16 December 2015

Orioles Sign Hyun-soo Kim, Pending Physical

As of this evening, Hyun-soo Kim boarded a flight from Seoul to Dulles.  Word leaked that he will meet with Orioles officials, undergo a physical, and sign a contract with an AAV greater than Byung-ho Park.  The Orioles have been quite vocal about their pursuit of a left-handed hitting corner outfielder.  Kim fits the bill and the 3.5 AAV cost is low enough that it does not greatly impede the club in moving forward with additional signings.  In other words, Kim does not prevent the club from signing Chris Davis, Justin Upton, or Alex Gordon.

If one wishes to engage in hyperbole, then we can puts comps on each of the major Korean position players in the world of MLB.  Kim would be Ty Cobb to Park's Ruth and Jung-ho Kang's Honus Wagner.  Kang can hit well, but is not so regarded with his glove.  Park hits the ball a mile.  Kim is considered an artist with the bat with defense that likely shows average and an arm that shows less.  While some may optimistically see a prime Nate McLouth in him, the more likely projection would perhaps be something near Melky Cabrera or perhaps Nick Markakis.  A player who can get the bat on the ball, but the contact may not be incredibly meaningful and he does not have the wheels to exploit long line drives.  He'll likely show gap to gap power, pulling in 10-15 home runs a year.

Below is how his career has gone in the KBO:

All Levels (10 Seasons)4768230142597501.318.406.488
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/16/2015.

You may remember that I put together a model to project MLB performance from players who have made the transition either from MLB to KBO or vice versa.  The pool was restricted to the last couple years as the league has become a bastion of high octane offense, so it consists of Kang and 11 Westward bound transitions.  That is not the most robust of populations to draw a model from, but it was interesting that walk rate and home run rate were significantly projected while nothing else was.  This gives us considerable certainty when entertaining how well Byung-ho Park will do, but it leaves us scratching our heads a bit with Kim because so much of his game depends on secondary power.

KANG projection for Hyun-soo Kim:

Hyun-soo Kim 576 21 12 53 68 .253 .322 .363 1.5

For 3.5 MM, that looks actually quite amazing.  The Orioles would be getting three times their investment.  However, keep in mind that a 1.5 WAR LF is a below average LF, which is about five times the value the club got out of its left fielders in about a 100 fewer at-bats.  It is not the flashiest move, but it does improve the club if you think KANG is a useful projection tool.  As I mentioned, KANG does very well with home runs and walks, but not much else.  Strikeouts are ranging toward being significant.  That is it.  A player like Kim has made the most out of singles and doubles and that simply is not accounted for in the model.  To poke and cause a little more doubt, KANG thinks Ah-seop Son is a monster and no one even bothered to place a bid on him.

From a scouting angle, it depends on who you talk to.  I have talked to three front office folks and Kim ranged from AAA outfielder to passing left fielder.  Those would be 35-45 grades.  My acquaintances who follow Korean baseball think the world of Kim.  At the very least, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.  


Anonymous said...

Seems to me now that, if the Orioles still sign a big time hitter, then a trade for pitching may be more possible. Maybe trade out Matusz and Walker for a starter? Or Matusz, Walker, and Gonzalez might bring something interesting back?

Jon Shepherd said...

Those guys all have very little value.

P said...

If Kim grades at 35-45, and Rickard is projected for 40-45, does that mean they are equivalent in terms of expected production?

Jon Shepherd said...

Yes. Many evaluators would say they have similar value, but there would be a small faction that see a very slight chance for considerable upside with Kim. It would be surprising if anyone would think Rickard is evaluated that way. Here is a comparison. Rickard is largely given a 40/40/45 rating. Kim has a 40/40/55 rating. Some would argue that 55 should be a 50.

Anonymous said...

So going into last year, how would Snider/Reimold/Urrutia/Alvarez compared, in that regard?
It seems to me that Kim at least (maybe Rickard) is a step up

Jon Shepherd said...

The plan last year was really Pearce, Snider, De Aza.

De Aza and Kim has a similar total outlook. Pearce had a very good projection and Snider was fringy.

Last year looked better, but it did not work out. Lots of things can cause deviation from expectations during a season.