Depending on what you believe, Hyun Soo Kim's first year with the Orioles was close to not happening. Before he ever played an inning of regular season baseball, the Orioles were exploring how to get out of his contract (signed just a few months prior). As Roch Kubatko of MASN wrote in late March, "I checked again last night and the Orioles definitely are open to moving Kim, whose performance hasn’t met expectations." That would be his highly scrutinized spring training performance.
Kim did not hit well in spring training, and that, combined with other concerns (defense? baserunning? money?), put Kim's Orioles' career in jeopardy before it ever really started. The Orioles wanted Kim to start the year in Triple-A. He justifiably declined. Some fans foolishly called Kim selfish, and some even made the puzzling decision to boo him on opening day. Adam Jones rightfully admonished fans afterward.
That brings us to Kim's actual production during his debut season. Here's a summary: He just keeps hitting. Kim didn't make his debut until the O's sixth game, when he collected two singles in three trips to the plate. He appeared in the lineup sporadically through mid-May. Because he kept hitting and getting on base, he finally started seeing his name in the lineup regularly starting on May 25.
Overall, it's hard not to be impressed by the numbers. In 137 plate appearances, Kim has posted a 148 wRC+. That's second-best on the Orioles, behind Manny Machado (159 wRC+). Kim is almost certainly not this good -- a BABIP of .390 is propping up his numbers to some extent -- but he has been excellent so far and has given the Orioles way, way more than they thought they were getting in March. (Seriously, go through Kubatko's post above comparing Kim and Rickard. It's amusing.)
At the time Kim's signing was announced, fans were hoping that Kim could provide an on-base threat. He's done exactly that, with a .438 on-base percentage. That's the highest among all major league hitters with at least 100 plate appearances (David Ortiz is second at .433). Kim has walked exactly as many times as he's struck out (16), and his walk rate of 11.7% trails only Chris Davis (13.6%).
One of the amusing parts of the Orioles trying to get out of Kim's contract before the season is that not only did it seem like a reasonable deal at the time, but it only looks better now. The Orioles signed Kim for two years and $7 million, and based on his production (0.9 fWAR, 0.7 bWAR), he's essentially been worth his contract so far with a season and a half to go. Even if Kim performs at replacement level for the rest of his deal, his contract has already been worth it.
You probably couldn't have predicted it based on how the season started -- Kim buried on the bench; Adam Jones battling an injury; Joey Rickard receiving an extended stretch of at-bats as the team's everyday leadoff hitter -- but the Orioles have stumbled into an effective left field platoon with Kim and Rickard. This is how the two have performed against opposite-handed throwers:
Kim vs. RHP: 152 wRC+
Rickard vs. LHP: 129 wRC+
That is very strong production, especially considering how terrible O's left fielders were just a season ago. Perhaps Kim should be playing even more and given a chance to show what he can do against lefties, but it's hard to argue with the results.
Kim has exceeded all expectations, even before taking into account the drama during and after spring training, combined with being chained to the bench for a while. Kim hasn't reached (and likely won't reach) the point where it's expected to see him bat about 50% better than the league average. But at least 10-20% is certainly within play, and if anyone would have guaranteed you that before the season, you would have been thrilled. The same goes for the Orioles, who are surely just as surprised.
All I know is that I'd be just fine with more moments like this: