The San Diego Padres’ Ha-Sung Kim has once again joined the ranks of the best active infielders in the big leagues.
Major League Baseball announced its Silver Slugger candidates for the National League and American League on Wednesday. Kim joins Cody Bellinger of the Chicago Cubs, Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Spencer Steer of the Cincinnati Reds as National League utility candidates.굿모닝토토
Kim was up against Ozzie Albies of the Atlanta Braves, Luis Arares of the Miami Marlins, and Keitel Marte of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the category of second basemen who played their primary position this season. Instead, he was honored in the utility category, which was created last year.
The Silver Slugger is awarded to the best offensive player at each position. Unlike the Gold Glove, which is awarded to the best defensive player at a position, the Silver Slugger recognizes the best player at a position for a single season based on hitting alone.
No Korean major league hitter has ever won the Silver Slugger. Kim batted .260 (140-for-538) with 17 home runs, 60 RBI, 38 doubles, and a .749 OPS in 152 games this season. He served as the team’s leadoff hitter and was a key part of San Diego’s offense.
In his rookie season, Kim struggled in 2021, batting .202 (54-for-267) with eight home runs, 34 RBI, six doubles, and a .622 OPS in 117 games. While he was recognized for his fielding and defense, he was not well-received for his offense.
However, Kim has improved at the plate since last year. In 150 games, he batted .251 (130-for-517) with 11 home runs, 59 RBI, 12 doubles, and an OPS of .708, raising his offense above the big league average.
This season, he’s been even more spectacular. Although he fell short of becoming the first Asian infielder to reach the 20-homer, 20-steal mark, he has established himself as a player who can more than hold his own against the best defense in the majors.
According to MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, “Ha Sung Kim had his best season of the year. He hit 38 doubles and 17 home runs while playing all over the San Diego infield.”
San Diego missed the postseason this season, finishing third in the National League West with an 82-80 record and a .506 winning percentage. They were in the wild-card race until the end of the season, but had a “baseball-less” fall.
Kim did his part even as the team fell short of expectations. With the offseason signing of shortstop Xander Bogaerts to a mega-deal worth $280 million, he was the centerpiece of the Padres’ outfield, even though there was some trade speculation.
The Dodgers are in the midst of a managerial change, with Bob Melvin, who recruited Kim, moving on to manage the San Francisco Giants, but Kim’s place on the team is expected to remain solid.
Kim is the National League’s second-best second baseman and a Gold Glove candidate in the utility category. His hitting and defense are among the best among active major league infielders.
However, Kim’s chances of winning a Silver Slugger are slim. Bellinger will have to settle for a nomination, as he hit .307 with 26 home runs and 97 RBIs this season, while Betts hit .307 with 39 home runs and 107 RBIs.
Gold Glove awards are likely. Major League Baseball will announce the Gold Glove winners on June 6 and the Silver Slugger winners on June 10.
In September, Kim was named the No. 1 defensive second baseman in the National League by Baseball America in a survey of managers, scouts and officials.
“Next year, I will set better goals so that I can focus on them,” Kim said at a press conference on his return home last month, adding, “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t greedy to win the Gold Glove. I don’t know how it will turn out, but I’m looking forward to it.”
In the meantime, Kim plans to rest and do personal training in Korea to get in shape before he leaves for the United States next January.