San Francisco Giants: What to Expect from Jae-gyun Hwang in Spring Training
By Jake Mastroianni
After reading an article today on ESPN about players with something to prove where they mention Jae-gyun Hwang, it got me thinking, what do we know about this guy?
To be honest, not much.
He’ll begin the season at the age of 29 after spending 10 seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization where he has a career average of .285 with 114 home runs in 4,127 at-bats.
His home run production was up-and-down early in his career hitting 18 home runs in 2009 and then just six the following year. Then he hit 12 in 2011, but then just four and seven the following two seasons.
However, 6-foot-8, 185 pound righty has blasted 20-plus home runs the past two seasons, which led to him gaining interest from many MLB teams.
Last year for the Lotte Giants he hit 26 home runs and batted .330, which were both career bests.
The San Francisco Giants snatched him up on a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. He will earn $1.5 million if he joins the big league roster this season. Hwang could earn more if he reaches certain goals like games played, etc.
Baseball Reference lists him as a third baseman and shortstop, but I’m guessing he’ll be competing for the job at third base with a host of others.
So what can we expect from Hwang this spring?
Expect to see a lot of growing pains. Moving from the KBO to the MLB can be quite difficult, especially for hitters. The KBO is such a hitter friendly league that it’s hard to predict how they will do in the MLB.
His .330 average would have ranked fourth in all of MLB last year, but it was just the 15th best in the KBO.
Look for him to need some time to adjust to major league pitching. Last year he struck out just 64 times in 464 at-bats, but the year before that he struck out 122 times.
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The inconsistency in his seasons really makes me question whether or not he’ll be a serviceable big leaguer. Either something clicked last year that helped him become an elite player in the KBO, or it was just an aberration.
Plus, we know little to nothing about his ability to play third base. Of course, that’s the risk you take when signing a player from the KBO. You hope you’re finding a pot of gold.
I’m interested to see how well he plays at third, and whether or not he’s versatile enough to play short and second as well.
Another aspect of his game that could help the San Francisco Giants is his ability to run. He’s stolen 86 bases in 10 seasons, and he’s stolen more than 20 in four of those season. He’s had double-digit steals in every year except for his rookie season when he only had 171 plate appearances.
Speed definitely translates no matter what league you’re playing in, so hopefully he can get on base this spring and showcase that speed.
Next: San Francisco Giants Spring Training Preview: Starting Pitchers
In a spring training where there aren’t many position battles for the San Francisco Giants, Jae-gyun Hwang is definitely someone to watch. Look for him to get a lot of playing time early on so he can adjust to the majors.