Could Byung-ho Park Turn Into The Next Chris Davis?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There was hope that Byung-ho Park could make a seamless transition to the Major Leagues and become a viable source of power for fantasy owners.  Unfortunately things didn’t go quite as planned.  While he showed plenty of power, he struggled mightily to make consistent contact and it ultimately ticketed him for time in the minors (before his season was cut short due to injury).  Just look at his strikeout rates by month:

  • April – 30.1%
  • May – 32.6%
  • June – 35.5%

That totaled a whopping 32.8% mark, and a 25.0% mark at Triple-A doesn’t really ease the concern.  It also shouldn’t be surprising that he struggled to make contact across the board, though he made his best contact against “hard” pitches (Whiff%):

  • Hard – 11.69%
  • Offspeed – 23.19%
  • Breaking – 24.75%

It’s not that he was chasing pitches outside the strike zone, with a 26.7% O-Swing%, he simply wasn’t making contact when he did swing (an overall 15.0% SwStr%).  That does bring hope that he can make some adjustments in the offseason, but how dramatic an improvement can he really make?

Of course it’s not like when he did make contact that he was hitting the ball particularly hard (16.7% line drive rate).  Instead he’s a player without much speed who was hitting the ball on the ground (41.3%) and putting it in the air (42.0%).  From a power perspective we like seeing the balls in the air, but when they don’t find their way over the fences they are going to lead to outs.

While we’d like to think that he is going to improve upon a .230 BABIP, if his profile stays the same the improvement may not be very dramatic.  The potential for a limited BABIP when coupled with a gaudy strikeout rate?  The idea of even a decent batting average seems like a difficult one to accept.  He should be better, but we may be looking at a .250-.260ish type hitter, at best.

Park did provide ample power, with 12 HR in the Majors (and another 10 at Triple-A).  Power is not as hard of a commodity to find as it once was, but it’s still the type of mark that is going to garner attention.

His numbers actually could bring comparison to that of Chris Davis, who just last season posted the following marks:

  • Strikeouts – 32.9%
  • Walks – 13.2%
  • SwStr% – 14.6%
  • O-Swing% – 28.2%

Those are fairly comparable, the difference is that Davis has a track record of hitting the ball hard (19.8% line drive rate in ’16, 22.9% for his career), which has led to significantly better BABIP (.279 in ’16, .314 for his career).  Davis also puts a similar number of balls in the air (41.8% fly ball rate for his career), but he has the line drives instead of groundballs (35.3%).  It’s a minor change, but one that isn’t unthinkable for Park.

Is he going to be Davis?  Not likely, but he still has that type of potential.  Considering the comparable underlying numbers, given the likely price tag in ’17 Park is going to be well worth the gamble to see if he can possibly figure it out.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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