The offseason is unfortunately here and so we are simultaneously tasked with reflecting on the 2015 season and looking forward to next spring. As part of Rumbunter’s off-season coverage, we will be grading out virtually every member of the Pittsburgh Pirates who spent substantial time on the team’s 25-man roster over the past season. We will look at their seasons as a whole, show you their relevant stats, and assign a final grade to each player. Today’s entry: Jung Ho Kang
Early in Spring Training, there was some doubt whether or not Jung Ho Kang would start the season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. There were times during the exhibition games that Kang looked completely overwhelmed and in our reactionary society that meant the Kang was a bust and the Pirates wasted their money.
There was also a certain media member that said Kang wasn’t liked by his new teammates and was splitting the locker room. Looking back now, all that talk is absolutely hilarious because as we saw during the season Kang can hit Big League pitching and his teammates absolutely love him. Spring Training narratives are stupid.
The regular season did not start out great for Kang as there was an adjustment period in April. Kang hit .269/.310/.346/.656 during the season’s first month and while that isn’t terrible by any means, it wasn’t the start Kang or the Pirates wanted.
Once the summer heat kicked in, Kang took his game to another level, especially in the month of July. This was the month where you started to see the Kang for Rookie of the Year talks really start to pick up. With all due respect to Andrew McCutchen, Kang was the Pirates best player in July and it really wasn’t even close.
During the first half of the season, Kang was a very solid contributor to the Pirates and for a rookie coming to a new league, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but following the All Star Game, Kang really took his game to another level and if not for a Chris Coghlan takeout slide, the Rookie of the Year voting would have been much, much closer.
It’s really unfortunate that Kang wasn’t able to finish out the season, because he really was a special player this season. He was the worth four wins above replacement, which was the best season of any Pirates’ rookie in the Expansion Era. Kang wasn’t just good in his rookie campaign, he was historically good.
Jung Ho Kang’s traditional numbers were good, his advance metrics were good, but he was far from a perfect player in 2015. His defense at Short Stop left a lot to be desired, and I don’t think anyone really expects him to be the starting Short Stop for the 2016 Pirates. He was worth zero Defensive Runs Saved as a Short Stop. His glove is best suited for third base as he was worth nine Defensive Runs Saved in 2015 from the hot corner.
The biggest issue with Kang as a Short Stop is his range and while his arm is pretty solid, he isn’t able to cover the same ground as Jordy Mercer. Ideally in 2016, he is the everyday Third Baseman, which improves the Pirates’ infield defense in a big, big way.
The Pirates were hoping Kang would find a place in their lineup and he didn’t disappoint as he will undoubtably be given the opportunity to be the Pirates’ Third Baseman once his knee is completely healed up. Not bad for the first offensive rookie from the Korean Baseball Organization.