20 February 2018

DJ Stewart is Hyun Soo Kim

After the 2015 season, Hyun Soo Kim let it be known that he was interested in applying his skills to the Major League game.  Many in Korea predicted automatic success.  Kim was known as one of the best pure hitters that Korea had ever produced.  Athletic though with a bit of a bad body, he could have been called the KBO version of Tony Gwynn.  Combine that with the 2015 success of Jung Ho Kang, widely considered a lesser talent, and there was quite a bit of anticipation.

The scouting outlook that emerged from folks focused on the KBO was a bit rosy.  His speed was noted at average, but in Spring Training and later measured by Sprint Speed in the Majors that kind of fell apart.  Kim was the second slowest left fielder in baseball, just ahead of Melky Cabrera.  He could make decent routes.  He knew his limitations, but that awareness can only blunt the lack of range so much.  The changes in his swing to showcase more of his power in the KBO had to revert and go back to how he originally found success.  That took months to figure out.  All in all, it was a mixed bag.  Kim had to rely on his contact skills with nothing else to keep him afloat.  It worked mid-year 2016, but really at no other time.  He now finds himself back in the KBO and likely to dominate there.

Watching D.J. Stewart in 2016 and 2017, he actually looked a bit like Hyun Soo Kim to me.  Athletic, but bad bodied.  Moderate raw power than can translate into games with the right mechanics and approach.  Below average overall fielding.  The two differences that came forward though was that Stewart had a bit more raw power and he is far more able to apply himself on the basepaths.  Stewart understood and felt comfortable in how fast the game was played while Kim had difficulties (at a higher level).

To compare them, I brushed off my KANG model to project what D.J. Stewart would do (using long-term PECOTA projections) against what Hyun Soo Kim actually did at the same age:


PECOTA through KANG sees particularly more power coming from Stewart.  Stewart also appears to be able to draws more walks as well, but it should be noted that Kim made a point to adapt his game his final year, so you could potentially imagine Kim's power and discipline being underutilized in previous seasons.  Still, Stewart shows more walks and power.

I then wondered how it would look like with Stewart's projections before his 2017 renaissance.

Kim 2012 .291 .358 .382
2013 .302 .382 .470
2014 .322 .396 .488
2015 .326 .438 .541
Stewart -1 2018 .267 .380 .520
2019 .263 .378 .521
2020 .260 .376 .516
2021 .260 .372 .514

They still do not quite match up.  Stewart still shows more power and similar discipline.  However, his hitting ability plummets.  If you squint though, you see something.

The hope for Stewart is that his hit tool appears to be more well-rounded than Kim's.  Yes, the skill set is marginal, but broader.  Also working for Stewart, by likely coming to the Majors at a younger age, his defense should be more capable.  This will make him less of a minus value overall to the club and enable him to have more opportunities to let his ability shine through.  Kim was not afforded plentiful chances when his offensive play would go into funks because of his defensive limitations.

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