After slamming 53 home runs over his final two seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, Jae-Gyun Hwang offers just the kind of power potential the San Francisco Giants desperately need.
Last season, the club ranked third-to-last in the major leagues with 130 home runs.
At the Giants’ spring camp in Scottsdale, Hwang, 29, will look to win a backup infielder job in a crowded derby that also includes Kelby Tomlinson, Jimmy Rollins, Conor Gillespie and Trevor Brown.
The non-roster invitee, who will earn $1.5 million if he makes the club, is primarily a third baseman, but he also brought along his first base and outfielder’s gloves.
“I’ve been basically practicing for every position there is. So I’m ready to go,” Hwang told reporters through an interpreter. “Ever since I was little, it was my dream to be able to play in the Major Leagues. When the opportunity came, I had to seize it.”
With the Lotte Giants, Hwang was famous for his exuberant bat flips.
Upon donning the Orange and Black, the right-handed hitter insisted those celebrations are a thing of the past.
“Up until 2015, I was very expressive, because in Korea there’s nothing against batters doing the bat flip,” Hwang said. “But when I was interacting with my colleagues who had played in the Major Leagues, they told me about what kind of an effect it could have in the States with the pitchers here. So, especially in preparation for coming over to the States, I stopped that last season. All 27 home runs I hit last year I never did a single bat flip.”
Bochy on Rollins’ ‘biggest hurdle’
Entering what would be his 17th big league season, Rollins is attempting to become a utility infielder. It’s a role the three-time All-Star knows almost nothing about. Of the 2,228 appearances he’s made in the field, all but one have come at shortstop.
“You look at a guy with his career and you’re talking about one of the best shortstops in our era,” manager Bruce Bochy told reporters. “He’s being honest and realistic with his situation here and looking forward to the challenge. He hasn’t really done it a lot. So, that’s the biggest hurdle, I think. He’s got the talent to do it. We certainly believe that or he wouldn’t be here.”
For all Rollins’ MLB experience, the 38-year-old has almost no track record as a bench bat. As a pinch hitter, Rollins owns a .130 average (7-for-54).
Return of the sinker is a promising sign for Hahn
With Sonny Gray, Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton penciled into the top four spots of the Oakland Athletics’ rotation, there is likely just one opening remaining.
The three leading candidates for that final gig are Andrew Triggs, Raul Alcantara and Jesse Hahn. Triggs opened eyes with a 2.84 ERA in a four-start audition late last season, and Alcantara has a good chance at cracking the roster in some fashion — possibly as a reliever — as he is out of options.
But it’s Hahn who offers the strongest MLB résumé. Back in 2015, the righty posted a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts for the A’s.
“Jesse Hahn looked like he has his sinker back and that really is the difference for him,” manager Bob Melvin told CSN Bay Area. “Last year, his velocity was up but the sinker wasn’t there for him.”
Per Brooks Baseball, the opposition swung at a clip of .293 against the sinker last season after posting a .237 average back in 2015.
Rajai Davis wants another World Series ‘taste’
Nearly four months after the Cleveland Indians blew a 3-1 lead on baseball’s biggest stage, new A’s center fielder Rajai Davis is still thinking about the Fall Classic.
“[I have] new hopes, high hopes, for something big,” Davis told MLB.com. “When you get a little taste of a World Series, you want that taste again. You want to enjoy that moment again.”
As Davis begins his second stint in Oakland, playing deep into October with the rebuilding A’s remains a remote objective. A far more accessible goal would be to provide the club with a viable threat atop the order. Last season, A’s leadoff hitters ranked second-to-last in MLB with a .642 OPS.