Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Should Jung-ho Kang Start the Season in the Majors?

Hitting a baseball is not easy. In Major League Baseball, the highest level of the game, the reactionary time needed to hit a baseball is at the edge of human ability. At this level even minor adjustments can be extremely difficult. So it is no wonder that Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang is finding the game difficult in his first go around against major league quality pitching in Spring Training with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kang has just 3 hits in 27 ABs in the Grapefruit League. Even more concerning is his 11 strikeouts. Yes, this is just Spring Training. Yes, the same size is too small to be meaningful. But that doesn’t change the fact that Kang is struggling against the best pitching he has ever faced. The Pirates gave Kang a short respite last week to work on some adjustments at the Pirates minor league camp. He returned to game action yesterday against the Orioles by going 0 for 4 with 2 Ks.
If this Spring Training has proven anything it is that Jung-ho Kang is going to need time to get acclimated to major league pitching. Unfortunately, camp is probably not going to be long enough for that to happen. The season is less than two weeks away. So the Pirates are going to have a dilemma. Do they take him north with the club or ask him to go to AAA Indianapolis for a few weeks for further evaluation? It is a tough decision because the team has essentially boxed themselves into placing Kang on the 25 man roster. The Pirates have spoken all along that they intend for Kang to start the year in Pittsburgh. It seems as if they even promised him as much. But I have to believe they did not imagine his struggles this Spring would be so severe. Can they go back on their word? And would that even be what is best for his development? Kang needs playing time, but he also needs to get acclimated against major league quality pitching. The best way to do that is to play in the major leagues, though if Kang continues to struggle playing time will be scarce even if the Pirates do roster him. It would be hard to justify cutting into Jordy Mercer‘s playing time at SS if Kang continues to whiff in 40% of his ABs.
We are still very early in the Jung-ho Kang experiment. Nothing Kang has or hasn’t done this Spring Training should alter the long term plans or projections the Pirates have for him. But the short term plans are a different story. It may be necessary to hold off on the Jung-ho Kang major league debut for a little while.

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