I’m going to make this short and sweet.
The Nats need a second baseman. The best middle infielder in the Korean Baseball Organization, Kang Jung-Ho of the Nexen Heroes is available. The Washington Nationals should sign Kang Jung-Ho.
Look at that highlight reel. This is the greatest baseball hype film since the Yoenis Cespdes Hype Video.
Kang is 27 years old, in the prime of his career, plays great defense. From the highlights, we learn that he can hit hanging sliders a long way and punish fastballs that are too far over the middle of the plate.
Does that make him a hall of famer? Not yet. But those are the skills you expect to see in a competent major league batter, so that’s a good start.
The next objection: he played in the Korean Baseball Organization, a demonstrably inferior league to the National League. Fine. Let’s do some comparisons, shall we?
The Nats sold Ryan Tatusko’s contract to the Hanwha Eagles of the KBO last year. Tatusko was the other pitcher that came from the Rangers in the deal that sent Cristian Guzman to Texas and brought Tanner Roark to the Nats organization. Tatusko was a promising pitcher and a fine blogger and human being, but injuries slowed his development. Let’s use him as a rough proxy for the competitive level of the KBO.
During his time in the Nats organization, Tatusko bounced up and down between the Harrisburg Senators of the AA Eastern League and the Syracuse Chiefs of the AAA International League. He ended up in the KBO. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the KBO represents a level of competition that’s better than the Eastern League and maybe not quite as good as the International League.
If that’s how we set our proxy level, how does Kang Jung-Ho stack up against the league leaders? No fancy stats here, just the old stuff. In 2014, Kang put up a slash line of .356/.459/.759. He collected 149 hits, 36 doubles, 2 triples and 40 home runs.
OK. Here are the 2014 batting leaders for the International League. Kang would have led the IL in batting average. He would have led the IL in OBP. He would have led the IL in slugging (beating out Zach Walters and Stephen Souza, Jr.!). Kang’s 149 hits would have been good enough for fourth in hits in the IL, despite the fact that Kang only collected his 149 hits in 501 plate appearances over 117 games. (The IL leaders in counting stats appeared in ~130 games each). Despite that, Kang’s 40 home runs puts him ten homers ahead of 2014 IL HR king Andy Wilkins (with 30).
Here are the 2014 batting leaders for the AA Eastern League. Kang’s .356 batting average isn’t so great in the Eastern League–he doesn’t win the batting title here. T.J. Rivera of Binghamton takes it, barely, with a .358 BA. But you know what? Kang’s .356 is just better than Portland’s Mookie Betts, a highly-touted middle-infield prospect in the Red Sox organization. Kang’s OBP of .459 would top the Eastern League ahead of, you guessed it, Mookie Betts (.443). Kang’s slugging (.759) demolishes the Eastern League leader Ryan Schimpf (.616). Kang would be second in hits, but he got them in fewer games. Ditto homers, where Kang’s 40 is five better than Eastern League leader (Erie’s Steven Moya, who hit 35).
So, Nats town, this is what you’ve got: an international free agent that’s as good (or possibly better) than Mookie Betts. He’s much better than anyone the Nats have in the organization or in the pipeline. He’s available now.
And the only thing he costs is money.
Come on, Rizzo. Sign Kang Jung-Ho.