Get to know this year’s foreign imports: Jae-gyun Hwang

There are bound to be some interesting players to be posted this winter. The Twins already won the posting for Korean first baseman Byung-ho Park a Japanese right-handed starter Kenta Maeda figures to be the main prize this winter.

Jeff Passan passed along some news about Korean third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang.

The last Korean player the Dodgers signed was Hyun-Jin Ryu, and, despite his missing the 2015 season, has almost been worth the entire investment the Dodgers made in him. I’m not saying the same would happen here, merely pointing out the last time the Dodgers did well with a Korean signing.

I’m also not going to pretend to know anything about Hwang, so everything here is based on the reports of others and video. I try to give you my best #notascout opinion on him.

Hwang, 28, is 6 feet tall and weighs 215 pounds. He saw an increase in his overall power numbers in 2015 in the Korea Baseball Organization. He hit a career-best 26 home runs and 41 doubles. But with the increase in power came an increase in strikeout rate. He struck out 16.5 percent of the time in his first eight seasons in the KBO. In 2015, that number went up to 20.4 percent. He might need to sacrifice a little power potential to make more contact stateside. The KBO is a hitter’s haven and Hwang’s power isn’t likely to translate 1:1 in the majors, but he’s still an interesting player whom the Dodgers could benefit from having on the roster.

On defense, it looks like Hwang has plenty of ability at the hot corner. He appears to have enough quickness agility and more than enough arm strength to handle the position. That should help his value, but if there’s any way for him to handle shortstop and/or second base, that would make him even more attractive to a potential signing team. Every team except the Pirates missed on Jung Ho Kang last season, and it’d be a shame for the Dodgers to miss out on potentially cheap MLB production.

Hwang has a really pronounced leg kick (as most KBO/NPB guys do) and he’s able to catch up to KBO pitching, but his bat looks a bit late getting started. Sometimes his front foot is down and he hasn’t even started to bring the bat forward yet. He has decent bat speed and swing path. He clears his hips pretty quickly, which helps make up for the leg kick. Even when he gets fooled he’s good at keeping his hands back and still making contact with the ball.

Here are a couple of highlight videos of Hwang, including some of his defensive chops from the recent Premier 12 tournament.

Like most players in the KBO and Nippon Professional Baseball, he’ll need to be posted. And he will be today. Ah-seop Son, 27, was just posted and no one bid on him, so teams bidding on Hwang isn’t a guarantee. But everything I’ve come across points to Hwang’s game translating better to the majors than Son’s.

From MLB Trade Rumors:

“Hwang will be a true free agent next offseason, which would allow him to pursue a Major League opportunity without the restrictions of the posting system. That figures to add a bit of pressure to the Giants to accept a bid — assuming a reasonable one is submitted — as they’ll be left with no compensation if he enjoys another solid year and jumps to either Major League Baseball or Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball next offseason.”

This won’t be a situation like Ryu, when the winning posting bid was for $25.7 million (and a 6-year, $36 million deal after that). Hwang should cost much less than. The Dodgers don’t have a ton of thump off the bench outside of Scott Van Slyke — and virtually none on the infield. Having Hwang’s right-handed power (DRINK!) available could prove to be beneficial.

Oh, and this.

Yes please.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.