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Checking on Three Korea-Import Sluggers

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We saw a huge influx of hitting talents from Korea this season, and now we have a better idea about their transition into MLB. Let's evaluate their performance so far, and how they can help our teams going forward.

Size Matters in Baseball.
Size Matters in Baseball.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I have covered a similar topic before the season start. If you are interested to read more about forecasting their transitions into MLB, you can read more here.

Byung-Ho Park

The most prized signing from Korea has successfully proved that his power tool belongs here. His stunning 21.2% HR/FB ratio is ranked 26th in the league, which is higher than the proven power bats like Jay Bruce, Mike Trout, Will Myers, and Joc Pederson. So far, he has homered 11 times already and recorded .234 ISO. He doesn't possess Chris Davis or Nelson Cruz like talent, but his raw power isn't certainly easy thing to be found.

His biggest issue is certainly his high K rate. His 31.9% K-rate is 8th highest in the league. Even in his last season in Korea, where he dominated, he still led the league with 161 K in 140 games, so this issue is nothing new.

The real problem is that he isn't doing much else to compensate his ugly K-rate. His walk rate is nothing special, and he doesn't run well enough to create plays with his legs. His low Babip, .255, has a room for adjustment, but he isn't hitting tons line drives (17.4% is 146th out of 169 qualified hitters), so don't expect his Mendosa line .207 BA to grow quickly.

At this point, the best bet for Park's success is that he starts hit a lot more HR, so that his fly ball outs to turn into hits. In his first 32 games, he was hitting .257 .342 .581, and 33% of his hits were HR during that span. In his next 23 games, only 17% of hits were HR, and his line came out as .145 .237 .265.

So far, his first MLB season has been a rough one. Once he gets out his recent slump, he should be able to put up better numbers, but it would be tough for the Korean slugger to hit above .250 or 35 bombs, unless he gets traded to a more hitter friendly environment. He is a fringe mixed league asset at this point.

Steamer Rest of the Season Projection

1B Rank (Yahoo Eligible)

PA

HR

RBI

R

AVG

SB

15th

349

19

50

44

0.248

3

-

-

Hyun Soo Kim

He created more drama than anyone even before the season start (read more), but he remained in the Majors, and now he is getting huge bumps in his playing time. He is still not an everyday player yet, but if he keeps up with his strong .333 .417 .433, along with the Orioles' 7M commitment, he might be able to claim the full time LF job soon.

Obviously it won't be easy since the Orioles don't trust his defense, and the team has too many DH options. He only recorded 1 HR so far, and that was a well-hit line drive, not a power-driven crushed fly ball. He displayed decent power when he played in Korea as his 10-year ISO there was .170, but it's probably safe to assume that his power isn't going be transferred to the Majors.

He is probably not a special runner since he only recorded double digit steals twice during his 10-year tenure in Korea, where stealing is a lot easier (even Byung Ho Park had 20 SB season). Without having Hamilton-like wheels, it's not easy to sustain such a high BABIP (.367) while hitting more groundballs than anyone (57.5%), so it's safe to assume that his current high flying BA (.319) will be adjusted lower as the season goes on.

His plate discipline is superb (13/11 K/BB) and he make good contacts, but even with increasing playing time, his decent BA isn't enough to compensate his lack of power/speed for him to be mixed-league worthy.

Steamer Rest of the Season Projection

LF Rank (Yahoo Eligible)

PA

HR

RBI

R

AVG

SB

63rd

89

2

10

11

0.277

1

-

-

Dae-Ho Lee

When I first heard that Lee was coming to the States even when he only had a Minor League contract on his hand, I didn't think he was serious about playing baseball here. Since he first became a pro baseball player as a 19-year-old boy, he pretty much dominated the Asian baseball scene. He was a superstar (and a movie star) in Korea for 10 years, and he even won the Triple Crown twice (hitter's Triple Crown only happened three times in Korea). He is a world record holder of hitting home runs in 9 consecutive games, and he has always hit at the cleanup for the Korean national team. He was also one of the best and highest paid player in Japan, so there was no reason to risk his career at age 33.

I'm sure he wasn't happy how the MLB treated him despite his specular resume. He is no doubt one of the best hitters born in Korea, and he had all the rights to be angry about the lukewarm interest around him. Therefore, when he first announced that he took the Mariners offer, I thought he just came here to make his son a U.S. citizen (he son was born during the Spring Training).

I was obviously wrong. Even with his very limited playing time, he still dominated the MLB pitchers by hitting .288 .325 .559, with 10 HR in only 117 PA. Even among the hot hitting Mariners hitters, his .559 SLG is the team's best (Nelson Cruz .546, Robinson Cano .561). He is mainly a right-sided platoon, but he actually hit better against the righties (wRC vs L 130, vs R 153). Adam Lind also hit 8 HR in only 176 PA, but his triple slash is nothing close to Lee's (.236 .273 .406).

We don't have enough information to conclude that Lee is a better hitter than Lind is, but we can at least be sure that they are about the same level at this point (Steamer also project them both at very similar slash line). His playing time should increase as the season goes on.

Despite his great pedigree and current strong numbers, however, it's tough to use him in Fantasy, since his defense and right-handedness will continue to affect his playtime. He is a big dude, but he has been more of a technical hitter than a pure power hitter throughout his career, so his 37% HR/FB shouldn't be sustainable. He is probably still the best (and most complete) Korean first year hitter, and he should play well whenever he is on the field.

Steamer Rest of the Season Projection

1B Rank (Yahoo Eligible)

PA

HR

RBI

R

AVG

SB

53rd

143

5

17

16

0.251

0