Q&A: Will Jung-ho Kang’s Presence Create Issues in the Pirates Dugout?

Every Friday we run a Q&A with questions that I’ve received throughout the week. You can submit your questions all week by using the Q&A form on the right side of pretty much every page on the site. Below are the questions for this week.

Larry Cole: After seeing the Korean cartoon which calls out Neil Walker, and after reading on another website that there is some ignoring of Kang, is it possible that there will be issues in the dugout?

The cartoon didn’t really call out Neil Walker. It just said that Kang was looking for a starting spot, and Walker’s might be the most likely. That’s something a lot of people have said, myself included.

As for the idea that there might be issues in the dugout because of Kang, that’s totally ridiculous. As someone who has been observing Kang at Pirate City for a month (longer than any other media), I don’t know where the idea comes from that players are ignoring Kang. A week before Spring Training, after his first few days in Pirate City, Kang told me the following through his translator:

“I can’t name one of them, but all of the guys are very friendly. I’m very welcomed.”

Then there was this photo I snapped the first week of Spring Training, when Gregory Polanco was greeting Kang with a bow.

Gregory Polanco greeting Jung-ho Kang with a bow. #Pirates

A photo posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

What the photo doesn’t show is Kang being greeted by everyone else in that 3-4 player batting group.

In the early days in camp, I’ve witnessed players asking Kang’s translator how to say simple phrases in Korean, so that they could tell Kang to “have a good day” and “see you tomorrow” in his native language at the end of the day. On that same note, Kang knows simple phrases in Spanish, and I see him using those simple phrases for quick greetings with a lot of the players who speak Spanish.

I’ve stood at the batting cages when people have commented on Kang’s power. No one makes a big fuss over it, because that rarely happens. Clint Hurdle is usually the loudest when giving praise in batting practice. The one big celebration this Spring came after Chris Stewart put a home run on the roof of the left field batting cages. And everyone was celebrating because it was Chris Stewart hitting a home run. A Chris Stewart home run is like Halley’s Comet. When you see it, you celebrate, because you know you’re probably never going to see it again in your lifetime.

I’ll also add that Kang has been showing off his power in the cages since day one, and has been doing so on a daily basis. It would get kind of old if, a month later, players were still expected to cheer every time he hit a batting practice home run. As for a home run in a regular game, we saw his team cheering that, and we saw Kang flash his first Zoltan. If he’s being ignored, then who taught him that you throw up a Z after a big hit?

Finally, there’s the idea that Kang’s potential to eventually take Neil Walker’s job could cause a rift in the clubhouse. I fail to see how this situation is different from Alen Hanson with Walker. Or how it’s different from Tyler Glasnow/Jameson Taillon/Nick Kingham/Adrian Sampson and any of the current members of the rotation. Or how it’s different from Pedro Alvarez and Josh Bell (with the latter not being in MLB camp, but still being viewed as the guy at first base in the future). Or last year with Gregory Polanco and Travis Snider. I could go on, but the point is that this is baseball. It’s a business. If your name isn’t Andrew McCutchen, then there’s always going to be talk of someone eventually replacing you. And I don’t think that reality is going to make people resent Kang any more than any of the other players who are potential future replacements for current members of the lineup or rotation.

That’s my rant on the idea that Kang is a problem in the clubhouse, coming from someone who has seen none of that over the last month while being in the clubhouse.

Eddie Harkins: Last year we heard that a couple of the Pirates including Russel Martin were practicing in body monitoring shirts. Has that continued? This seems like it could offer a huge competitive advantage…

That has still continued. I don’t have a count for how many players are wearing the shirts, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more than half the locker room. I feel that the next big advantage for teams will be finding a way to keep people healthy and productive more often. The Pirates seem to be looking for this, whether it’s with these shirts, or the Golden State Warriors approach. If you look at their current team, they’ve got a lot of guys who would be really good players if they remain healthy and can avoid injuries. That’s true of a lot of teams, and the one that finds a way to prevent these injuries will have a huge advantage.

