The Pittsburgh Pirates are set to recall Jung Ho Kang this weekend against the Cincinnati Reds. It’ll be the first time since 2016 he’ll play at the Major League level.
Jung Ho Kang was a question entering each offseason throughout his tenure in Pittsburgh. In 2015, it was how would he translate from the KBL to the MLB. 2016 raised questions after he suffered a season ending injury the year prior on a slide by Chris Coghlan. The 2017 and 2018 seasons had questions on if the infielder would be allowed to enter the country, and in turn if his career was over.
After receiving his work visa at the beginning of 2018, Kang has spent time in the minor leagues, but a slew of injuries, primarily a wrist injury, prohibited his advancement back to the Major Leagues. He also struggled in the Dominican Winter League, ultimately leading to his release.
So there have been questions of if rather than when Kang would return to the field in a Pirates jersey. That’s all changed as they are set to recall him this weekend for the last series against the Cincinnati Reds according to the Pirates:
In his career, Kang has hit .273/.355/.483 with a 129 wRC+. When in the lineup, Kang has been productive, but that was also two years ago. Considering the Pirates have received a 90 wRC+ and 0.2 fWAR from current third baseman on the roster, Kang could represent an upgrade heading into 2019 even without turn to form. Even an average bat (100 wRC+) and 0 defensive runs saved would be a large improvement (the current players have -23 defensive runs saved).
In Kang’s return in 2016, he slugged two home runs after hitting .150/.217/.225 in rehab. After spending time on the DL in 2016, and hitting .125/.364/.500 in rehab, Kang hit another two home runs in his first start (had one pinch hit plate appearance before that) against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Kang has battled adversity in the past and still somehow managed to hit the ball well at the Major League level. This time it will be different, considering the amount off, but the Pirates have stuck with him, maybe giving him a shot to see what he has before picking up a $5.5 million option. And no National League team or park has given up more home runs (224) or has more total home runs hit a ballpark (224) than the Reds and Great American. So welcome back, Jung Ho.