Might the A's look to Asia again for a shortstop?

By Jason Wojciechowski on October 20, 2014 at 8:28 PM

Probably the answer to the question in the title is "no," but Mike Axisa has a writeup of Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, who appears set to be posted after an absurdly monster year with the bat in the Korean league. Seriously: .360/.463/.756. Granted, it's a high-offense league (5.68 R/G, .813 league OPS), but that's fantastic. Some of this, from Nick Cafardo, may sound familiar to A's fans who struggled through the Hiroyuki Nakajima years:

there is still some pushback from scouts who have seen him play on whether he translates to major league baseball. Some of the alarms include the leg kick in his stance that’s very pronounced and lasts deep into his swing. There also has always been skepticism over his ability to play shortstop in the majors, even though he won the Korean version of the Gold Glove.

In theory it was the abandonment of Nakajima's leg kick that caused him problems:

Nakajima's delayed leg kick, the source of much of his timing at the plate, was swapped for a small lift with his front foot. The right-hander lost torque on his swing and was late on pitches, often fouling balls off to the right side

but surely Kang would face the same pressure and the same doubts, and then also

Scarsone said that Nakajima's developed a habit of letting the ball come to him in Japan, which is problematic on natural grass fields; while Nakajima's arm strength isn't a concern -- if anything, Scarsone said, it's stronger than anticipated -- the shortstop position in America is one that demands athleticism.

There's something sorta racist about making the obvious Asian shortstop comparison, and one wonders whether the scouting itself isn't affected by these biases (which is not to say the scouts are racist so much as that we're all prone to mental shortcuts that may not be justified by cold rationality). The A's have to continue to hunt for bargains where they can find them, and if that bargain is in buying the negotiation rights to a Korean shortstop who just had the biggest year of his life, well, Nakajima isn't going to stop them. What's the alternative? Paying market rates for Jed Lowrie when the Yankees are also in need of a shortstop and less willing to gamble on upside vs. paying for the sure thing?

That Cafardo article, which by the way is over a week old, so blame me for being out of date, not him, has this "tidbit":

A few Athletics officials were surprised that Jon Lester fell apart and allowed six runs on eight hits over 7⅓ innings in his wild-card playoff game against Kansas City. “After all,” said one A’s player, “I thought his purpose was to win us that game and beyond.”


Also, Cafardo has a note about the Red Sox liking Jeff Samardzija and John Jaso. The Sox do have a good farm system, for whatever all this is worth.