Donn Carpenter: Any truth to the rumor that next year the parent club will not work out at Pirate City at all. Only at McKechnie Field.

This is true. The Pirates won’t need to go to Pirate City next year, since McKechnie Field will now have everything they need. This will include two full fields and two half fields (currently there is just one of each). I’m sure the big leaguers will be over at Pirate City on occasion, just like they are right now, even though camp has moved to McKechnie.

Joe Giardina: I love 22, but he’s an undersized CF who relies on bat speed on offense and foot speed on defense. I’m afraid his skillset won’t age well, making a hefty extension not such a great idea. Thoughts?

I think that the Pirates have several years to see how McCutchen is aging. That said, a lot of people lose speed as they get older because they add weight and lose athleticism. I’m not sure McCutchen is a big risk of that. But once again, there will be four years until his contract is up, and we’ll learn a lot in those four years.

Jason Flower: Where will Rinku Singh play this year? Does he have a shot at a AA roster by the end of the season?

Singh is coming back from two years off after having Tommy John surgery. Right now he’s battling for a spot on any team. And since he’s missed so much time, and hasn’t been above A-ball, I don’t see him making it to Double-A by the start of the year. As for the end of the year, that will largely depend on his performance after two years off. If he’s got a shot, it would be a long shot.

William Fries: Bill Parcells said it was sometimes tough to tell when a player would “fall off the cliff.”  Are there metrics to give us comfort that AJ Burnett won’t be a Wandy Rodriguez-type cliff diver?

I think Wandy’s quick fall was due to his injury. Burnett was injured last year, but pitchers have returned from that, and many have done well the following season. I don’t know if Burnett will return to his 2012-13 form, but I do think he’s got a shot at being better this year than he was last year, for a number of reasons. He was pitching hurt last year, and enters the 2015 season healthy. He also will benefit from the pitch framing approach the Pirates focus on, since his spiked walk rate was a big issue last year.

Casey Maurer: Who do you see in our minor league system as our biggest asset to the big league team this season?

The Pirates have a lot of depth this year, but most of their offensive depth is currently in the majors on the bench. The depth for the pitching is mostly going to come from the Triple-A rotation. Jameson Taillon would be the big name here, but his return from Tommy John surgery limits his impact. Therefore, I’d have to go with Nick Kingham. He’s the top prospect who could make the jump to Pittsburgh this year, and he also has the upside to be a solid number three starter or possibly better, who can go 200 innings per year. It’s not going to be on the same level as Gerrit Cole’s debut a few years ago, but Kingham has a chance to provide the Pirates with an impact if they need a starter for the second half.

Bob Lucas: Stetson Allie has always intrigued me. He’s settled in as an everyday player, showing very decent power and the ability to draw walks. He doesn’t always make contact. Can he be a MLB player?

I think Allie can play in the majors, but his role will largely depend on his strikeouts. Right now he’s a three-outcomes player, with the majority of his plate appearances ending up as strikeouts, walks, or home runs. That approach is fine in the majors, but players who do that in Double-A don’t usually carry the same results to the majors. His power is some of the best in the system, but the big focus will be on his strikeouts.

Austin Shirley: When J-hay becomes a free agent do you think that Kang (if he pans out) could take over the starting 3rd base role?

Harrison isn’t a free agent until after the 2017 season, which means the Pirates will need a replacement in 2018. This assumes he’s not extended before then, another option doesn’t come up, and it also assumes that he actually works out through the 2017 season. I’m going to punt this question by pointing out where the Pirates were heading into 2012. They had Pedro Alvarez as their third baseman, and no one who could replace him in the future. Take a look at the write-up in this article after the 2011 season to see how thin third base looked at the time. Three years later, they’ve got Harrison as their starter, and Kang as a potential backup. Maybe Kang will be the starter three years from now. Or maybe it will be someone who is a long shot, like Harrison seemed a few years ago. Or a prospect in the lower levels who could break out in the next few years, like Connor Joe or Wyatt Mathisen.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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IMO, Kang is the most talented overall infielder the Pirates have and I think time will show it. I like him over Mercer because Mercer is a 260-265 hitter with solid SS skills and maybe 15 Hr. capability. On the other hand Kang has the potential to hit 300, 25-30Hr. and more range at SS to go with solid play, I think the only thing Walker has going for him is some long ball pop, but Kang has that plus the other attributes that Walker does not have. Alvarez is an American league DH, enough said, Harrison is still a middle infield player that won’t hit with the same power as Kang otherwise he is the closest player to Kang as an infielder IMO. I know the argument, Kang has not played in the majors and the others have, but Kang has a MLB swing and MLB arm, he does not have an Asian swing, so the chances are he will strike out a lot.


