Saturday, February 24 2024

Giants GM Putila recalls scouting Lee in final KBO game originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The Giants have their eyes set on middle-of-the-field upgrades this offseason and have done their homework on one player in particular.

Korean center fielder Jung Hoo Lee, who officially was posted on Monday, which opened his 30-day window to sign with an MLB team, reportedly is one of the Giants’ center-field targets this winter.

Giants general manager Pete Putila has scouted the 25-year-old in the KBO on multiple occasions and shared his thoughts on Lee with reporters on Tuesday at the MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.

“It was a great trip,” Putila told reporters (h/t MLB.com’s Maria Guardado). “He got off six or seven swings in one at-bat, so it was great to see him take those swings. I got to see him take fly balls pregame a few different days. Just to experience the game over there, the excitement, the energy was off the charts. It was a really good experience.”

Lee won the KBO MVP award in 2022 after batting .349/.421/.575 with 23 home runs, 113 RBI and a .996 OPS in 553 at-bats, and he is a five-time Gold Glove Award winner. A season-ending ankle injury limited Lee to just 86 games in 2023, in which he hit .318/.406/.455 with six homers and 45 RBI.

Putila admitted the injury made scouting Lee “a little more challenging,” but believes his track record speaks for itself and reduces some of the risk.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has made it clear the team will look for upgrades in the middle of the infield and outfield this offseason and Lee, along with star free agent Cody Bellinger, is expected to be one of San Francisco‘s top options.

New manager Bob Melvin believes the Giants have plenty of outfield options including Mike Yastrzemski, Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger but echoed a familiar sentiment about center field.

“We have some guys that can play [center field], but it’s no secret that that’s one of the positions we’re looking to upgrade, to get a little more athletic, a little bit more defensive-minded,” Melvin said Tuesday. “Yaz does such a great job in right, and then Conforto and Haniger can move around a little bit, depending on the DH situation. I think middle-of-the-diamond defense is always important, so that’s one we’re looking at pretty hard.”

Lee has played five seasons for the Kiwoom Heroes in the KBO, which is believed to be the equivalent of somewhere between Double- and Triple-A for MLB players. Lee has elite bat-to-ball skills and drew 66 walks while striking out just 32 times in 627 plate appearances during his MVP-winning 2022 season.

It remains to be seen how his bat will translate to major-league pitching, especially given the average MLB velocity is 93 mph compared to 88 in the KBO, but Putila is confident it’s a hurdle some international players can overcome.

“It’s definitely a challenge, but we have a lot of different scouts and people that are always evaluating the connection between the two and how guys may struggle in different ways and what adjustments they need to make,” Putila said. “It’s definitely a jump, but it’s one that we think some players can make.”

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Source: Yahoo Sports

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