WHO IS PARK?
Byung-ho Park is a 29 year old first baseman who turns 30 in July. A righty swinger and thrower, he stands 6’1” and weighs 195 lbs.
Park signed a 4-year deal with the Twins worth $12 million. The deal also has a $6.5 million club option in 2020.
The Twins paid $12.85 million in a posting fee to negotiate with Park meaning they have invested $24.85 million in Park the next four years.
ACROSS THE SEAS WORK – THE NUMBERS
Park began playing professionally as an 18 year old.
The first baseman has spent his entire career in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO).
For the first seven years of his professional career Park failed to appear in 80 games.
From 2012 to 2015 he has appeared in at least 128 games each season (133, 128, 128 and 140).
Let’s focus on the last four seasons where he was a full-time player.
2012: Park posted a .954 OPS, which you will find out is a four-year low (2012-15). In just 469 at-bats Park hit 31 homers with 105 RBI and 76 runs scored.
2013: Pushed his homer total up to 37 homers and had 117 RBI. He also posted a robust 1.039 OPS that included a .602 SLG. Only hit 17 doubles despite that SLG rate.
2014: Exploded to superstardom with arcade-like numbers as Park hit 52 homers, drove in 124 runs, hit .303 and posted a 1.119 OPS.
2015: Had his best season hitting .343 with a .436 OBP and .714 SLG. Socked a career best 53 homers drove in 146 runners and hit 35 doubles while scoring a career best 129 runs (a second straight 125 run season).
NOTE – Park improved in each of the last three seasons in homers, RBI, runs and OPS. That’s pretty damn impressive.
Park struck out 801 times in 868 games. That’s a pretty large total for the KBO league. He walked 432 times with the result being a solid BB/K ratio of 0.54.
Park also has a bit of speed. He has a 20 steal season in 2012 and in three of his last four seasons he’s stolen 10 or more bases.
As I noted above, Park strikes out an awful lot. It’s unlikely that his whiff rate is going to go down in the states. With that, there’s no way he posts a .300+ batting average. Just not happening.
Speaking of his swing, Park is strong but he lacks upper end bat speed. That means that upper end velocity will likely vex him. Moreover, there are concerns about his ability to handle the inner half, or at least the inner third, of the plate given the lack of alacrity with his stroke. Basically, there are concerns, not about his ability to adapt, but with his talent. He may be a solid offensive performer, but he has the look of a mistake hitter more than a difference maker. Think Pedro Alvarez way more than Jose Abreu.
We just don’t have enough data from players coming to the States from Korea to have a great handle on the transition. Here’s a list of the players who have come to the States. It’s not a big list, only 17 men in fact. Of that group, the hitters of note follow.
Hee-Seop Choi had two seasons with 15 homers.
Shin-soo Choo is the most successful player ever from Korea. He’s had three 20/20 seasons and owns an impressive career slash line (.281/.382/.455).
Jung Ho Kang had a very solid rookie season for the Pirates last year going .287-15-58-60-5 with a .816 OPS over 126 games.
Let’s talk Choo and Kang for a second. Choo started working in the States way back in 2001 as an 18 year old. He worked his way up from Rookie ball to the majors. Over the course of five years. No one else on this list did that. He’s an anomaly.
Kang is more applicable here. Let’s do a Tale of the Tape segment with Kang and Park. The numbers listed below are from each players last season in the KBO.
NOTE: Kang only had 501 plate appearances while Park was way up there at 622 plate appearances.
Kang and Park are the same size.
In their last season in the KBO Kang had a better AVG, a better OBP and a better SLG than Park.
In his first season in the big leagues Kang went .287-15-58 with a .816 OPS.
Kang and Park are not the same player but given the overall similarities Kang’s performance last season should serve as a warning to those folks who are looking to count on Park in 2016 for a big season.
SPOT IN LINEUP
Here’s what seems likely to happen with the Twins.
Kurt Suzuki / John Ryan Murphy will catch.
Joe Mauer will play first base.
Brian Dozier will play second base.
Trevor Plouffe will play third base.
Eduardo Escobar/Eduardo Nunez will play shortstop.
Eddie Rosario will be the left fielder?
Byron Buxton will be the center fielder.
Miguel Sano will be the primary right fielder.
That would seem to leave the designated hitter spot open for Park. If he struggles the team could turn to bats like Carlos Quentin (recently unretired) or Kennys Vargas, but Park obviously has the inside track to the full-time gig.
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10-team Mixed: Don’t know why you would bother in this format. I wouldn’t.
12-team Mixed: Nothing other than a reserve round selection for me. Even if he were to better Kang’s effort from last season and go, let’s say, .280-20-75, is that any different than Mitch Moreland or Mike Napoli types? Answer – no.
15-team Mixed: I would rather take a shot on guys like Jonathan Singleton and Matt Adams before I would reach for Park.
AL-Only: The only place I would feel comfortable in drafting Park. It would all be about the cost though. I prefer players that I know. Sue me. It’s hard enough to predict how rookies will do. When those “rookies” come from foreign countries… that’s just not a party I want to crash.
To see where Park ranks take a look at our 2016 Rankings that are part of the MLB Draft Guide.
Source: 2016 MLB Player Profile: Byung-ho Park | Fantasy Alarm