Padres: Matchups, playing time key to Ha-Seong Kim’s success

Padres Ha-Seong Kim

Credit: Padres

Padres Ha-seong Kim
Credit: MLB.com

After a disappointing first season with the San Diego Padres, Ha-seong Kim has a perfect opportunity for regular playing time this year.

The Padres reeled in a big catch from overseas when they signed Korean baseball superstar Ha-Seong Kim to a four-year, $28 million contract in December 2020. The 25-year-old hit .294 across seven KBO seasons while earning three-time League Golden Glove Award honors.

Coming into the Padres organization, playing time was already difficult to come by with the left side of the diamond locked down by Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. Second base appeared to be Jake Cronenworth‘s job to lose after a breakout 2020 campaign that saw him post a .285/.354/.477 slash line while leading all rookie hitters with 15 doubles.

In 2021, Kim saw just 63 starts split around the infield while otherwise coming in as a defensive replacement or a pinch-hitter. As a starter, the Bucheon, South Korea native hit .219 with 11 doubles, two triples, six home runs, and 29 RBI. The problem was that his starts were inconsistent. Overall, Kim hit just .202 in an otherwise disappointing rookie campaign.

That said, nobody has been hotter than Kim during Spring Training. He hit .367 with a 1.072 OPS, along with two doubles, one triple, and one laser-beam home run in Monday’s game against the Rangers.

“He’s playing some of his best baseball right now,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin. “He’s done some good work in the cage with our hitting coaches […] I think the last few days have been some real progress for him, and the confidence comes when you do have some success. He’s gotten a lot of at-bats here recently, played a lot, and playing his best right now.”

With Tatis out of the lineup until at least June, the Padres will be leaning on Kim to man the shortstop position. Normally, spring statistics don’t have much merit. However, Kim is getting everyday playing time, which could pay off once the regular season gets underway.

Certainly, CJ Abrams could sneak onto the Opening Day roster, given how well he played in the exhibitions. That said, the Padres’ young shortstop could see time in centerfield, backing up Trent Grisham.

As for Kim, the mindset of knowing you’re going to be the everyday guy coming into the clubhouse can have a positive impact.

“Knowing when he’s going to play, I think that’s important too, and matching him up in his best matchups,” Melvin added on how the Padres can set Kim up for success. “It might not be an everyday thing, but it would be in favorable matchups, and he would know when to prepare and when to play.”

The matchups will be an important indicator of when Kim will see his name in the lineup. He hit lefties to the tune of a .222 average last season compared to .194 against right-handed pitchers. Kim also hit for a robust .271 average against groundball pitchers versus .140 against flyball hurlers.

The Padres will open the regular season on Thursday against Madison Bumgarner, a left-handed pitcher, so it would make sense for Kim to get the Opening Day nod and go from there.

(Visited 1,109 times, 3 visits today)
Ryan Sikes on Twitter
Ryan Sikes
Padres writer/editor for East Village Times. LA Kings writer/editor for Hockey Royalty. IBWAA member.
5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
1 Comment
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Tony C
Tony C
1 month ago

Kim seemed to be hitting better towards the end of the season. His swings at spring training seemed good. I hope he can catch up to MLB pitching this year and become an important part of our lineup.

It is obvious he is a fan favorite. I hope he rewards us with play that matches the enthusiasm. With his defense, a .250 average would make him special and worthy of the 7M he’s getting annually.

Copyright © All rights reserved. | CoverNews by AF themes.
1
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x