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Kang looks like this year's top international prize for MLB teams

Kang looks like this year's top international prize for MLB teams
Jung-Ho Kang (Photo: AP)
November 3, 2014
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Every year there seems to be a big posting that generates a lot of talk. This year the big foreign posting is a shortstop from Korea named Jung-Ho Kang. Get ready for an avalanche of stories on this young player as he is a need to know hot stove name that even most diehard baseball fans don’t know very well.

Jung-Ho Kang is a 27-year old right-handed bat who has won the equivalent of the Korean Gold Glove the last two years at the shortstop position. On top of that, he has shown massive power the last three years with 25 home runs in 2012, 22 homers last year and 38 homers this year. He led the entire league in slugging, home runs, and OPS over the previous season.

Now before anyone gets super excited, people need to remember the Korean league is a step below the Japanese league. On top of that, from what I can recall, the last time a bat came from the Far East and made an impact was Hideki Matsui back in 2003. So to ask a player from a smaller league to come in and make an impact in the big leagues is a lot to ask. In general, the success rate among bats has been less than arms, so the inherent risk is higher for any bat - especially one from a lesser league.

Most articles that are written on Kang will glowingly talk about his defense, but I am wondering if they have all just watched the same video. Now I have never seen Kang outside of highlight videos, but reports from others talk about how he would be best served moving to second base or possibly third base. He could possibly work at shortstop, but reports from most scouts say it would not be ideal.

After all of the negatives there are still plenty of reasons to be intrigued if you are a team interested in him. The lack of right-handed bats in the majors, and especially those with power, should cause a price spike for Kang. It’s a need for virtually every team in the majors. It is basic economics - supply and demand - and in baseball the demand is most of the league and the supply is very limited.

Every Indians fan wants one but they just aren’t readily available. It would be like getting mad at your local toy store for not having enough of whatever the hot holiday toy is that year. It’s not their fault as they would be more than happy to help give you what you want, but it’s just not possible because of the limited supply.

On top of this Kang’s numbers compared to the league average are unreal. They aren’t quite as good as Jose Abreu’s were to the Cuban league average last year, but they are close. When a guy dominates the level of competition by this much you have to be curious about what he would do in the majors. While the Korean league is not on the Japanese level it is closer to the Cuban level. At least in the Korean league you get former Major League and “quad-A” type players.

I am not saying he will put up Abreu-like numbers. He won’t. Heck, Abreu may not even put up those numbers next year. Yet when you combine the fact that he plays up the middle, with a right-handed bat, and has power potential, well, it should make for a very busy and expensive posting for Kang.

It should also be noted Kang played in the World Baseball Classic, which means he is exempt from mandatory military service which was a long time concern for Indians fans with Shin-Soo Choo.

There have been about eight teams reported as has having scouted Kang this year. One of those teams is the Cleveland Indians. The Indians have been one of the busier teams in Asia over the past few years. They have not signed the big names, but have typically signed a handful of players from Asia each year. I suspect that Kang will be too pricey for them, but it is interesting that they are one of the first teams who were reportedly scouting him. He would be an ideal addition who could be put at third base and provide some more lineup balance. Or, at least he could be if he performs and isn’t another Kaz Matsui.

There is a lot of talk of the Yankees chasing him, which I think would be the worst result for Kang. The Yankees have a massive need up the middle with holes at both second base and shortstop. If they signed Kang it should be as a second baseman.

Johnny Peralta was a top 10 shortstop for his career in Cleveland, occasionally top five. Yet he was always disliked because he was judged by who he replaced. I have had the same theory about the Carlos Santanadislike after replacing Victor Martinez. Now multiply that by a 100 when it comes to New York and replacingDerek Jeter. It would be a setup to ensure failure. I know the Red Sox are another team interested, but with their minor league depth I am not sure where he would play. It is early to give up on Xander Bogaerts. They haveMookie Betts just about ready to go and Dustin Pedroia locked up at second base for a while.

There is another value in signing a foreign player for the teams with deep pockets: it allows you to add readymade help and does not cost any draft picks. The top free agent in all of baseball this year should be Jon Lester for the same reason. There is a lot of value in keeping your first round pick and adding talent.

In the end, I can’t see Kang ending up with the Indians, but I hope when you read about him in the coming months that what you read here helps.

