Second-year big leaguer Kim starts to warm up at the plate
Kim Ha-seong of the San Diego Padres is looking increasingly confident at the plate in his second season in the majors with hits in two consecutive games to start off the week on Sunday and Monday.
Kim returned to the Padres this season after batting .202 last year. Although he struggled at the plate throughout his debut season in the big leagues, Kim proved his strong defense and base-running skills.
That defensive prowess has been back on display this year, but the Korean sophomore has also started to warm up at the plate, picking up five hits in eight appearances so far this season for a .250 batting average — not exceptional, but potentially a sign that Kim is starting to adjust to major league pitching.
On Sunday, Kim hit a crucial single to kick off a San Diego offensive in the second inning. He later came around to score after Austin Nola was beaned with the bases loaded, with C.J. Abrams also scoring on the inning. Those two runs were all the Padres got for a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Braves at Petco Park in San Diego.
Kim again provided a crucial knock on Monday, hitting an RBI single to bring home Jurickson Profar and give the Padres some breathing room against the Cincinnati Reds at Petco Park. The swinging friars went on to win 4-1.
Although April stats are rarely representative of the rest of the season, Kim's growing presence at the plate combined with his base running abilities could see him make much of an offensive impact for the Padres this year. Kim crossed the plate four times in his first two games this season, with a triple, two walks, a stolen base and a hit-by-pitch combining for some very productive at bats.
Before moving to the majors last season, Kim was considered a significant threat at bat in the KBO. In seven seasons with the Kiwoom Heroes, Kim amassed a career .297 batting average with 940 hits, 575 RBIs and 133 home runs. In his final season with the Heroes in 2020, Kim picked up 163 hits, 111 runs, 109 RBIs, 30 long balls and stole 23 bases.
Kim isn't the only Korean big league bat to have started the 2022 season on the right foot.
Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays has recorded 11 hits in 10 appearances so far this season for an impressive .423 batting average with two home runs mixed in on Tuesday and Wednesday last week.
Choi's onslaught at the plate has quietened down over the last few games — he failed to pick up a knock over the weekend but did add an RBI single on Monday — but his optimistic start to the 2022 season is markedly different from last year, when he missed the opening weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
That injury kept him out of action until mid-May, when the veteran slugger burst back into the lineup, batting over .500 for his first four games. That form gradually sloped off over the following months and a string of injuries further muddied the waters, leaving Choi entering the playoffs with a .229 batting average, 59 hits, 36 runs, 45 RBIs and 11 home runs for the regular season.
At 30, Choi should still have some good years left in his batting arm. If he is able to avoid the worst of the injury woes this year, Choi should be able to throw up some good numbers on the season. His best season to date was in 2019 — the only year he's appeared in more than 85 big league games — when he finished with a .261 batting average, 107 hits, 54 runs, 64 RBIs and 19 home runs.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]