Ji Hwan Bae has shown flashes of good things with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. Now, he is in need of reps to work on refining his skills.
Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Ji Hwan Bae has split time between second base and center field this season, and has become a polarizing player in the opinions of Pirates fans. Some fans think he isn't ready to be an everyday player in the big leagues, citing his inconsistency and tendency to try and be a hero. In my opinion, more Ji Hwan Bae is just what this team needs.
Bae's slash line doesn't exactly jump off the page at .240/.308/.316, but the Korean lefty has a knack for running the bases and making big-time plays on the defensive side of the ball. His 20 stolen bases rank him 25th in the NL, and he's one of only two players in that top 25 that have played less than 80 games this season. His sprint speed is in the top 3% of the MLB this season, averaging just over 20 mph at full speed, making him the fastest second basemen in the league. Another advantage that Bae possesses is his arm strength. He ranks 25th among center fielders in arm strength according to Baseball Savant. His arm strength helps him at second base and center field, and his speed has led to him making some spectacular plays in the outfield this season.
Where Bae struggles is hitting the breaking ball. As of writing this article, Bae is batting .121 against breaking balls this season, broken down like this:
Curveball: 108 Pitches (11% of all pitches faced), .087 BA, 35.7 Whiff%, 41.7 K%
Slider: 116 Pitches (11.8%), .174 BA, 36 Whiff%, 28.6 K%
Sweeper: 36 Pitches (1.9%), .083 BA, 52.6 Whiff%, 46.2 K%
Compare these numbers to his .291 batting average against four-seamed fastballs and .304 batting average against changeups, and you'll see that he's got the potential to be an above-average hitter as he progresses in MLB.
What he needs now is reps. He needs to see more breaking balls, as well as a reduction in swinging frequency at balls pitched high and inside. If Bae puts in the work to make these changes, he has all the potential in the world to become an integral part of the promising young core of the Pittsburgh Pirates.