More interesting to us here is what exactly can Park provide. We had him as a potential full time first baseman or designated hitter in our blueprint series and were willing to bid up to 8 MM with a 4/20 contract, which means we would have lost out on that. My idea was that his baseline was a right handed hitting Pedro Alvarez with an upside of a right handed poor man's Chris Davis, which is a 2012 Chris Davis.
I decided to try to tease apart the numbers a bit and produce a quantitative projection. To do this I collected batting data from eleven Korean Baseball Organization players from 2011-2015 who had more than 300 plate appearances in the KBO while also having a ZiPS projection. In addition to those eleven, I regressed Jung-Ho Kang's last three KBO seasons to generate a projection for a 2015 KBO year and used his 2015 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. With this information and accounting for interleague factors, I devised an equivalency between the two leagues.
It should be noted that this equivalence system between the KBO and MLB is rather generic. For instance, it knows that Kang hit 40 home runs in his last year for Nexen, but it does not know why. This gray area is what happens when we have a player in AAA who excels at that level, but is outmatched in the Majors. In other words, there may be difficulty in discerning between Quad-A players and true Major Leaguers.
To that end, devising a system with 11 underperforming former MLBers may introduce a selection bias. To try to account for that is a horrifically simple way, I devised two different equivalencies. The first one equally weights all twelve players in the data set, while the second one weights Kang's numbers equal to all of the MLBers. I call the methods the Korean Approximate Number Guide (KANG). It is a wonderful acronym with poor source words. Oh well. Anyway, the first model will simply be call KANG and the latter will be KANG(k+) to signify that KBO originating transfers will be weighted in order to provide 50% of the projection.
|600 PA Projections KANG|
|Byung Ho Park||22||27||.234||.302||.426|
|Dae-ho Lee *||29||16||.269||.315||.406|
|* Lee's numbers used a JPL conversion not discussed here.|
Park and Lee are first basemen, Son is an outfielder, and Hwang is a third baseman who is expected to be posted after Son's situation is settled (KBO post agreement is that a team can only post one player at a time). Based on those projections, Park's numbers seem a bit fringe Major Leaguer and a player for whom you would not want to lay out a large dedicated cost. In other words, I would be hesitant to put down a 13 MM + 4/20 or more outlay for him because the projection looks a little more Jake Fox than Chris Davis.
However, there may be three things weighing down Park's numbers. One, in 2007 and 2008, Park was in military service and playing on their club. It has been suggested that this service can result in a delay in developing a player's skills. This means the projection system may be using data that does not properly represent Park's actual performance level. Two, performance is likely somewhat asymptotic. What I mean by that is Park's 54 HR, 343/436/714 line may be so good that talent is not the limiting factor in his performance. At a certain point, talent likely brings less additional performance. A talent to performance graph is likely not linear, but more of an S shaped curve. I am suspicious of the notion that Park maxed out the KBO, but there is some argument that his performance may not speak true to his abilities. Finally, as I mentioned before, eleven of the twelve individuals that make up the data set for KANG are failed MLBers, which likely introduces a bit of selection bias to the projections.
Also mentioned earlier, I tried to combat the potential selection bias by making Jung-Ho Kang's contribution to Kang equivalent to the contributory sum of the eleven MLBers. Again, I called this KANG(k+).
|600 PA Projections with KANG(k+)|
|Dae-ho Lee *||31||17||.287||.326||.428|
|* Lee's numbers used a JPL conversion not discussed here.|
Weighting for Jung-Ho Kang did not greatly alter the projections. These numbers certainly are better than the KANG projections, but the changes are more related to singles hitting. The increased number of singles boosted up batting average and on base percentage. This difference does not make me entirely comfortable because it is buoyed by Kang's .344 BABIP in 2015. That number is not absurd, but it does appear unlikely to be sustainable. That is a weakness when relying so much on one player's line and it is a weakness that should be corrected in future iterations of KANG(k+) as the number of Korean players increase.
Of the four players projected in this article, I have most interest in Ah-seop Son. He appears to be a Nori Aoki kind of player with slightly more pop. I would hesitate putting too much money into him, but I think with Son being 28, that a 4 year deal with a total commitment (post and salary) of 20 MM would be of interest to me. Dae-ho Lee, a 34 year old first baseman, has less promise with his age, but projects similarly to Park. Lee's value relies more on contact than power, so there may be more wiggle room for error. He certainly would not be worth going long term, but he would be an interesting one or two year option at 5 MM per year. Hwang is interesting, but you have to fully believe that he has yet to find his true talent level because his numbers are not as impressive as the others.
In the end, some may be gnashing teeth that the Orioles were unwilling to post a large sum to win the honor of courting Park, but I am not too concerned. I think in order to put out as much money as went out for Park a club has to have little concern for money and can shoulder risk or may be too cast strapped to go after free agents with more certain track records. It will be interesting to see who has won Park and it will be fascinating to see what he can accomplish stateside.