Speaking with the Padres media for the first time in spring training, Ha-Seong Kim broke down how he’s adjusting to the MLB, his players, and his use of analytics.
The 25-year-old spent the majority of his time in the KBO playing shortstop with 100+ games in four seasons also coming at third base. Where he fits into the Padres team remains to be determined, but there could be a potential for him to see a significant amount of time at second base in 2021. He earned three straight KBO League Gold Glove Awards between 2018 and 2020.
His first time speaking with the Padres media, Kim said it’s been an adjustment coming over from Korea and adapting to Major League Baseball.
“Instead of prioritizing a particular aspect, I’m trying to learn everything aspect of baseball right now — trying to ask players questions in general on and off the field,” Kim said through a translator. “In terms of prioritizing, I’m trying to learn everything. Everything is new.”
Kim established himself as one of the more premier hitters in the KBO, carving out a full-time role for himself at age 19 with the Nexen/Kiwoom Heroes, posting a .290/.362/.489 slash line with 19 home runs and 73 RBI’s in the 2015 campaign. Every season since, he’s progressed toward becoming a polished hitter, most recently posting a .921 OPS in 138 games. But the path to where he is now was far from easy, as Kim indicated he used a bit of experimentation with the help of analytical software to make him a feared hitter.
“Experiment helped me the most become a disciplined hitter,” Kim told reporters. “In the MLB, the strikezone is different compared to Korea. So every time I go to BP, do the live batting practice, I’m trying to establish my own strike zone, using today’s MLB zone. I think that’s the most important thing for me right now.
“So every season at the end of the year, I review myself, my at-bats. That season, which pitch I most struggled with, the area of the strikezone I most struggled with. So next year, coming to spring camp, I kind of evolve my own strikezone to improve myself, especially breaking balls down in the zone, fastballs up in the zone. I watch videos to understand which pitches I struggle with the most.”
Kim is one in a long line of players who have transitioned to Major League Baseball from Korea, following in the footsteps of players like Shin-Soo Choo, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Chan Ho Park. Choo has been an established hitter in Major League Baseball over the last 16 years, hitting a combined .275 (.824 OPS) while earning All-Star honors and MVP consideration.
As for Day 1, Kim has been focused on just getting to know his teammates, and to no surprise, he’s already seen why Fernando Tatis Jr. is so highly-touted.
“Tatis has been very good to me, and I can see why he’s a superstar here. He’s an amazing baseball player. We also have Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, and [Jake] Cronenworth – a really good infield here. I’m just enjoying every moment, and I’m excited to play with them. I’m enjoying every bit of this moment right now.”