by ALEX HYUN | @ahyundarkb4dawn
Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang, nicknamed “Kangnam Style” or “King Kang” by fans, has been named the National League Rookie of the Month for July. He is only the second South Korean to earn the distinction after Choi Hee-seop, who was given the award in 2003.
The 28-year-old shortstop signed with the Pirates this past offseason on a four-year $11 million dollar deal. It was a modest deal, yet one that constituted a risk as the Pirates also had to pay a $5 million dollar posting fee to Kang’s old Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) team, the Nexen Heroes.
The risk paid off. With shortstop Jordy Mercer and All-Star third baseman Josh Harrison suffering from serious injuries, Kang has played a crucial role in keeping the Pirates afloat, splitting his time between third base and shortstop.
While Kang’s defensive contributions have stabilized the Pirates’ lineup, his offensive stats have also been lauded as a key factor in his contention for Rookie of the Year honors.
For the season, Kang has hit a batting average of .294, recording eight home runs and 35 runs batted in (RBIs). In his final four games last month, he went 8-for-15 with two home runs and three RBIs, according to Yonhap News Agency.
Kang’s excellent July performance included two back-to-back homer run games; one of which was a game winner against the Minnesota Twins. But what’s most impressive about Kang’s hitting is that he leads the MLB with a batting average of .485 against fastballs that are 95 mph or more.
With the Pirates currently in the lead for the NL Wild Card, the chances of seeing “King Kang” in the playoffs seems very probable. Although it’s too early to say whether or not Kang’s career will find significant stability, there’s no doubt that infielder has made a strong first impression.
Featured image via Pittsburgh Pirates/Instagrm