Outstanding pioneer’ Lee Jung-hoo will surprise ML…top 10 batting average expected

He hasn’t even made his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut yet, and the reviews are in. Lee Jung-hoo (San Francisco Giants) is in the spotlight again.

On the 22nd (KST), MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, selected 10 players under the theme of “Players Who Will Surprise You in 2024”. The list includes five hitters and five pitchers, using the projected performance of each player in the 2024 season from baseball statistics site FanGraphs.com. Lee was the fourth hitter to make the list.

Fangraphs.com projected Lee to hit .291 with 11 home runs, 54 RBIs, 78 runs scored, a .354 on-base percentage, a .431 slugging percentage, a wRC+ of 116, and a strikeout rate of 9.1% in 134 games this season. Typically, a strikeout rate of less than 10% is considered excellent, and a wRC+ of 100 is considered average, meaning that Lee will have excellent plate discipline and will produce 16% more runs than the average big league hitter.

“There’s a good chance we’ll see a contact-hitting star come to MLB from an overseas league this year,” said MLB.com. San Francisco’s big offseason acquisition, Lee Jung-hoo, is making the jump from the KBO to the majors.”

“The 25-year-old left-handed hitter is projected to be a top-10 hitter in the majors and top-five in the National League. “Most impressively, Lee is projected to have the second-lowest strikeout rate among major league hitters, behind only Luis Araez (Miami Marlins) at 7.1 percent. We hope this bodes well for Lee.”

Lee made his KBO debut in 2017 with the Nexen Heroes (now the Kiwoom Heroes) and was the league’s leading hitter for seven seasons until last year. In 884 career games, Lee boasts a .340 batting average, 1,181 hits, 65 home runs, 515 RBI, 581 runs scored, a .491 on-base percentage, a .407 slugging percentage, and a 7.7 percent strikeout rate. He is the all-time leader in batting average among all KBO players (over 3,000 at-bats).

After the end of last season, he tried his hand at the major leagues. On March 15, he signed a six-year, $113 million contract with the San Francisco Giants. It was the highest offer ever for a Korean player to reach the big leagues through the posting system (closed competitive bidding). It was also the highest when expanding the scope to include Asian players. It also included an opt-out clause after the 2027 season.

After signing the deal, the US media was all over Lee. The San Francisco Chronicle named him one of 15 baseball players to watch in the Bay Area this year. “We know he’s going to be exciting as a traditional hitter with great athleticism, an active defender and expert contact skills,” the publication said.

MLB.com also ranked the Giants in the outfield on Wednesday, using FanGraphs.com’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) to look at teams that have made the most successful additions by position. San Francisco, which ranked 28th in the outfield last year, is expected to improve its ranking to 11th this year with the addition of Lee Jung-hoo.

“Lee is known for his impressive contact ability at the plate. He should make a successful jump this season, posting a .354 on-base percentage and a wRC+ of 116.” “His projected WAR in center field is 3.2. That’s a big jump from the 0.4 the Giants produced last year with 10 players, including right fielder Mike Yastrzemski and 21-year-old rookie Luis Matos.”

Meanwhile, MLB.com named Ronald Acuña Jr. (Atlanta Braves), Juan Soto (New York Yankees), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Toronto Blue Jays), and Wyatt Langford (Texas Rangers) among the hitters. On the pitching side, Spencer Strider (Atlanta), Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Los Angeles Dodgers), Tarik Scoubal (Detroit Tigers), Carlos Rodon (Yankees), and Edwin Diaz (New York Mets) were named.

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