Things are getting a little crazy in Baltimore, as if they weren’t already with this insane off-season. The O’s brought in Hyun-soo Kim from South Korea to help fill a hole in the outfield, but this preseason, the only hole has been in his bat it seems.
That is a bit harsh, as I’m well aware that there is a transition period coming over from South Korea to play in the Majors, but Kim is batting .182 this spring, collecting only 8 hits in 44 at-bats. What makes matters worse is his on-base percentage is only .229, so that’s not optimal. Kim also started off very slowly, going hitless in his first 21 at-bats. Not a good start. If you flip that however, he has gone 8 for his last 23 at-bats, a batting average of .348, so that is certainly the glass is half-full view.
Licking his chops at this opportunity is Joey Rickard, a Rule 5 Draft pick. Rickard is batting .386 this spring and also is sporting a .462 on-base percentage, something the Orioles can always use help with. Rickard has also swiped five bases this spring, so he is certainly able and willing on the base paths.
With Rickard playing well and Kim getting off to a slow start, that certainly complicates things for the O’s. There is verbiage in Kim’s contract that states he cannot be sent to the minors, so Baltimore can’t have him start down in AAA to gain additional experience before bringing him back up. If they think he should not be on the Opening Day roster, then they might only have one option, and that is to release him and send him back to South Korea.
While Rickard is only 24 years old, he did bat .360 in 29 games at AAA Durham in 2015 and did show a propensity to get on base thanks to his .437 on-base percentage. While we should obviously keep in mind the small sample size, those are still impressive numbers, and his spring training has given him a good foot in the door in Baltimore.
Kim is 28 years old, so it’s not like he is washed up. Over the course of 10 seasons with the Doosan Bears, Kim batted .318 to go along with a .406 on-base percentage, so he can certainly hit. I feel his main issue was just getting acclimated to this new league and country. I say let’s give him a shot and see how he does. If he can’t get things going after a few weeks, then it might be time to cut ties. What makes things even tougher is that if he is not producing, the Orioles need to make a decision quickly, as the AL East is a tough division and every game matters.
By Andy Mindzak