I agree that Kang will prove to be the best, but I don’t expect him to be a better defensive shortstop than Mercer, and ultimately, I think that’s why Kang will eventually replace Walker (be it directly at second or at third with Harrison moving to second).

Mercer’s an above average hitter and an above average defensive shortstop, and he has room to grow. Harrison appears to be an above average hitter and an above average defender at both second and third (and also an elite baserunner). Walker’s a very good hitter, but he’s quickly getting to the point of being bad defensively, probably the worst baserunner of them, and has the biggest injury history. I just see him aging the worst, and couple that with him being the most expensive, he’s the first man out to me. (Well, besides Pedro, but I don’t see Kang being a first baseman, even though he’s capable of it.)

As an aside, Kang can play pretty much anywhere on the diamond (he did in Korea, including catcher), so we have three players who can play at least both corner outfield spots and at least three infield spots. Rodriguez and Kang can play all four, and Harrison can play two of them plus pass at short. That’s sensational roster flexibility.


Jordy Mercer will be 29 years old before the season is even over.

He’s not getting any younger or quicker, and has quite literally maxed out his defensive value without either of those things being on the table. Simply not practical to think he can convert a higher percentage of the plays he should have made last year into outs.

The bat may develop a bit more, but defensively I don’t think there’s anywhere to go but down. All depends on how long he can hold up the elite level of consistency he showed last year.


Oh yeah, I was a bit vague, but I was talking about there still being room to grow offensively, not defensively.

Luke sutton

Kang has the potential to hit .300 huh? So, i’ve read as many opinions by people that get paid to scout/project performance as possible on Kang, and basically no one thinks he can hit .300. Unless you are saying Kang has .300 ceiling, in which case you using .265 as the ceiling for Mercer is wrong since he has already shown more than that.

You literally take a rather negative view of everyone on the IF but Kang, acting like its a simple 1-1 comparison. Walker only has some pop (career .273 hitter), Harrison cant repeat his success with the great amazing power of Kang, and Mercer is just a ho hum SS (2 WAR). Kang may be great, but acting like he could likely hit .300 with big time power isnt realistic….and more importantly isnt taking the same level of conservative/negative approach you did with others.


I agree he downplayed the Pirate infielders, but Dan Farnsworth, who has had success in the past predicting unexpected breakouts based on swing analysis (most notably J. D. Martinez, but he also was one of the few who seemed to have no real reservations about Jose Abreu) things Kang does profile as a high-average, high-power hitter. It wasn’t .300, but if I remember correctly, he sees Kang as a .280 hitter with 25 HR this season. You may review that here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/breaking-down-jung-ho-kang/#more-176127

Farnsworth has written a lot of really good articles detailing the common trends in the swings of really good hitters. His work is pretty fascinating, and if you’d like to review more of it, that can be found here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/author/tsfunsworth7/

Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Kang hit like that, either. He swings really hard, but he’s good at putting bat to ball, and that combination usually leads to good results. The big leg kick doesn’t concern Farnsworth as much as it concerns a lot of scouts, either, because his head is still, his balance is good, and he’s shown the ability to vary that leg kick when necessary.

Brian Bernard

Always been a pessimist to the Nth power Leadoff. Does it matter? How about this – 3 of the 4 infielders were in the top 10 of their positions on MLB network, and the other who wasn’t shared the HR crown just over a year ago.
I like King Kang alot too, but that’s no reason to downplay how good these guys are, and how hard they worked to get here. Two years in a row in the playoffs. Don’t be a boner.


