Jung-ho Kang has been an international man of mystery since signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Not only is he attempting to become the first position player to come over from the Korean Baseball Organization to the majors, but there is no realistic way of knowing how his power and speed game will translate to the majors.
Then, there is the question of where Kang will play. Primarily a shortstop, Kang could, in theory, play anywhere on the infield. However, the Pirates infield seems pretty set, with Josh Harrison at third, Jordy Mercer at short, Neil Walker entrenched at second and a platoon of Corey Hart and Pedro Alvarez at first. Where would Kang play?
However, that mystery, at least, may be clarified. During an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on the MLB Network Radio program “Power Alley,” Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington stated that he envisions Jung-ho Kang playing all over the infield. Kang would then, in this scenario, take over the role that Harrision had last season before seizing the third base spot and refusing to let go.
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Of course, being the Pirates utility infielder does not necessitate staying in that position all season. Just look at Harrison last year, or the ascension of Mercer to the everyday shortstop role. All Kang may need to do is prove that he is a better option than either of those players to become a starter. Likewise, Harrison could well regress and Mercer did not exactly set the baseball world ablaze with his play last season.
With Jung-ho Kang having been mentioned as a possible fit for the Pirates open cleanup spot, one would expect that he would be in the lineup more often than not. Even if Kang is not an “every day” player in terms of leading the Pirates in appearances at a position, it may be that he appears in 130 games split across three or four positions. A Ben Zobrist type of role could be Kang’s calling, at least for a year or two.
By all indications, Jung-ho Kang is going to be a valuable part of the Pirates lineup next season. Even if he does not have a set position on the diamond, he could well be an almost daily presence in the lineup.