Monday, April 15 2024

Why Lee’s skill set makes him perfect Giants center field fit originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The Giants introduced who they believe can be a foundational player for years to come.

San Francisco signed Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee to a six-year, $113 million contract and the 25-year-old dawned the orange and black for the first time in his introductory press conference on Friday at Oracle Park.

Lee is a former KBO MVP and won five consecutive Golden Glove Awards with the Kiwoom Heroes before signing with the Giants. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said during the press conference that the current plan is for Lee to be the everyday center fielder in 2024 and envisions him starting up the middle on Opening Day.

The Giants have been looking to get younger and more athletic defensively and while Lee without a doubt checks that box, there are questions regarding his bat and how it will translate from the KBO to the major leagues.

Lee has elite bat-to-ball skills and was a career .340 hitter in the KBO with a strikeout rate of around 5 to 6 percent in recent seasons. While there might be an initial adjustment to the difference in velocity, Zaidi and the Giants believe Lee’s rare contact ability will translate, even with less-than-impressive exit velocities.

“Yeah I think it’s an increasingly rare skill and (the question) about exit velocity was interesting because that does seem to be a goal for so many players here and the conversation around it is definitely less in Korea and Japan,” Zaidi said. “So I think when guys develop their skills and their games it’s not as much of a point of emphasis from a player development context.

“It’s interesting from a baseball standpoint, we have really sophisticated metrics around hitting. I actually remember a conversation I had with Dave Roberts when I was still down in LA. He just said there’s something about a player that has the ability to find the outfielder grass and I think that’s true. I actually think he might have been talking about Ichiro [Suzuki] when we had that conversation. You can see that (Lee) has patterned his game after him and he has a lot of the same skills.”

The FanGraphs and Steamer models project Lee to hit .291/.353/.430 with 9-to-10 home runs, 55-to-60 RBI and six stolen bases with a very impressive stikeout rate of 9.3 percent in his rookie 2024 season.

In his MVP-winning 2022 season, Lee batted .349/.421/.575 with 23 home runs, 113 RBI and a .996 OPS. While those numbers certainly are impressive on the surface, Zaidi was most impressed with Lee’s strikeout totals. The young star struck out just 32 times in 627 plate appearances.

“Forget about walks-to-strikeouts, to have your homer and strikeout numbers that close in any league is really impressive,” Zaidi explained.

The addition of Lee in center allows the Giants to shift Mike Yastrzemski to right field with veterans Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger splitting time in left field and at designated hitter.

It remains to be seen if the Giants will make any additional moves to the outfield this offseason, but right now that figures to be the primary starting configuration in 2024 with Luis Matos, Austin Slater and Tyler Fitzgerald mixed in off the bench.

The Giants are excited about the addition of Lee, who checks multiple boxes at the plate and on defense and quickly could become a fan favorite with his unique skill set.

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Source: Yahoo Sports


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