St. Louis Cardinals: Kwang Hyun Kim is a dark horse for Rookie of the Year
Kwang Hyun Kim is 32 years old, but he is a rookie and the St. Louis Cardinals lefty has been all but ignored in national Rookie of the Year discussions.
The St. Louis Cardinals got one of the bargains of the offseason when they signed Korean lefty Kwang Hyun Kim to a two-year deal for just $8M.
Before the season, Kim was penciled in for a bullpen role, but made it clear that he would prefer to start. If you’ll remember back to the beginning of the
During the 2020 season, Kim has made six starts, throwing 34 innings. That is the only number that is hurting his chances for Rookie of the Year right now.
In 34 innings, Kim has allowed just six earned runs. He has walked 10 and struck out 21. Putting those numbers together, Kim has just a 1.59 ERA on the year. 21 strikeouts in 34 innnings equates to a 5.6 K/9, but where Kim excels is getting soft contact. As a groundball pitcher, Kim has a 49% groundball percentage which also explains some of the difference between his 1.59 ERA and 3.98 FIP.
By spin rate, Kim doesn’t throw anything particularly special. However, he is still getting results (much like Tyler Webb). There is some reason to believe Kim is getting at least a little bit lucky, as he has a .202 BABIP without having an elite average exit velocity. He has stranded an unworldly high 86.8% of the runners he allows. If he was qualified, that rate would be third in the MLB behind only Trevor Bauer and Shane Bieber. Kim may be stepping up and making good pitches in situations with runners on, but it will be hard for him to keep that up.
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We knew when Kim came to the MLB that his first stretch of games would be his best, and that’s exactly what we are seeing. Even though Kim is due for some regression and hasn’t reached the 50-inning mark to technically “qualify” him, he is still putting up elite numbers that should warrant him being in the conversation for Rookie of the year.
Right now, the main candidates for the award are Dustin May, Jake Cronenworth, and Devin Williams.
Dustin May has a 2.68 ERA over 47 innings for the Dodgers. He’s a bit flashier than Kim with his high-velocity turbo sinker, but by raw ERA+, Kim has him beat 275 to 159. Cronenworth has a .303/.370/.516 slash line with four homers and 20 RBI for the Padres. Williams has been a revelation out of the bullpen for the Brewers. In 20 appearances, Williams has allowed just one earned run, good for a 0.39 ERA. He has struck out a ridiculous 18.4 strikeouts per nine, good for a 1166 ERA+.
The last reliever to win the Rookie of the Year award was Craig Kimbrell in 2011, but the 23.0 inning sample size might hurt Williams’ chances.
Kim stacks up against all of these players, but isn’t getting the attention because he’s a 32-year-old rookie. I doubt that Kim will win, but he deserves praise for his performance this year. Kim will make two more starts this season and if he can keep performing well, he’ll only strengthen his case as a dark horse candidate for Rookie of the Year.