K-pop, aka Korean popular music, has taken the world by storm over the past few years, with groups such as BTS and Blackpink becoming international stars. The proliferation of the genre throughout the world took time, though. One of the OGs was Seo Taiji and Boys, who combined heavy metal, dance, and hip hop in the early 1990s to make a dent in the scene. This same process has endured with the impact of Korean-born players in MLB. Shoutout to Chan-Ho Park, who debuted with the Dodgers in 1994. Outside of Park kicking Tim Belcher in the head and giving up two grand slams in the same inning to Fernando Tatis, as a Korean-American, I always felt a sense of pride whenever he took the mound. Since then, 25 players have crossed the Pacific to play in MLB. There haven’t been any Shohei Ohtanis. Hopefully soon, but that doesn’t mean there has been a lack of talent. One such player is Ha-Seong Kim of the San Diego Padres. I’m embarrassed that I haven’t written him up until now, especially since Rudy and I have rostered him on our OC for much of the season, but I’m here to give props now.
Kim is 27 years old, 5-foot-9, 168 pounds, and bats from the right side. He played 10 years in the KBO before signing with the Padres in 2020. He had two 20/20 seasons in the KBO with one of those 30/20. He missed the 20/20 mark by one home run in two other seasons.
In his MLB rookie season, Kim slashed .202/.270/.352 with a 7.4% walk rate, 23.8% strikeout rate, and .150 ISO. He hit eight home runs and stole six bases in 298 plate appearances. Since then, he’s improved every season.
Last season, he slashed .251/.325/.383 with an 8.8% walk rate, 17.2% strikeout rate with 11 home runs, and 12 stolen bases in 582 plate appearances. The ISO did come down to .132, though.
So far this season, the slash is .257/.344/.411 with an 11.4% walk rate, 22.7% strikeout rate, .155 ISO with 10 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 308 plate appearances.
Since arriving in the majors, the pull rate has decreased from 50.7% to 45.8%. The ground ball rate has come down slightly from 41.4% to 38.8%, but the two dramatic changes in the batted ball profile have been fewer infield fly balls and an increase in HR/FB.
Looking at the plate discipline, the chase rate has gone from 26% to 22.3% this season. That’s the seventh-lowest rate in all of MLB. The contact rates are good – 87.4% in the zone and 892.9% in general. The swinging strike rate is a paltry 6.6%.
Now, Kim is far from the perfect player. Against RHP, the strikeout rate is 25.5% while the slash is .249/.333/.361 with a .112 ISO. Those aren’t terrible numbers but they pale in comparison to his prowess against LHP. The strikeout rate is only 17.9% while the slash is .271/.364/.500 with a .229 ISO.
Is Kim a superstar who will carry your fantasy squad to glory? Niet. Could he be a significant piece, though?
Kim could be a 15/20 player with a sub-20% strikeout rate, 10% walk rate, and .250-ish average. According to Statcast, the sprint speed is in the 83rd percentile. Only 31 players were projected to go 15/20 before the season started. In addition, he’s eligible at 2B/3B/SS, which provides flexibility in roster management. Finally, after starting the season in the bottom third of the lineup, Kim has been the Padres leadoff hitter in 10 of the last 11 games he’s started.