They were not downplayed, I showed why I thought Kang would be better, If you think saying Kang will be better is downplaying the others so be it, but that is not what I said or meant.

Luke sutton

Yes you did, thats either lying or not being realistic to say you didnt downplay the others. Particularly Walker, who you treated like a guy with some decent power but nothing much else. You showed why you are really high on Kang while also giving very not statistically backed opinions on others.

Chris Hale

Is this crap really happening? Already? drama………


Much rather have these Q&A type posts versus a chat. Great responses.

-This time last year, analysts universally agreed that nothing pointed to AJ Burnett regressing. Then last year happened. When you start having to *assume* good health for a 38 yo pitcher, that in itself is a red flag. If AJ *does* continue to struggle, it won’t at all be difficult to look back and understand why as an aging two-pitch pitcher with declining velocity and control. Hope for the best.

-Stetson Allie is said to be a guy that succeeds with brute strength over bat speed, and that often leads to struggling at upper levels as stuff and command increase. I think you started to see that last season with a pretty hearty platoon split developing. However, as we’ve seen with this winter’s search, a RH bat with power and patience can absolutely be a useful piece.


I’m also a fan of this Q&A format, as opposed to a chat.

Very good work with the videos, these guys all have media training and often when I read or view interviews there isn’t much substance, that has not been the case here.

Daryl Restly


I don’t know if anyone else has said it already, but from what I’ve seen and read on your website coverage of the Pirates 2015 Spring Training, you are doing a knock out job with the coverage. The videos are a really nice touch. As a Pirate fan, I think we’re very fortunate to have Tim’s (and his writers) dedication to not just the major league team but the guys we will likely see in the majors over the next 3-5 years.I’d be curious to know how many other teams have this type of in-depth coverage of their spring training / minor leagues / international signing / draft / free agency and MLB club all rolled into a one-stop website. Kudos.




Perhaps you should expand the text field so that a question can be stated with qualifications added so that others don’t get a rant like I received on a question that was posed based on media articles and not just a wild supposition on my part. Had I been able to add more characters, I would have pointed out the Rossi article as the reason for my question.


Is there any way you can arrange to get on 93.7 in Pittsburgh and discuss from your point of view? This topic keeps getting rehashed every morning, drives me nuts. haha, c’mon Tim, they need you

Luke sutton

Is it really all “assumption” of good health for a guy that had largely been healthy the last 2-3 years save for a freak “i suck at bunting” accident and last year? If they look over the medicals and see his injury from last year as having healed, they really arent assuming he will be healthy, they know he has recovered and doesnt have a long history of injury. I think he is aging into a year where he is more of a 4th pitcher than a 2nd pitcher, but i dont see why he would be a high injury risk guy.


He’s 38 years old, bud. Go ahead and find me the guys over the last decade who’ve had league-average or better seasons at that age.

Burnett absolutely may be one of them, but there’s simply no denying the exceedingly rare chances of that happening. Pitchers simply don’t last this long. It’s not an AJ Burnett thing, it’s a limitations of the human body thing. No one should be surprised when a 38 yo guy with over 2000 IP on a rebuilt elbow breaks down. That’s the risk of doing business, and also a risk the Pirates should’ve taken.

Luke sutton

That’s fair, i just dont think that correlates as strongly to “injury” as you suggest. I see it having a strong relation to decreased production more so than a strong chance of injury as you alluded to earlier. I absolutely agree on the idea that at 38 AJ will see production dip, and its possible he is league average.

I also think the rebuilt elbow is a bit of a reach. If people are worried about injury, using the elbow is pretty doomsday like. I can see someone thinking hernia/hip/lower body stuff may keep appearing due to age and the body, but the elbow issue has shown no signs of discomfort.


