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Jung Ho Kang - 2019 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper


Is there a better feeling in fantasy sports than drafting or claiming a guy that no one else even sniffs, but he pans out to be a valuable contributor to your roster? Aside from winning your league, finding that stud sleeper is what makes your countless hours of research and prep time well worth it. Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang is the pure definition of a sleeper.

After missing the entire 2017 season due to legal issues in his home country of South Korea, Kang re-obtained his work visa in April of 2018 and shortly returned to the organization in an attempt to get back into baseball shape. It took until the Pirates' final series of the season to make his debut, marking his first games at PNC Park in almost two whole seasons.

Even though Kang will turn 32 in the early portion of the upcoming season, the Pirates re-signed him to a one-year deal to show he still has what it takes. He hasn’t played much baseball in the past two years, so the risk is palpable but his opportunity in Pittsburgh this season is enough to make him that dark horse that could pay dividends for your fantasy team.

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Turn Back The Clock

Unfortunately, Kang’s absence for most of the past two years makes predicting his output a tough task, so we must go back to his first two seasons in America. Kang showed up in Pittsburgh in 2015 with few knowing what to expect. He proceeded to finish fifth on the team in home runs (15), RBIs (58), and runs (60). He slashed .287/.355/.461 in his first big league season for a team that won 98 games. In September of '15, the Cubs' Chris Coghlan slid hard into second base, ending Kang's season with a knee injury.

That same injury forced him to start 2016 on the DL, but upon returning he clubbed 21 home runs with 62 RBIs, making him one of the most dangerous hitters in the Pirates lineup yet again. In 103 games that season, his slash line was .255/.354/.513.

 

Can He Replicate The Past?

Counting just the two seasons in which he played over 100 games, Kang’s career Hard Contact % is 36.9, showing he had no issues making the adjustment from the KBO to Major League pitching. However, just because he makes hard contact doesn’t necessarily ensure production. That’s not the case with him, as through those two seasons, his ISO is .215 and his wOBA is .362. In that same span, Kang is the only Pirate starter to have over a .350 wOBA in both seasons. While he did miss some time due to injury, these are solid numbers for a player in his first two seasons in the bigs.

As has been well documented in this piece, it’s been two full seasons since we last saw Kang in a full capacity. So why should you trust him as a fantasy sleeper in 2019? He will likely ample opportunities for a player who is currently going undrafted. On average, he’s being drafted in the 501st position (the 45th third baseman) which puts him out of view for anything but the deepest of leagues; hence why we’re talking about him.

While he is surely going to have to battle with Colin Moran to be the Pirates starting third baseman, Kang should still have a sizable role on the Pirates. He can be that player that people will question you come draft day, but you can have the last laugh when he winds up as a top-20 third baseman.

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