SEOUL– Perhaps no other South Korean baseball club is playing under less pressure this year than the Hanwha Eagles, which have overhauled their roster and coaching staff in a massive rebuild.
At 21-31, half a game up on the last-place Lotte Giants in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), the Eagles have somewhat exceeded expectations.
And they’re left to wonder how much better they could have been with more production from a couple of their new foreign acquisitions.
Over the offseason, the Eagles acquired first baseman Ryon Healy for US$800,000 in guaranteed money, plus another $200,000 up for grabs in incentives. They also signed starter Nick Kingham at $650,000, giving him a second chance after the right-hander missed a big chunk of the 2020 season with the SK Wyverns (currently SSG Landers) with an elbow injury.
So far, Healy hasn’t put up the kind of numbers expected of a middle-of-the-lineup slugger with a couple of 20-homer big league seasons under his belt. Kingham is injured once again and has only made eight starts this year.
Healy is batting .257/.303/.383 with four home runs and 26 RBIs in 46 games through Tuesday.
It’s not just power production that Healy is lacking. He is dead last among 57 qualified hitters in on-base percentage and walks. He has hit into six double plays, tied for the team lead and ninth in the league.
During spring training, new manager Carlos Subero and new hitting coach Johnny Washington often talked about the importance of getting on base. Subero, in particular, said he wanted his lineup to make up for its lack of power with a collective effort to reach base.
The Eagles ranked last with a .320 on-base percentage last year. So far in 2021, they’re once again last in that category, though with a slightly better number at .335.
The Eagles were initially looking for an outfielder from the international market but snatched up Healy when he became available, and put faith in his combination of power and contact ability. Both have been missing.
Kingham was taken off the active roster on May 21 with a late injury. He was initially expected to miss one turn in the rotation but remains sidelined with no timetable for return.
He was deactivated two days after pitching six innings of one-run ball against the Lotte Giants. And that’s the frustrating part for the Eagles: Kingham has been solid when healthy, with a 4-3 record and a 3.77 ERA in eight starts.
This is the same pitcher who only started two games for the Wyverns in 2020 before missing the rest of the year following elbow surgery. The Eagles were convinced that Kingham was back to full health. But promising early returns gave way to some doomsday scenarios.
Source: Yonhap News Agency