Ha-Seong Kim started three games the last three days for the Padres against the Reds, going from second base to shortstop to third base.
Though Kim didn’t merit our recently-awarded Defensive Player of the Month honors, some props are due Kim’s way for his fine defensive play and versatility.
Since coming over from South Korea beginning in 2021, Kim has proven both adept and adaptable. Wherever he’s been put, he’s performed to a high standard, ranking second overall in Defensive WAR behind Ke’Bryan Hayes. These are his Defensive Runs Saved totals by position.
|Position||DRS||Innings Played||DRS Rank|
>> Ranks outside the Top 25 in innings played at each position
There’s a common thread to what has pushed Kim’s Runs Saved numbers up regardless of position. He’s very good going to his left. Here are three examples from this season.
Here’s one at second base.
Here’s one at shortstop.
And here’s one at third base. This play just happened yesterday and happened so quickly you don’t get the full effect of the effort Kim made to catch this 99-MPH rocket.
In his three seasons, Kim has made 183 plays on 308 opportunities going to his left while playing shortstop*. He was expected to make 166 based on out probabilities for those 308 balls.
So he’s made 17 plays above the expected total (think of that as our version of Outs Above Average. We’ve been tracking our version since 2003). His +17 is the best for any shortstop on balls hit to his left since the start of 2021. If we pro-rate that to look at who is best on a per-play basis, Kim ranks third behind Edmundo Sosa and Taylor Walls.
*An opportunity is any play on which the out probability is >0%
Additionally, Kim has 52 plays made on 72 opportunities going to his left as a second baseman. He’s +6 on those plays. Kim isn’t going to rank in the Top 40 in opportunities, but +6 on 72 balls is pretty good for a small sample. So is his +9 on 75 balls at third base.
In September 2020, while Kim was still playing in the KBO, our Ted Baarda wrote “Kim has quick reflexes, smooth actions and good situational awareness on the field … Kim appears to have a well-rounded skillset and provides defensive versatility that fits well into today’s MLB game.”
Though the adjustment from the KBO to the majors can be a challenge for many, Kim’s defense has translated without issue. And where and how well he plays may get overshadowed by the Padres potent lineup (or lack thereof to this point), but don’t underestimate its importance.