Position players heading to the majors from the Korean Baseball Organization have traditionally struggled. While they may have a solid year or two, those players from South Korea just have found sustained success stateside. San Diego Padres infielder Ha-Seong Kim may be changing that perception.
Jung Ho Kang had been the most successful position player to transition from the KBO to the majors prior to the 2022 season. He had posted a 5.90 bWAR before his major league career was ruined by drunken driving incidents in South Korea.
San Diego Padres infielder Ha-Seong Kim setting a new standard
At least, that was the case until Kim came into his own this year. He posted a solid .251/.325/.383 batting line with 11 homers and 29 doubles in his 582 plate appearances while chipping in 12 steals. Kim was also excellent defensively, saving ten runs at short and another two at third.
His excellent defense and above average performance with the bat led to Kim having a solid 2022 campaign. He was worth 4.9 bWAR last year, a performance that was better than the career totals of 20 former major leaguers that had been born in South Korea.
In the end, it was a matter of opportunity. Kim got the chance to play nearly every day due to Fernando Tatis Jr.’s injuries and PED suspension. That will continue to be the case through the beginning of next year as well, as he still has to serve 32 more games of his suspension in 2023.
Kim could easily add to his totals as well. He will be 27 heading into the 2023 campaign, just entering his prime. It is just a matter of staying in the lineup on a consistent basis and possibly seeing some improvements with the bat. Maybe, just maybe, Kim can become the gold standard of any player from South Korea, regardless of their position or having played in the KBO.
Ha-Seong Kim emerged as an important piece for the San Diego Padres this season. In the process, he is the new standard for KBO position players.