Now what would I do? If I ran a deep pocketed team I would take a chance. There is a very high inherent risk, but what Kang brings to the table talent-wise is all so hard to find that it is exactly where a rich team should and could afford to take a smart risk.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at

User Comments

November 5, 2014 - 7:43 AM EST
@Walter.. With the year Kip had.. he would be a sell low kind of trade.. Only if the GM of the other team involved was wiser beyond a single season (Brian Cashman).. or dumber than a fence post..would an in kind deal be in the offing.. Everyone is tradeable or something to that effect. W/R to Chisenhall.. his second half may have been disappointing.. but, that was the same guy who hit .332/.396/.519 before the all star break. As a 26 year old.. that's pretty impressive.. He'd get a few raised eyebrows from teams looking for a left handed hitter who can play corner IF and has the athleticism to do more..

@Homer... contrary to this article's title.. Moncada is closer to being the best IFA this off season. He's got it all.. I described him as a smaller/sportier version of Yasiel Puig.. Same bat.. better hands.. less of a headcase.. He's gonna be pretty expensive..

Note: Congrats to Tito for the extension.. He's staying because he loves it here..
November 4, 2014 - 3:50 PM EST
If the Indians were able to sign Kang, that would open up to trade Kipnis and Chisenhall.

November 4, 2014 - 12:29 AM EST
Going after Kang certainly makes sense to me, yes he's a bit unproven, but hes a lower cost young FA. The irony here (in another blog), I mentioned him this morning before this article posted. I suspect the Tribe may make a run at him or at they should. Speculation has him getting a significantly less(er) deal than some of the premier FAs from Cuba. Overall, I think he's worth the gamble.

Another player I think the Tribe should aggressively pursue is 19yo Yoan Moncada, it would take going over the Itl expenditures but frankly, I think the kids worth it. He could be a big time prospect/player hyped the next Jorge Soler the skies the limit. But it would meaning some stiff cash penalties in all likelihood to get a chance at Moncada.
November 3, 2014 - 5:15 PM EST
Hmmm... here are some thoughts..

-The KBO is the Korean version of their highest level of baseball.. it's been equated to a poorer Japanese league or on par with the Cuban Professional leagues... read: not quite ML's, but at least strong AA and AAA type level.

When you watch the highlight reels, you can see his movements and first step. He doesn't have the instinctual step of a SS but he does have wheels and a very strong arm. He'd probably be very well suited for a corner OF, most likely RF. The talk about him possibly being a 3B, I don't see.. Is this the best IFA coming down the pipe..I don't think so. It's either Yoan Moncada or Yasmani Tomas..

Should the Indians be interested?. Well, he'd be exactly the kind of player that the Indians acquired when they sent Big Bad Ben Broussard to the M's eight years ago.

Here's a scouting report/information piece on the kid:

Shin-soo Choo was pretty much the same age that Kang is now when the Indians acquired him.. Choo had gotten a cuppa coffee late in the season prior to being traded. When Choo arrived, he got an immediate start in the big leagues after spending most of 2006 in the minors for the M's. 2006 marked the year Choo was up for good... Choo batted .290, .294 and .309 during his first three years with the Tribe. While there is no science involved nor is there anything other that perhaps a coincidence, Kang and Choo would be on parallel paths if he were to sign with the Indians.. Respecting history is a long held cultural belief of the Korean people.. It's grasping at straws.. I know..

I would LOVE to see him sign here.. With the focus in the INTL market on the Cubans..this RF'er to be..could be exactly the piece the Indians need..and he wouldn't be terribly expensive.. With so many of the high spending teams already over their IFA allotment, the Indians could be on a level playing field w/r to the amount of money they could offer. That is.. not a monster 100 MM deal. More like a five year $ 28 MM deal.. We'll see..

November 3, 2014 - 3:49 PM EST
I'm not sure that kang is the best talent out there, Maeda, and Moncada could have something to say about that. That said, he's an interesting bat. Kang has experience at all nine positions and played C in HS. He's got a strong arm and some RH power. He could transition to RF /3b smoothly.
November 3, 2014 - 11:41 AM EST
Good stuff Jeff. Assuming this kid is clean- no PEDS he looks like he could be a star. I remember seeing him in the WBC and he looked really good next to Shin Soo, who did not really distinguish himself among fellow Koreans on that team, Kang has more bat speed, and more power, IMO, as well as soft hands, good infield instincts and a strong arm. It's tough for Koreans to make the culture jump, and that will have to be a consideration wherever he goes. For that reason, I think he may go to L.A. which has a huge Korean population, or on another team that has exp w Korean ballplayers.

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