I only mentioned the past TJS because studies have suggested the average time between first and second surgery is somewhere around 600 IP. Andrew would have this information, I’m sure. There seems to be consensus that one TJS often leads to another at some point, and if one is to believe that, then it would also make sense to believe that a guy with *2000 IP* since his first surgery is pitching on borrowed time.


In reference to McCutchen and aging, faster players typically age better than average.


Monsoon Harvard

If Kang hits all spring like he has so far, Jordy Mercer will need to find himself a nice comfortable spot on the bench because he’s going to be there for a while. At least until Kang shows signs of slumping. Kang has impressed me, I believe he can succeed as a starter in the big leagues.


I share your optimism on Kang… but am also prepared for the transition to take somewhat longer. It is a very big change, and while the language barrier is huge upfront, the cultural difference can wear a guy down over the longer term… particularly if he doesn’t feel welcomed by the fans.

Once he starts smacking homers into the river, though, the fans will be thrilled to have him wearing a Pirate uniform.

Luke sutton

Yeah, im sure the manager will bench a 2 year starting SS since the new guy had a good spring. I like Kang, i think the power is legit and his defense is good enough to not suck, but he isnt starting. Which is fine, because the bench was an area of need after last year and giving multiple positions a break throughout the week keeps the guys more fresh deep into the year.

No way Mercer is benched after what he has done the last two years because of ST numbers.


Jordy Mercer wasn’t even a 2-WAR player last year.

The only reason you think so highly of him is because Jay Bell and Jack Wilson are the only two actual shortstops the Pirates have had in your life.

Luke sutton

I didnt say Mercer is a great SS or that he doesnt deserve to have to play well to keep his spot, but if you agree that a good ST can and should mean sitting a 2 WAR SS coming off a fine season, we just disagree. I think a 2 WAR SS making the money he does is a steal. The reason i think Jordy is good is because he plays above average defense with an above average bat for his spot.

If Jordy goes into the year, has a terrible month and Kang is looking decent, bench him. But i dont do it because of ST when guys are seeing AA and AAA arms just as much as they are real arms. For me, Kang cannot do anything to win a job in ST. Which isnt a negative on him, but a positive of the infield of Harrison, Mercer, and Walker. Those 3 guys have earned a starting spot on OD, and you let their play dictate from that point.


My fault, buddy. I interpreted Monsoon’s comment as saying if Kang continues to hit into the season as he has been this spring, not *just* spring training. I think he might actually be saying what you interpreted instead. Yeah, Jordy is your Opening Day shortstop barring just about anything other than injury.






Tim, good to hear you tell it like it is regarding Kang. the Pittsburgh media has not embraced him very well.


I’m finding disappointment with the local Pittsburgh sports ‘punditocracy’ as well on their coverage of Kang.

It reminds me of another young player from overseas who the local sportwriters of the day simply brutalized in print… but he eventually ended up doing pretty darn well as a Pirate. He wore number 21, and he ended up doing so well and being so beloved by the fans that no Pirate will ever wear that number again.

I say let’s give Kang a warm welcome, and a reasonable chance to show what he can do. After all, he did bat .356 and hit 40 homers last year (and has a couple of Golden Glove awards at shortstop as well)… is there no one who wouldn’t be pleased to get performance at even 50% of that?

I’m optimistic that he’ll deliver better than just 50%… but if he ‘only’ hits 20 homers, that ain’t too shabby.


I m not sure how many homers he will give us!
But I wouldn`t be surprised If he get the NL homers title!


That’s probably because most of the Pittsburgh media is old enough to have served during the Korean War, and probably think Kang is from North Korea, so they hold a grudge.


Ha, I laughed.

I’m sure that was tongue-in-cheek, but I do think the real reason is much more simple.

Local media, especially as it relates to baseball, is just lazy. How many times do we see national writers and folks like Tim break Pirate news and stories compared to local guys? Almost universally.

Not a single one of the “journalists” who penned those hot takes on Kang put in a fraction of the effort Tim has to actually put boots on the ground and see for themselves. Pure laziness.


I believe Mr. Rossi is at spring training as well.

I am not defending Rossi or Tim, nor belittling either one, and respect their opinions and insight as each sees it.


