Who Are Some of the Top KBO Hitters?

July 7, 2020
For many MLB fans, their baseball fix the last month has come from watching and following KBO games, learning about that league’s style of play and star players.
 

Many of us at Sports Info Solutions are doing the same thing. We have been tracking the KBO in comprehensive detail this season. This week, we’ll look at how some of the league’s top hitters have performed.

In 2018, Cuban native José Miguel Fernández got a 36-game look from the Angels, during which he hit .267 with two home runs in 116 at-bats.

But through his first 26 games with the Doosan Bears of the KBO this season, Fernández has hit at an all-world level. Fernández is batting .444 with 48 hits, 5 home runs and 27 RBI in 108 at-bats. This comes after Fernández hit .344 with Doosan last season, his first season in South Korea.

What has been most impressive about Fernández? There isn’t anywhere that you can get him out. He’s hitting .607 with 17 hits in at-bats that end with an inside pitch (defined as on the inner-third of the plate or off the inside corner) and .417 in at-bats that end with an outside pitch (outer-third or off the outside corner).

Two other players who played professionally in North America that are getting a lot of attention for their success in South Korea are first baseman Roberto Ramos and outfielder Mel Rojas Jr.

Ramos hit .309 with 30 home runs for the Rockies' Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes, last season. His power has carried over into the KBO, where he is hitting .363 with a league-leading 10 home runs in his first 91 at-bats for the LG Twins. Not surprisingly, he’s mashing fastballs, with a .429 batting average and 18 hits, and is tied for the league high with six home runs against them.

At age 25, Ramos is someone with the opportunity to parlay his success in the KBO into a major league opportunity.

The 30-year-old Rojas is in his fourth season with the KT Wiz after a minor league career of more than 800 games. He’s batting .419 with 8 home runs. Rojas has the highest rate of hard-hit balls among players with at least 60 at-bats (36%).

Ramos (.747), Rojas (.743) and Fernández (.667) are the top three hitters in the KBO in slugging percentage. Rojas is tied for second in home runs with Sung-bum Na of the NC Dinos.

Na, in his eighth season, is a longtime KBO star, who has five seasons of at least 20 home runs. Na thrives on hitting mistakes. He's hitting .463 with 19 hits and four home runs on pitches over the middle-third of the plate.

Fernández's .479 on-base percentage trails only Yong-ho Cho (.488) of the KT Wiz. Cho is hitting .408 with 11 walks and only six strikeouts. He has the fifth-lowest rate of misses on his swings (7%).

Another former major leaguer, former Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim is also off to a stellar start. A teammate of Ramos on the LG Twins, Kim is hitting .381. Similar to Cho, what’s impressive about Kim is his ability to consistently make contact. He’s struck out 7 times in 105 at-bats and missed on only 4% of his swings against fastballs.

Ramos' and Kim’s Twins lead the KBO in hard-hit rate this season at 21%, which has helped the team to a 17-9 start. Hard-hit rates in the KBO differ considerably from MLB, as KBO hitters tend to emphasize contact over power. To illustrate the contrast, the Dodgers led the major leagues last season with a hard-hit rate of 32%.

Next week, we'll look at some of the top pitchers in the KBO.

 
 

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