Kang a finalist for BBWAA NL Rookie of the Year
Made transition from Korea look easy until injury
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates took a bold risk with Jung Ho Kang last winter, bidding for the 28-year-old infielder and signing him straight out of the Korea Baseball Organization.
The Bucs' belief in Kang's ability paid off in a big way, as he turned into one of the most valuable players on a 98-win club. Kang, the first KBO hitter to jump straight into the Majors, was named a finalist for the Baseball Writers' Association of America National League Rookie of the Year Award on Tuesday night.
Kang, who is also nominated in the Esurance MLB Awards, is up against the Cubs' Kris Bryant and the Giants' Matt Duffy. The winner will be announced Monday night at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network.
Kang hit .287/.355/.461 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs in his first Major League season. He played 126 games and made 467 plate appearances before his season came to an untimely end on Sept. 17, when he underwent surgery on his left leg following Chris Coghlan's hard takeout slide into second base. Kang is expected to return early next season.
Kang totaled 4.0 Wins Above Replacement in his debut season, the fourth-highest mark for the Pirates last season behind Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole.
Kang was the Pirates' only top-three finalist for the BBWAA four major awards -- Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player -- but Pittsburgh featured a potential candidate for each of the other three honors.
Manager Clint Hurdle certainly had a strong case for NL Manager of the Year, leading the Pirates to 98 wins in the Majors' toughest division. Mike Matheny, Joe Maddon and Terry Collins are the three finalists.
Cole's numbers didn't quite compare to those of NL Cy Young Award finalists Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw, but he established himself as one of the league's top young arms, finishing 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and 208 innings over 32 starts.
McCutchen won the 2013 NL MVP and finished third in the voting in 2012 and '14, but he isn't a finalist this year. The 29-year-old center fielder hit .292/.401/.488 with 23 home runs and a career high-tying 96 RBIs. Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto are the three finalists for this year's NL MVP Award.