Full disclosure: I’m in the tank for Jae-gyun Hwang. It’s not just that I love his all-fields power and quick bat, which I do, but that he provides a mystery ceiling that Aaron Hill and Gordon Beckham simply don’t. I’m a sucker for the mystery ceiling, even if it’s not exactly the same kind of mystery for the smartypantses who evaluate players like him for a living. So take all this with a few grains of salt.
But I’m starting to think that Hwang has a real shot to make the team.
First, the obvious: He leads the team in home runs, with three. Spring stats, spring stats, spring stats, et cetera, but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore everything that happens for a month. Hwang’s bat has produced a nice, easy power, and he’s been hitting the ball to all fields. Sure, some of the hits probably came against Barnsby Timmletop, who will pitch for the Savannah Moon Cows this year and never reach the majors, but the Giants were looking for something out of Hwang to pique their interest, and they’ve found it.
Second, he’s getting time in the outfield. This is a huge deal for his changes. Hill probably can’t play the outfield (or shortstop, really). Michael Morse can’t play the outfield, if we want to be technical. If the Giants want to get versatile, their best option would be Orlando Calixte, but he’s not hitting this spring, and his bat has never suggested that he would be an offensive plus in the majors. From the Baggarly article linked above:
Aaron Hill, Gordon Beckham, Chris Marrero and Jae-gyun Hwang also took early fly balls on a back field with special instructor Cody Ross providing some tips. Hwang later made his spring debut in left field against the Rockies, and showed good arm strength with a throw to the plate.
They’re trying him in left already, and there are two weeks to go. This is a good sign.
Third, this is how Jae-gyun Hwang celebrated St. Patrick’s Day:
“So what is it?”
“It’s a holiday that celebrates Irish heritage, but it somehow turned into wearing green and drinking a lot for a huge percentage of the population.”
“I understand. I will go to Target and buy a green bowler hat and wacky pants. I already own the perfect shirt.”
Do not underestimate the confidence this man has. It is inspiring.
As mentioned above, Hill is practicing in the outfield, and he’s the veteran presence the Giants love oh so much, and he’s still the favorite. I would be leaning toward him if he wasn’t turning 35 next week. But he is. And he’s hit .246/.305/.365 in hitter’s parks over the last three years, so I’m pretty sure there’s limited upside to squeeze out of him.
Hwang, though, just might be a dinger-swatting, multi-positional, bowler-hatted gift. The Giants will know better than us if his spring swing can translate to success against Mike Foltynewicz’s fastball. From here, though, I’m a fan.