Getting to know new Padres infielder Ha-Seong Kim

(Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images) /

With international signings comes a degree of trepidation. No one knows just how player’s skillset will translate to the MLB game and it makes it incredibly difficult to project what guys will do when they come to the states.

But none of that concerned AJ Preller and the San Diego Padres when it came to adding Korean superstar Ha-Seong Kim to a four-year deal this winter. Kim spent the last seven years playing in the KBO, capping that experience with a monster 2020 campaign in which he turned in a career-best .921 OPS in 138 games.

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"“Good players have a way of making adjustments,” Preller said after the signing. “. . . We’ve seen him dating back to the 18-under world championship team . . ."

It’s been an evolution for Kim, who’s continued to develop and improve with each passing season. I know Padres fans will get their first look at the 25-year-old next week in Arizona – but I wanted to help you get a better feel as to what to expect from the infielder.

In his first professional season back in 2014, Kim batted just .188 with a .298 OBP in 60 games. He bounced back the next year, raising his average to .290 to go along with an also-improved .362 on-base mark. But that season, he struck out 115 times, drawing 56 walks. That ratio is critical – because since 2015, he’s put in a lot of work to improve it.

He never again posted triple-digit strikeout numbers in the KBO. In fact, he improved his bat-to-ball skills so much that, in 2020, he walked more than he struck out (75 walks to 68 strikeouts) in 533 at-bats. Oh, and he also set a career-high by smacking 30 home runs for the first time in his career.

Padres don’t yet know what role Ha-Seong Kim will play

The role Kim will play for the Padres is yet-to-be-determined. He’s primarily a middle infielder, but San Diego has Fernando Tatis Jr. cemented at shortstop and last year’s NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Jake Cronenworth at second. He’s been getting reps in the outfield this winter, as well, working to improve his versatility.

But to that point, he’ll face competition even as the utilityman presence on the roster in Jurickson Profar, who is back in San Diego and ready to play wherever and whenever the team needs. The team’s depth and the uncertainty over Kim’s skillset immediately translating to the big leagues actually has The Athletics Jim Bowden wondering whether he’ll even make the Padres’ Opening Day roster.

Next. If Kim is solid, will the Padres shop Profar or Cronenworth?. dark

Kim will be a key guy to keep an eye on this spring once camp opens up. At just $28 million over the next four years, he’s hardly expected to be a superstar in San Diego. But if he can develop into a reliable presence, this Padres roster will get even deeper.