The Downfall of Byung-Ho Park
When the Minnesota Twins signed Korean slugger Byung-Ho Park, fans believed he was the next "big thing" and that he was the player they needed to compete. But what happened to Byung-Ho Park?
Park was a huge superstar in the Korean Baseball Organization with the Nexen Heroes. In five seasons with the Heroes, Park led the KBO in home runs five times, RBIs four times, slugging percentage twice, a 2X MVP of the KBO, and was a five-time Gold Glove winner. In the KBO, Park had two consecutive seasons with 50 home runs (2014–2015) and was the home run title winner for four consecutive seasons (2012–2015). He holds the KBO record for RBI during a single season, with 146 RBI in 2015. With those numbers, the Twins gave the highly wanted Park a four-year, $12 million contract. With those numbers in the KBO, you would think It would be a steal of a contract; the only problem is that Park wasn't a very good MLB player.
The move for the Twins made sense as he dominated pitching in the highest league in South Korea, and many teams were after him. It was exciting when the Twins won the bidding war for Park because things like that usually don't happen to Minnesota. It was initially very exciting to see what he could do in America, but ultimately it was another disappointing move. When Park arrived with the Twins, he only played 62 games, hitting .191/.275/.409 with 12 homers before he was sent to Triple-A Rochester. The only real hope Park had at the time of his demotion was his 12 homers, which had him on pace for 31 homers if he had played the whole season. After spending an entire season with the Rochester Red Wings, Park asked to be released and returned to the Heroes for the 2017 season. He performed well in Park's first year back in the KBO League. Park batted .345 with an OPS of 1.174 with 43 HR in 113 games. Currently, Park is on the KT Wiz in the KBO. He is slashing .275/.349/.556 with 35 HRs. He has only been incredible since he went back to the KBO. This leads me to wonder what went wrong for Park in the majors and why he did not perform up to expectations.
In 2016, Park's only season in the MLB, he had a strikeout rate of 32.8%. He struck out in nearly one-third of his plate appearances. Whereas in 2016, the league average strikeout rate was 21.1%, Park's strikeout rate was over 10% more than the average. The following reason for his struggles: Park's batting average in 2016 was .191. This was well below the league average of .255. On-base percentage, Park's on-base percentage (OBP) in 2016 was .275, which was also below the league average of .321. Park struggled to hit the breaking pitches. In 2016, he had a batting average of just .111 against curveballs and a batting average of .125 against sliders. Park also had difficulty staying on the field, suffering a knee contusion and a wrist injury that ended his season. Park also had issues with the front office and how they handled his injury. Park believed little treatment was given to him during his injuries which slowed down getting him back on the field.
I wish the Twins would have kept Park on their roster, it's very possible that his performance would have improved in the Major Leagues, he just needed to be given more playing time and consistent at-bats. However, it's a possibility that he would have continued to struggle and been demoted or released. In 2016, Byung Ho Park's rookie season with the Twins, he played in 62 games and had 244 plate appearances. He hit .191 with 12 home runs, 24 RBI, and a .658 OPS. In comparison, the Twins' starting DH in 2016, Robbie Grossman, played in 99 games and had 380 plate appearances. He hit .280 with 11 home runs, 37 RBI, and a .386 OBP. If Park had been given consistent playing time and more at-bats, it's a real possibility he could have improved his numbers and been a good player for the Twins. However, it's also possible that he simply wasn't built for the MLB and would have continued to struggle.
I wonder what would've happened if Park would have had more time to adjust to MLB pitching and his injuries didn't keep him off the field. We know he had the potential but sadly couldn't piece it together. Byung-Ho Park's career would have been an interesting one for sure. Sadly, Twins fans will have to live with the disappointment of Park not panning out quite as we hoped.