Jung Ho Kang was once in the running for the National League Rookie of the Year award just a season ago. Unfortunately for Kang and the Pirates, his season was cut short due to a slide into second base when Kang was turning a double play that would now be illegal thanks to the “Utley Rule” that was implemented this past off season.
After a very long off season and a very long recovery, Kang started his Minor League rehab assignment about a month ago. David Freese has taken over for Kang at the hot corner for the first part of the 2016 season, and he has done a phenomenal job, but there is no denying that Pirates fans have been waiting for Kang to take over third base for a long time.
Finally, after a month into the 2016 campaign, Jung Ho Kang made his season debut last night at Busch Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Kang launched a monster home run in the sixth inning, and he put another one over the wall in the eight inning as well.
The line for Kang was a 2-4 night, with 2 home runs, 3 runs batted in, and a 2.500 on base plus slugging percentage.
The take away from this performance is he obviously had a great start to the season. There is no denying that the Pirates have missed his explosive bat in their lineup. What does this mean? It means a lot more than most people realize.
To come into your first game of the season and hit a home run is remarkable, but to come into your first game a month into the season after missing the past two months of baseball and launch two home runs is even more remarkable.
The average Joe will not be able to come in and see the ball that well. Not only did he see the ball well, but he showed it on his stat sheet. Normally, when a player comes into the first game of the season they have to adjust and get used to big league pitching for a little while. Let’s take Andrew McCutchen for example. Cutch has historically been an extremely slow starter in the month of April and into early May. Then, he turns it on in June and July and will hit .400 for a two month span.
Kang is a different animal. He has proved that he is one of the most consistent hitters in the MLB, and last night showed the same story.
What does Kang being back in the lineup mean for the Pirates? It means there will be the home run threat that the Pirates lineup lacks. Although the Pirates have successfully been able to drive in runs, they are truly lacking the home run threat, especially with McCutchen in such a slump.
In Kangs time in the Korean Baseball Organisation, he launched 30+ home runs for 4 years. Obviously the KBO is no MLB, but there certainly is some type of power in his bat, and he displayed that he can hit MLB pitchers for home runs last year when he launched 15 home runs in just 421 plate appearances.
Overall, it was a great debut for Kang last night, and those two home runs he blasted certainly will not be his last two for the season.
My prediction for Kang is that he will lead the Pirates team in home runs when he hits over 20 for the season.
Only time will tell what he will accomplish in his second season in the MLB, but all signs point to a phenomenal season from the young third base star.
The Burgh Blog Writer