Jung Ho Kang was a highly valued international prize out of the KBO. The Pirates brought him on board their vessel in 2015 and they had two seasons of swashbuckling action. His OPS+ in 2015 was 123 and he followed that up with a 129 in 2016…good start. His first two seasons netted Pirates 36 dingers, as well. Those 36 homers included 21 of them in just 103 games during the 2016 season.
Following the 2016 season, Kang engaged in a drunken, high-speed chase with the police following a hit-and-run in South Korea. This was his third DUI. Subsequently, his work visa was denied and he was unable to play during the 2017 season.
He made his return to the Pirates’ organization in late 2018. He was reinstated and sent to AAA-Indianapolis. He finally made his way back to the Major Leagues with three games remaining in 2018.
Last season – back in the Bigs – Kang hit just .169 and was released in August. He will be lucky to get a minor league deal at this point. The upside is if he can get back to his old ways and prove he’s moved beyond his alcohol issues, he’s a legitimate starting option at third base.
One ray of light on his miserable 2018 was he still had home run power. His 10 home runs in just 172 at-bats provide a small silver lining. It’s very tiny, you have to use a telescope to see it, but it is there.
Kang turns 33 at the beginning of next season and with SS and 3B experience, he could be a versatile defender for the Rays. He comes with almost no risk.