Ha-Seong Kim Intriguing Third Base Option For Mets
When it comes to players from other leagues, you can never be too sure how well their skills and stats translate. That is partially the result of MLB being that much better than the other leagues.
Even no doubt candidates like Hideki Matsui put up lesser numbers in MLB. That said, Matsui was a very good player who was a two time All-Star and World Series MVP.
However, that’s Japan. The KBO doesn’t have as many success stories partially because they haven’t sent over as many players. That said, you can see some examples where KBO players played well after coming overseas.
Jung-Ho Kang had a 126 OPS+ in his first two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates before his legal troubles. Eric Thames went to the KBO to resurrect his career, and it worked. In his first three seasons back in the majors, he had a 118 OPS+.
Looking at these and all foreign players, there is one guiding principle. If you’re a talented player, you will succeed in the majors. That brings us to Ha-Seong Kim.
Kim has been great in his seven seasons hitting .294/.373/.493. Using ZiPs, Dan Symborski of Fangraphs projects Kim to hit .274/.373/.477 with 23 homers and 82 RBI. In terms of advanced stats, Kim protects to have a 117 OPS+ and 3.8 fWAR.
Now, this is where Kim’s position would matter a great deal. At shortstop, he’d be a potential top five hitter in the league. At third, he’s just middle of the pack to possibly lower.
Lost in that are two things. First and foremost, it’s a projection. Second and perhaps more importantly, Kim will be 26 next year meaning he’s about to enter his prime and potentially put up bigger numbers.
Another important consideration is the bat is just part of the equation. His defense is a factor as well.
Kim won back-to-back Gold Gloves at shortstop. He didn’t repeat in 2020, but part of the reason why was his team signed Addison Russell. With Russell at short, Kim moved to third where he played well.
Looking at the complete picture. Kim looks like he’ll be an above-average hitter, and at third, he could be an above-average defender. All-in-all, that makes a good baseball player who could help the Mets significantly.
Keep in mind, J.D. Davis has twice proven he can’t play the position, and there are significant question marks about Jeff McNeil‘s ability to handle the position on a daily basis. Luis Guillorme and Amed Rosario are other options, but their bats may not play well there.
Looking at free agency, Justin Turner is the best MLB option. The problem there is he’s 36 and not guaranteed to want to move back east. On the trade market, there’s Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant, but they’ll be difficult to obtain with the way Brodie Van Wagenen needlessly ravaged the farm system.
That brings us back to Kim. Arguably, there’s no free agent with his upside or ability to help the Mets branch out to another market. He could fit very well into the lineup and make the Mets significantly improved defensively. While he may not be a sure get to see his skills translate well, we’ve seen other KBO players successfully make the jump, and we see Kim is immensely talented.
All told, you can see why the Mets are interested. Hopefully, they can get a deal done and lock down third base for the next 5-10 years.