Who knew that Ha-Sung Kim (28, San Diego Padres) would be so good in 2023, and neither did a former Major League Baseball (MLB) general manager and columnist.

“We’re looking at the 20 players who had breakout seasons in the 2023 season,” The Athletic wrote on April 22, referring to Kim’s name as one of the 20 players who took a big leap forward in the major leagues. Columnist Jim Borden, who compiled the list, is a former manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

With Louis Robert Jr. (Chicago White Sox) on pace to hit 40 home runs this season (37 as of Aug. 22) and Justin Verlander (Chicago Cubs) in the National League Cy Young race, Kim was ranked fifth overall. “If you told me in spring training that he would have a higher WAR this year than Manny Machado or Xander Bogaerts, I don’t know if anyone would have believed me,” Borden said of Kim’s unexpected performance.

In fact, through 22 days, Kim’s fWAR (FanGraphs WAR) of 4.4 is third on the team. Only Juan Soto (5.0) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (4.5) are above him, and not by much. The “billionaire duo” of Machado (11 years, $350 million) and Bogaerts (11 years, $280 million), who signed big contracts, are lower than Kim at 4.3 and 3.1, respectively. This means that Kim is worth more this season than any other star player in the major leagues.

“He had a decent 2022 season,” said Borden, “but this year he raised his batting average quite a bit (0.325 to 0.356), hit a career-high 17 home runs, and stole 36 bases.” “He’s also playing elite defense at second base,” he added.

There are many other players in the major leagues this season who have taken a step forward from last year. However, it is positive to see that Kim, who was already recognized for his progress last season, is on track for a breakout season this year.

Even with his summer pace slowing down, Kim’s 2023 season deserves a lot of credit. In 143 games this year, Kim is batting .265 with 17 home runs, 58 RBI, 81 runs scored, 36 doubles, a .356 on-base percentage, a .407 slugging percentage, and a .763 OPS. Even if he finishes the season this way, he’ll still have a career-high season. As of Aug. 22, his WAR of 5.7 on Baseball-Reference ranks sixth in the National League. Fangraphs ranks him 18th in the league, which puts him at the top of his game.

The momentum he showed in the summer was especially frightening. At the end of the season on June 19, Kim was batting .240 with a .694 OPS. Those numbers weren’t too far off from last year (0.251 batting average and 0.708 OPS). However, after going 3-for-4 in a game against San Francisco on the 20th of the same month, Kim had a hot two months. From that game to August 20, exactly two months later (a doubleheader against Arizona), Kim batted .317 with 11 home runs, 26 RBIs, 40 runs scored, 16 doubles, and an OPS of .926 in 53 games (51 starts). During this time, he ranked sixth in WAR (FanGraphs), fifth in stolen bases, and 19th in OPS, among other metrics.

After his hot two months, Kim also improved his season numbers. His season batting average was up to .290 at one point, and his OPS was in the .800s. In mid-August, ESPN had him ranked fifth in the National League MVP race. Only Shin-Soo Choo (2010, 2013) and Ryu Hyun-jin (2019, 2020) have ever been named to the Major League MVP ballot.스포츠토토

However, Kim is playing 1178 innings of defense this year after 1263 last year, and he’s been batting first since late June, which has taken a toll on his stamina. In 13 games in September, Kim is batting .167 (9-for-54) with six home runs, seven doubles, and a .417 OPS. He doesn’t have any long balls of more than two doubles, and aside from his walks (six) and stolen bases, he hasn’t done much else. As his stamina waned, the team gave him time off, but it didn’t work, and he hasn’t been in the starting lineup since April 18 against Oakland due to abdominal pain.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “Kim has been one of San Diego’s most reliable performers all season. Even as the team went through ups and downs, he brought consistency to his game throughout. His emergence this season has been a good sign for the franchise.” “It remains to be seen when he will return, but San Diego will be careful not to risk anything else (like another injury). It makes sense to take a cautious approach with Kim, especially given the team’s standings.”

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