You’ll recall from my previous articles here, at Eutaw Street Report and my tweets on Twitter, that I’ve been a Hyun Soo Kim fan since the Orioles signed him back in December, while the majority of Birdland had pretty much written him off by the end of Spring Training.
These were some the articles that first came out in the media and blogs when Hyun Soo Kim had refused his minor league assignment back in Spring Training and during the month of April when he rode the bench:
From that last article, this paragraph is my favorite:
The Orioles cannot afford to waste a roster spot for an entire year, and must capitalize on this hot start. The Orioles will not make any friends in Korea by releasing Kim, but the move needs to be made. The move could come this month; it could come next month, but it’s hard to envision Hyun Soo Kim finishing the year as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.
Boy, doesn’t that look silly now?
Kim, after his fourth 3 hit game for the Orioles in 2016, now has a line of .391/.466/.500/.966 with a wOBA of .423 and wRC+ of 169 in his first 21 games and has moved into the number 2 spot in the Orioles’ lineup vs. RHP. Kim is also tied with Chris Davis for the third most valuable player on the team with 0.8 fWAR in less than half of the games played as Davis.
It would be hard now not to envision Hyun Soo Kim finishing the year as a member of the Orioles, with him also being a candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year.
However, Kim was left off the All-Star Game ballot by the Orioles, so the hot-hitting rookie will have to be a write-in from the fans or a selected as a reserve. Meanwhile Joey Rickard is in 14th place because he was included on the ballot instead.
(Note: I would suggest to all Orioles fans to #VoteKim via write-in to fix the Orioles’ mistake and the Orioles should too. He likely won’t have a chance because he was left off the ballot, but it’s the right thing to do.)
“That’s why I thought early on it might have helped him, kind of sitting back and watching a lot of things and saying, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’”
Buck still isn’t praising Kim as he has other players, but supposedly in Korea, that coldness and lack of acknowledgement is common from KBO managers, so maybe he’s providing exactly what Kim needs.
When Kim has been asked about the benching helping him, you can tell by his body language and the way he talks about the situation, that he felt it was unnecessary, and yet he chooses his words carefully. Clearly he got whatever message Showalter was sending, as well as the fans who stupidly booed him on Opening Day, and he’s used it as motivation.
Kim has been quite motivated over the past regular 9 starts that he has been given judging from his stats and these articles that now are popping up all over the place:
Much like Steve Pearce before him, Kim has saved the Orioles from making a terrible mistake by exercising his contractual right to be on the 25 man roster. You’ll recall Pearce was released by the Orioles right before Chris Davis went on the DL in 2014 and they had to sweat out him having to choose to come back to them as a free agent or sign with another team. Pearce chose to re-sign with the Orioles and went on to have a career year and helped lead the Orioles to their first AL East title in 17 years.
Had the Orioles released Kim or sent him back to South Korea or assigned him to the offensive black hole that is Norfolk, they likely again would not be in first place in the AL East. Like Pearce, Kim could also be with another team, at the top of their lineup, as his skillset is one that would be in demand.
Instead he’s still playing for the Orioles and finally getting the playing time he needs to see as many pitchers as possible to fully adjust. Kim is also ahead of his former KBO counterparts in this adjustment.
As I showed earlier in a previous article, Kim has also proven he can hit LHP in the KBO and he got his first plate appearances against LHP in the Red Sox series where he was 0-1 with a walk. I’d expect him to see more LHP as the season progresses.
There are some that still think Kim is going to come back down to earth as League will adjust. Kim proved over 10 seasons in the KBO that he can adjust back and continue to be an on-base machine, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to do the same in MLB.
For now, Hyun Soo Kim is serving up a big, fat plate of crow to his detractors and skeptics in Birdland and for many, it’s never tasted so good.