Will there ever be a Korean Gold Glover like no other? The hype around Kim Ha-seong 안전놀이터(San Diego Padres) is building. This time, he might actually win the award.

After seven seasons in the KBO, where he played in 891 games with 940 hits, 133 home runs, 575 RBIs, 606 runs scored, 134 doubles, a .294 batting average and a .921 OPS, Kim decided to try his hand at the major leagues after the 2020 season through the posting system. As a result, he signed a 4+1 year, $39 million contract with the San Diego Padres.

In the KBO, Kim attracted a lot of attention with his bat. However, he struggled to adjust to the fastballs and changeups of major league players, and in 117 games in his rookie season, he only managed 54 hits, eight home runs, six doubles, and a .202 OPS of .622. Unlike in his KBO days, he was noticed more for his defense than his offense.

After his first season, it looked like he was going to have a hard time breaking into the starting lineup, but there was a twist before the 2022 season. Starting shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. went under the knife with a wrist injury and was later suspended for 80 games by Major League Baseball for using a banned substance. The Padres began to give Kim a chance, and he took advantage of it.

Ha-Sung Kim of the San Diego Padres./Getty Images Korea

San Diego Padres’ Ha-Sung Kim./Getty Images Korea

In 150 games last year, Kim showed significant improvement, hitting .251 with 11 home runs, 59 RBIs, 58 runs scored, 12 doubles, and a .708 OPS. Not to mention his defense, which was among the best in the majors. Not only did he consistently make highlight-reel plays, but he also played solid defense at shortstop and third base.

The numbers show how solid his defense was. He had a +12 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) according to Baseball Reference, and a +10 DRS according to Fangraphs. His Fangraphs DRS was the second-best among National League shortstops, and he was a finalist for the Gold Glove as a National League shortstop.

Of course, he didn’t win the award, but he was certainly on a roll. And this year, the good times have continued. Kim has moved from shortstop to second base due to the addition of Xander Bogaerts, but that’s only helped his value. After proving he can play both shortstop and third base in 2021, he now has a second base option. Plus, with less pressure on his defense, his hitting has improved significantly.

In 136 games this year, Kim is hitting .271 with 128 hits, 17 home runs, 55 RBIs, 77 runs scored, 31 doubles, and a .783 OPS. At the peak of his hitting pace, his OPS was over 8%. While his numbers are down from those days, he’s still one of the best hitters in San Diego.

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