit fewer dingers, including Miami (128) and San Francisco (133). We won’t get into park effects, but it’s evident the Bucs need more Lumber in their Company.
Which brings us back to the thrice-DUI driven Kang.
Does it matter whether he can stay healthy for a full season? Does it matter that he’s had a more-than-checkered past?
For $5.5 million, he seems like an extremely reasonable gamble. Other organizations might view him strictly as a backup and a bat off the bench and pay him that much or more.
As far as his past indiscretions, that ship already sailed once the team promoted him back to the big leagues.
The Pirates are playing Russian Roulette by allowing him to become a free agent. All it takes is one organization to take a chance on the power-hitting third baseman. Ideally, he comes back to the only North American franchise he’s ever known on an incentive-laden deal, but this is last money grab. Don’t be surprised if he sheds the Black & Gold.
So David Freese re-upped with the Dodgers. Good for him. But don’t forget that the Pirates pulled him off the scrap heap when nobody else wanted him during spring training of 2016. Let’s not make him out to be peak Brooks Robinson or Travis Fryman. Perhaps his availability in spring training was a little contrived by MLB ownership changing its M.O., but Freese wasn’t great shakes with the Angels in 2015 (or 2014, for that matter). From different reports, he turned his life around off the field. Good for him. But it wasn’t professional for him to rip the Pirates after the team traded him to the Dodgers when the only team willing to pay him in 2016 was Pittsburgh. Even if what he said was correct.
Say what you want about Neal Huntington, but I still think he has good instincts. The Pirates were reportedly very interested in Red Sox pitcher, Rick Porcello, when he threw for Detroit. This isn’t one of those cases where the Pirates are in on every player and don’t get him. I have a feeling they were actually close to acquiring Porcello.
Drafting and developing players remains a weakness, however. Pirates postgame analyst (and former MLB GM, Jack Zdurencik) said that an organization’s scouting director was it’s second most important position. He noted that a team must have talent, something along the lines of the saying “you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken poop” or something like that.
Corey Dickerson has as much chance of beating out Christian Yelich for the Gold Glove in left field as Richie Zisk. Dickerson exceeded expectations playing in PNC Park’s spacious left field, but Yelich is likely the NL’s Most Valuable Player.
It’s good to have a Pirates player making positive news on defense.
Incidentally, the last Pirate infielder to win a Gold Glove was shortstop Jay Bell in 1993. The same Jay Bell who made 59 errors as a minor leaguer for the Minnesota and Cleveland organizations as a 19-year-old in 1985.
The Pirates finished tied for 19th (with Washington), getting plunked by 59 pitches. What makes this interesting is that the team finished first or second in the major league HBPs ever season from 2013 to 2017. What changed?
The Bucs ranked second in the majors with 52 sacrifice fly balls. The Yankees led with 59. What are the Yankees doing hitting sac flies when they play in that band box? Colin Moran and Gregory Polanco each hit seven sacrifice flies to lead the team.
Pittsburgh hurlers threw 16 shutouts, third-most in the majors. Unfortunately, the team was also shut out 17 times.
Pirates pitchers led MLB with 95 wild pitches, one more than the Chicago White Sox. The New York Mets threw the fewest number of wild pitches (26). Reliever Richard Rodriguez threw a team-high 11 wild pitches in 69.1 innings despite delivering a remarkable rookie season and respectable 1.07 WHIP & 88:19 K:BB. Remarkably, Jameson Taillon was tagged with just two wild pitches in 191 innings and Trevor Williams had only two in 170.2 innings.
Chad Kuhl tied Trevor Williams for the team lead in sacrifice hits (6) despite missing July, August and September.
Pittsburgh pitchers picked off two baserunners, the fewest of any MLB team.
Have a good day!