The Minnesota Twins have another intriguing power bat in the lineup: Korean slugger Byung-ho Park. Signed as a free agent over the winter, Park had outstanding success in the Korean Baseball Organization, hitting 210 home runs over a nine year career, including 53 homers last year for the Nexen Heroes. How will this translate into the majors?
Let's take a look, first with his comment from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Byung-ho Park, 1B, Minnesota Twins
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-1 WT: 195 DOB: July 10, 1986
In early November the Twins won the negotiation rights for Korean slugging star Byung-ho Park. If they sign him, they will owe the Nexen Heroes a $12,850,000 posting fee in addition to whatever they pay Park. If they don’t sign him, he’ll return to Nexen with no posting fee exchanged. Park is certainly intriguing, leading the Korean Baseball Organization in home runs last year and finishing second in OPS behind former major leaguer Eric Thames. The KBO is a hitter’s league but scouts regard Parks’ power as genuine. He’s not going to hit 53 homers in the majors but he could very well hit 25. There is some swing and miss in his game and it remains to be seen what his batting average and OBP will look like, but he could very well end up being a Rookie of the Year contender. Grade B.
Park signed of course, inking a four-year, $12,000,000 major league contract. What will the Twins get for their money?
Park hit .259/.279/.466 in spring training, with three homers, one walk, and 17 strikeouts in 58 at-bats. As expected, he showed substantial power and had some issues with contact. The question remains: what will his batting average and OBP look like? A .279 OBP is terrible of course, but what will happen in a larger regular season sample?
Using his Korean stats as a baseline, the various projection systems give interesting results: Steamer has him at .256/.329/.487. ZiPS is a little more optimistic on batting average/OBP but a little less bullish on isolated power, projecting Park at .266/.333/.463. PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus is the most pessimistic at .256/.328/.443.
With those projections in mind, the .259 average and .466 slugging percentage in spring training are exactly what we should expect. His walk rate was much lower than anticipated, but he drew plenty of walks in Korea and it seems very plausible that he will get some of those walks back as he gets more experience against big league pitching.
All told, assuming good health, Park is a safe bet to hit around .260/.320/.450 with 20-25 homers per 500 at-bats. He'll be Minnesota's primary designated hitter and can fill in at first base when necessary.