After signing a four-year, $28 million deal this offseason, it seems safe to say Ha-Seong Kim was probably hoping to get off to a stronger start this spring. Instead, the San Diego Padres utility man has really struggled offensively – and will now get a look in the outfield for the first time.
Kim has looked lost at the plate. In 29 spring at-bats, he’s batting just .103/.212/.103 with only three hits – all singles. He’s struck out 11 times (37.9 percent) and given the roster crunch, it seems like he’s far from a lock to make the Opening Day roster at this point.
"“We’ve just valued getting him comfortable,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler told MLB.com. “We valued getting used to working with his teammates on the infield, first and foremost.”"
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Comfortable is the last word anyone would use to describe how Kim has looked to this point. And, now, he’ll start learning a new position, to boot. It makes sense given his athleticism and the logjam in the infield, but I can’t imagine it’ll help him get his struggles at the plate ironed out anytime soon.
Last year in the KBO, Kim batted .306/.397/.523 with the Kiwoom Heroes – by far the best season of his career. Historically speaking, KBO hitters who come to the U.S. typically see a drop-off in their numbers – but it’s safe to say San Diego certainly expects more than a .103 mark from the 25-year-old.
Padres: Are projections too high on Kim?
Steamer projects Kim for a .260/.329/.418 line and more than respectable 16.4 percent strikeout rate this year. The Padres would undoubtedly take that – especially if he takes to the outfield and adds yet another utility option to this roster.
Given the alternative options on the roster to round out the bench – all of whom have played well this spring – Kim will have to step it up in the final week to have any chance of making the Opening Day roster. He’s got to show he’s able to handle the bat at this level if he’s going to make the 26-man, plain and simple.
Let’s hope that once he gets his feet under him, Kim lives up to the hype surrounding him. He’s an exciting young player – and hopefully one that will play a big role for the Padres in 2021 and beyond.