All indications point to the Orioles attempting to add another bat to supplement their corner-outfield situation, but one newcomer this offseason — South Korean outfielder Hyun-soo Kim — seems to be the team’s leading candidate to play left field.
If he does, there’s reason to believe through both anecdotal testimonies from Orioles brass and outside statistical analysis that he might perform quite well in his debut major league season.
Earlier this week, FanGraphs posted its projection for three high-profile international free agents signed this offseason, including Kim. According to the site’s Steamer system, which is adjusted to normalize his Korean Baseball Organization stats to the majors, Kim is projected to provide 1.7 wins above replacement this year, with a .273/.338/.420 batting line and 18 home runs in nearly a full season’s worth of at-bats for the Orioles.
By comparison, no Orioles outfielder outside of star center fielder Adam Jones had a WAR above 3.2 last season. When the team made the American League Championship Series in 2014, it had four outfielders higher than Kim’s projected 1.7 WAR.
“Kim, I have high hopes for,” executive vice president Dan Duquette said on Thursday’s Orioles Hot Stove Show on 105.7 The Fan. “I think Kim’s going to be a good addition. He’s working out in Florida. He looks good. He’s a lifetime .320 hitter — I mean, there’s not too many of them. There’s just not too many .320 hitters. He’s a left-handed hitter. He gets on base. He’s got more walks than strikeouts. I like what he can bring to the team.”
Manager Buck Showalter said he thought Kim would fit in well in the Orioles clubhouse.
“You’re going to see a big personality, a guy that doesn’t have to have the language in order to communicate,” Showalter said on the radio show. “You’re going to like this guy. Believe me, he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and I know our guys, once they get comfortable with him, they’re going to have a lot of fun, especially if he is hitting line drives around the ballpark.”
Both Duquette and Showalter said that while there are indications Kim could play right field, his home could be left field for the Orioles.
“We’ve got a couple people that are telling me that they think he might be able to play in right field,” Showalter said. “We’ll look at him out there some, but I’ll kind of lean more on [vice president of baseball operations] Brady [Anderson] and [first base coach] Wayne Kirby and let them make that evaluation. They’re very good at it."
“Kim, by trade, is a left fielder,” Duquette said on the show. “There’s some scouts that think Kim can play right field, but he’s played predominantly left field in his time in Korea. He played left field in all their international teams that achieved success over the years. They had three teams that won championships at the international level, and he was on all those teams. So he’s got to be a pretty good defender.”