We have reached the stage just before becoming an All-Star.”
San Diego manager Bob Melvin said on the 11th (Korean time) that Kim Ha-seong (28), the team’s leadoff and starting second baseman, is advancing to the top level in the big leagues. In an interview with a local U.S. reporter, Coach Melvin said, “Everything Ha-Seong Kim is doing now, from defense to offense and base running, is the start of something really good. I think he’s on the verge of becoming an All-Star. I hope Ha-Seong Kim will become an All-Star in the future.” He did not spare praise.
The process for Kim Ha-seong to receive this evaluation was not smooth. Ha-seong Kim told the story of his big league debut season, which was difficult and stressful, in an interview with the American sports media outlet ‘The Athletic’ on the 9th. By the time Ha-seong Kim played in 63 games in the 2021 season, a round bald spot that had not been noticeable before was visible on the inside of his head. It was a circular bald spot the size of a coin.바카라
Ha-seong Kim honestly confessed, “That was when I really hit the lowest point mentally in my baseball career. I thought I was not a good player for the major leagues, and I thought about whether I should return to Korea.”
It was worth it. Ha-seong Kim graduated from Yatap High School and was evaluated as a promising shortstop from the time he wore the uniform of Nexen Heroes (currently Kiwoom) as the 29th pick in the 2nd 3rd round of the 2014 rookie draft. After Kang Jung-ho, who was the starting shortstop, left for the U.S. major league after the 2014 season, he continued to play as the starting shortstop and a leading player for the Heroes until 2020. From 2018 to 2020, he won the Golden Glove Award as a shortstop for three consecutive seasons, and in 2020, he announced his advancement to the major leagues after making a great performance with a batting average of 0.306 (163 hits in 533 at-bats), 30 home runs, 109 RBI, and 23 stolen bases. He lived a life that always drew an upward curve until he signed a four-year contract with San Diego for $28 million (37.3 billion won) and boarded a plane to the United States.
The high barrier to entry into his big leagues was beyond imagination. The process of making Kim Ha-seong’s presence known before competing with prominent players such as Manny Machado, Fernando Tanis Jr., and Jake Cronenworth was not easy. When Ha-seong Kim first went to the United States, he attracted attention as a ‘player who hit .300 – 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases in Korea’. In 117 games in his debut season, he had a batting average of 0.202 (54 hits in 267 at-bats), 8 home runs, 34 RBIs, and an OPS of 0.622. As soon as it stopped, there were a lot of question marks. In particular, the perception that he is a hitter who cannot respond to fastballs exceeding 150 km/h has grown.
The secret to Kim Ha-seong’s ability to stay on the big league roster when question marks were growing at the plate was solid defense. Bobby Dickerson (current Philadelphia Phillies coach), who was San Diego’s infield defense coach at the time in 2021, recalled, “Ha-seong Kim was a player full of passion and a player who always listened,” and explained that he grew quickly based on that good attitude from spring camp. did.
Ha-seong Kim expressed his gratitude, saying, “Coach Dickerson is the person who helped me play defense at the big league level. I think I had a special relationship with the coach, and he really helped me grow a lot as a player.”
Thanks to this, Ha-seong Kim began to receive good reviews in the major leagues for his outstanding defensive ability, playing his part in any position, including shortstop, third base, and second base. When Tatis Jr., last year’s starting shortstop, missed the entire season due to injury and use of banned substances, Ha-Seong Kim was able to become a replacement thanks to his excellent defense. Ha-seong Kim displayed stable defensive skills to the point where he was a finalist in the shortstop category for the National League Gold Glove last year, and with consistent opportunities, he gradually adapted to the pitches of major league pitchers at the plate, playing 150 games with a batting average of 0.251 (130 hits in 517 at-bats), 11 home runs, and 59 hits. He recorded an RBI and OPS of 0.708.
Kim Ha-seong, who is in his third year in the major leagues, is now considered an indispensable player in San Diego. Ha-seong Kim gave up his starting shortstop position to Xander Bogaerts, whom the club hired as a free agent after last season, but his utility ability was recognized more as he performed outstandingly as the starting second baseman this year. The Athletic asserts, ‘Kim Ha-seong will become the first Korean fielder to win the Gold Glove this season.’
His blows were riper. He even set a new personal record for most hits in a season with a batting average of 0.271 (131 hits in 484 at-bats), 17 home runs, and 57 RBI in 139 games.
Based on the confidence he has built up over the past three years, he is taking advantage of his quick feet. He set the record for the most Korean big leaguers in a season with 34 stolen bases this year. If he hits three more home runs, he could become the first Asian infielder to join the 20 home run-20 stolen base club. San Diego coach Bob Melvin expressed his expectations, saying, “Ha-seong Kim has grown into a hitter who can hit 20 home runs.”
Ha-seong Kim ranks 7th in the major leagues this season with bWAR (Win Contribution Above Replacement) of 6.0. This would not have been possible if he could not bear the pressure of his debut season and returned to Korea. Although Ha-seong Kim was mentally shaken, he said, “It’s only the first season. I wanted to challenge myself and see what happens,” but he ended up with the best result.
In fact, it has become difficult for San Diego to advance to fall baseball this year. With a record of 67 wins and 77 losses, they remain in 7th place in the National League Wild Card. It is not easy to narrow the gap to 3rd place Arizona Diamondbacks, which is the Maginot Line of fall baseball, by 8 games. Will Kim Ha-seong be able to make up for the disappointment in the team’s performance with a Gold Glove and 20-20? Whichever of the two he achieves, he will make history as the first Korean infielder.