January 2020. The reason why San Diego recruited infielder Kim Ha-sung (28) across the Pacific Ocean was “growth.” It recorded better batting indicators every year as if it were programmed by a computer, and expected this trend to continue in the Major League Baseball (MLB).

The result is a four-year, $28 million guarantee by 2024. And it was an $8 million annual salary contract in 2025 under mutual agreement. San Diego invested the period of reaching its peak as a baseball player in an Asian league infielder who rarely had success stories.

Investment in San Diego at the time turned out to be very desirable. In 2021, the first year of MLB, he struggled at-bat with a batting average of 0.202 and an OPS of 0.602 wRC+ (adjusted score productivity: see the fan graph) and has since been steadily rising like the KBO League.

In the 2022 season, he hit above average with a batting average of 0.251, OPS 0.708, and wRC+ 105, but this season, he developed to a batting average of 0.260 OPS 0.757 wRC+ 114 as of the 16th (Korea Standard Time). In the early days of his MLB career, he used to be fixed in the lower batting order, but this season he also plays as a leadoff player and serves as a spearhead in the spectacular San Diego batting lineup.

The biggest advantage is defense. In terms of defense indicators, it is no exaggeration to say that he is the MLB special infielder and the best infielder in Asian history. Second baseman, third baseman, and shortstop all play high-quality defense in all infield positions.

In the second baseman position where he played the most this season, he scored a DRS (Defensive Run Save) +12, a third baseman +2 and a shortstop +4. Last year, he was named in the top three in the gold glove vote with DRS +10 as a shortstop, and this year he will challenge for the golden gloves again as a second baseman.

Above all, the greater value lies in the attitude of playing the game. Don’t waste every moment on the ground. He always does his best and always flies in base play and defense. San Diego fans always give energy to Kim Ha-sung and send him great love.

When Kim Ha-sung stands at bat at Petco Park, San Diego’s home stadium, fans create a spectacular scene shouting “Ha Sung-Kim.” The Athletic, a U.S. sports media, said, “There are very few players like Kim Ha-sung, whose fans shout their names at every batter’s box. In other words, Kim Ha-sung is the most loved player by fans in San Diego.”

The majority of the Korean big leaguers from the KBO League to MLB did not last for two or three years. Faced with a higher level of baseball and a strong player base, he returned without a second contract. In some cases, they returned after agreeing to buy out without completing the contract period.

Kim Ha-sung is not. If the flow is maintained now, it will sign a larger contract with San Diego at the end of the contract period. According to a mutual agreement in the winter of 2024, the contract can be extended until the 2025 season, but Kim Ha-sung’s current ransom easily exceeded the $8 million set. In fact, he will become an FA after the 2024 season. Any team that needs an infielder will naturally watch every play by Kim Ha-sung.


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