Written by Zachary D. Rymer at Bleacher Reports.com
Byung Ho Park was basically the Bryce Harper of the Korea Baseball Organization. In his last four seasons, in particular, many baseballs were obliterated by his bat.
But now with the Minnesota Twins, Park is already raising the question: Does he have the goods to translate his talent to Major League Baseball?
Nobody on the 0-8 Twins is having a fun time so far in 2016, but Park has arguably endured the worst of it. Through six games, he’s hit just .143 with a .536 OPS and one home run. Things are going so poorly for Minnesota’s $25 million man, in fact, that manager Paul Molitor even pinch hit for him on Monday.
“I’m sure it has happened when I was younger,” Park told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press through an interpreter, “but I couldn’t really say exactly when.”
There certainly wasn’t much need to pinch hit for Park when he was in Korea. The 29-year-old gradually morphed into an unstoppable slugger, peaking with two amazing seasons for the Nexen Heroes in 2014 and 2015. All told, he posted a 1.136 OPS and slugged 105 home runs.
According to legend and this video, one of those long balls traveled a mind-boggling 522 feet:
On paper, the main reason why Park is having such a difficult time tapping into the power in MLB is obvious: he’s striking out a lot. He’s whiffed in 12 of his first 24 plate appearances.
This isn’t too surprising. Park did have a strikeout habit in Korea, after all, whiffing 24.5 percent of the time. And since that was against inferior pitching, more strikeouts in MLB were likely inevitable.
A relevant case study would be Jung Ho Kang, Park’s countryman and a breakout star for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015. He had a career 16.9 strikeout percentage in Korea, but came over here and posted a 21.2 percent K rate last season. Even for a talented all-around hitter like him, adjusting to MLB pitching was tough.
To his credit, Park knows what he needs to do to start making more contact.
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