I’d venture to guess that the key difference between Tim and Rossi is that Rossi is looking for a story to get ratings where as Tim is just reporting what he see’s.




I’d agree that lazy plays a significant part in their coverage, and the fact that they are…ummm.. set in their ways contributes as well.

Lee Foo Young

Bleep the Pittsburgh media and their made up stories.


Why would a writer “make up” a story? Is it remotely possible they are seeing something that another person doesn’t?


They make up stories to sell newspapers. Any time you see an unattributed quote, you should have serious doubts. When you see an unattributed quote from Rossi or Beirtempfel, you are safe to ignore it entirely.


Drama and sensationalism sells whether it is true or not, and it is so much easier to just make up “THE STORY” to suit the writer than to go with the truth. More people will read a “Kang isn’t fitting in” story than “Kang is fitting in great” story. Ratings driven media has ruined itself. Even if there is truth to be found, it is buried in a mound of crap. All the writer has to do is leave open the plausible deniability door.


Happy to read your Kang thoughts…..here in Pittsburgh, the pre and post game host on 93.7 (Dan Zangrilli) has stirred things up by claiming Kang not fitting in.


But #sources said!


Dan Zangrilli was a 2nd rate AA radio play by play announcer in Altoona. And I do mean 2nd rate ! Why Greenberg ever hired him I never could figure out, unless it was because he worked cheap.


And just think, Zangrilli is the pick of the litter in the Pittsburgh media, tells you how bad the rest of them are. They have to be the most uninformed group of people on earth concerning the Pirates, they have no idea who the Pirates have other than 5 or 6 Pirate starters. Of course, we do have the Steelers and they keep those guys busy 24/7. To sum up what I think, Pittsburgh does not have any qualified baseball media.


I would have to go out of my way to listen to any of those guys, and already having knowledge of a Zangrilli, for an example, means I don’t bother.

Keenan Funk

Kind of amazing that they fired both Rocco Demaro and David Todd, two guys who actually know things about baseball, and replaced him with a fluff man in Zangrilli. I haven’t bothered with the post game show since he took over.

Lee Foo Young

Mac….as I wrote above….”Bleep the Pittsburgh media and their made up stories.”


Also Rossi wrote that in an article


I know some folks on this board may not appreciate him, but the enormous drop in talent from Dejan to Rossi has to be killing the Trib.

Insulting to even compare the two.

Luke sutton

In terms of writing ability there is no doubt, but it is sad when those two are the options to pick from in terms of ability to not be relatively agenda based in their slant.


We can certainly share different opinions on this one, but I really never took DK as having an agenda, per se. I think he strongly thought he was correct on a lot of his opinions, and wrote as I’d like anyone to in such a position.

He just simply turned out to be very, very wrong.

Luke sutton

Lol fair enough distinction, i really dont dislike much about him save for his seeming dislike for admitting when he is wrong. Particularly in the instance of one Russell Martin, when he absolutely lit into the FO for getting him and then the next year when a few readers mentioned that….he deleted his stuff and acted like he didnt get that negative about the acquisition.

Very good writer, with opinions that arent always off the wall, but just admit when ya get it wrong and im good.


While Dejan was getting crankier and crankier during his tenure at the Trib, there is clearly a chasm between he and Rossi when it comes to writing ability.

Lee Foo Young

Rossi is an idiot.


I can’t stand that guy, and the Kang article was really especially terrible, which is something for him.

I don’t know how or why I got through it. He didn’t even disguise that he was wildly worst-case-scenario-ly speculating, though, I guess, so at least there was that tiny modicum of honesty amid what were essentially just a bunch of lies.


Ha ha…..C’mon Lee ! Don’t sugar coat your feelings.


Hence the reason for my question. 🙂


Baseball at the highest competitive level with players from at least 10 countries – players at this level recognize that their need is performance-based and that there is always someone waiting for the opportunity to get into the starting lineup. Kang will not cause any special difficulty in the dugout other than the fact he is probably not able to communicate very well in English.

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