Yesterday third baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang made his major league debut for the San Francisco Giants. He went 1-for-4 with a home run and two RBI in his first game, certainly a nice way to say hello to the major leagues. At age 29 he isn’t exactly a classic “prospect” but he’s an official rookie, so here’s a quick look.
Hwang has been a regular in the Korean Baseball Organization since 2007, where he was famous for his bat flips. Over 10 seasons he established himself as a solid player with increasing power, notably with 26 homers in 2015 and 27 in 2016 for the Lotte Giants. Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs wrote this good summary of his Korean career over the winter.
He wanted a crack at the US though so in January 2017 he signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants. He had a good spring training in Arizona (.333/.353/.687) but didn’t come north with the team. Assigned to Triple-A Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League, he hit .287/.333/.476 through 68 games, not spectacular by PCL standards but a tad above average (wRC+103).
His PCL performance wasn’t terrific but it wasn’t bad and combined with his spring training tear and his past track record, he deserved a look. He had a contract opt-out option due on July 1st so if the Giants wanted to see him in the majors, they needed to promote him now.
Hwang is listed at 6-0, 215, a right-handed hitter, born July 28, 1987. He can hit the ball to all fields although most of his homers go out to left-center according to his spray charts.
To be perfectly honest I don’t have a firm feel for what to expect from him. Projection systems aren’t terribly impressed. . .Steamer has him at .243/.290/.380. . .but the circumstances are unusual. My normal PCL sources didn’t have much to say. If forced to make a guess I’d say that the Steamer numbers are a bit low and he could hit something on the order of .260/.300/.390, but your mileage may vary.
We have a lot of Giants fans on the blog: feel free to weight in and discuss what you expect from Hwang and why.