The Pittsburgh Pirates Need Jung Ho Kang To Have A Strong Bench


In order to have a strong bench in 2017, the Pittsburgh Pirates need Jung Ho Kang

Throughout the offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates projected to have a very strong bench for the 2017 season Adam Frazier, David Freese, and John Jaso are all strong bench bats. Additionally, Chris Stewart is arguably the best back up catcher in all of Major League Baseball.

After these four players, however, the Pirate bench goes off a bit of a cliff. Phil Gosselin brings positional flexibility to the table, but his career wRC+ of 93 leaves a lot to be desired. Alen Hanson, the next man up, can play a lot of positions, but none of them overly well, and he has not proven he can hit at all.

Due to these reasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates need Jung Ho Kang in order to have the strong bench Neal Huntington had envisioned for the 2017 season. If Kang is starting at third base, this pushes David Freese to the bench. In turn, only one of Gosselin and Hanson would be on the 25-man roster.

Unfortunately, Kang’s status for 2017 remains up in the air. After receiving a suspended eight month prison sentence in his native South Korea, Kang still has not yet reported to Bradenton. This is due to Kang having problems getting his work Visa issues resolved.

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As soon as Kang has these issues resolved, he will report to Spring Training in Bradenton. The problem is Kang is starting to run short on time as there is less than three weeks of Spring Training left.

Yesterday, Neal Huntington was a guest on Buster Olney’s podcast. Olney asked Huntington about Jung Ho Kang during the podcast, and Huntington did not sound overly optimistic about Kang being ready for Opening Day.

Huntington told Olney that once Kang is able to report to Bradenton he will need time to do Spring Training work to prepare for Opening Day. Due to there being less than three weeks until Opening Day, even Kang was able to report in the next day or two the odds of him being ready for Opening Day seem slim.

It should be noted that Huntington said the Pirates and Kang tried to get his Visa renewed before his trial. This was done in effort to allow Kang to report to Bradenton immediately after his trial. However, he was not permitted to apply to renew his Visa until after his trial ended.

This would lead to David Freese being the starting third baseman on Opening Day. Odds are, this would lead to both Phil Gosselin and Alen Hanson making the Pirate roster out of Spring Training. Hopefully if this is the case, Kang’s return would not be far behind.

It is also not yet known if the Pirates will punish Kang further. Team president Frank Coonnelly has said the Pirates will wait until Kang arrives in the states and they can meet with him in person before deciding if they will suspend him or not.

Hopefully the team does not suspend Kang. If they do, David Freese would become the everyday third baseman. Nothing against Freese, but he is nowhere near the offensive threat Jung Ho Kang is. Also, as we have covered, Freese being thrusted into an everyday role severely weakens the Pirate bench.

Having just one of Phil Gosselin or Alen Hanson on the bench is not a bad situation for the Pirates to be in. However, having them both greatly weakens the offensive threat the bench poses. Barring any late Spring Training roster additions, they are both set to make the team to start the season if Jung Ho Kang is not available/ready.

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In 2017 their bench could be one of the strengths of the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, in order for this to happen Jung Ho Kang needs to be the team’s starting third baseman. Hopefully his Visa issues will get cleared up ASAP leading to him returning to the Pirates.

This morning my fellow Rum Bunter writer David texted me saying, “Can’t wait until Jaso and Frazier are already used off the bench and we’re left with Gosselin, Hanson, and Stew in the 9th with the tying run on second against Wade Davis.” As I responded, “that’s terrifying.”

Jung Ho, hurry back, please.