The Orioles will learn plenty about Hyun Soo Kim after he reports to spring training. How he swings the bat against major league pitching, how much ground he covers in the outfield, his arm strength, his ability to blend with his new teammates and get acclimated to life in the United States.
The early returns are favorable.
Kim made a nice impression on manager Buck Showalter during their brief interaction after he signed his two-year, $7 million contract. Pitcher Mike Wright talked up Kim’s personality and work ethic as they played catch and ran hills in California.
Vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson may know Kim better than anyone in the organization after working him out for a few weeks. He can talk about Kim’s swing, arm and conditioning. He also can vouch for Kim’s sense of humor.
Kim rented a place in Hollywood and met up with Anderson every day except weekends, accompanied by his agent who doubles as his interpreter. Anderson soon discovered that concerns about Kim’s weight were exaggerated.
“He’s big, but he moves well. He moves better than you’d think,” Anderson said on Thursday while heading to UCLA for the latest workout. “He’s agile for how big he is. Coordinated. I’ve seen him play other sports.
“I’ve thrown to him several times. He has a really solid swing. You can tell he’s had massive amounts of practice. He’s very used to taking batting practice. In America, especially when you reach the majors, players are very aware of the qualities of their practice. My understanding of Korea is they take massive amounts of swings, so he’s able to put more effort into our sessions.
“He’s just got what seems like a really simple swing, but he hits line drive after line drive. But the thing about him is, he’s got a big personality. You’ll see when you meet him. He doesn’t speak English, but somehow he’s funny. You know what he’s saying in Korean and it’s funny. He fits right in.
“He’s about having fun, but he doesn’t back away from work. That’s a great combination trait. He’s just a fun guy to be around. But also, you can tell by his record that when it comes to playing, he posts every game. That’s been his track record.”
Kim apparently weighed 247 pounds when he signed with the Orioles. Anderson provided some clarity while attempting to lessen the concerns.
“His weight that’s listed in Korea is not correct. It was correct when he was 18 years old,” Anderson said, explaining the discrepancy.
“I don’t really train guys to lose weight. It just happens naturally. Guys that are a little heavy lose weight and guys who need to gain weight gain weight doing the same thing. That’s just how it goes. It’s what you get out of a good training session. The focus is not on losing weight and has not been.”
So what goals did Anderson set for Kim during their training sessions, which also included Wright and minor league pitcher Parker Bridwell?
“I talked to him quite a bit,” Anderson said. “We talked through his translator and I like having a clear picture. I don’t want to disrupt anybody and I’m trying to make sure he realizes what he did in Korea is fine. You have to find out what they like, as well. I listened to him quite a bit.
“Obviously, one of my big things, my focal points, with anybody is movement. How they move, how they start and stop. And that’s no different with Hyun. He has the baseball part. He’s probably put in as much work as anybody the last seven years. They do massive amounts of work. So it’s just the basics.
“I want him to be as strong as he can be. If weight comes off, that’s fine. Then his relative strength will increase. I wanted him to know that at his age, I want him to continue to improve his movement and improve his speed and not go into the inevitable decline when guys don’t make it a focal point.”
Kim brings some questions about his throwing arm, which may not be strong enough for right field. Anderson watched him play catch with Wright and Bridwell.
“It looks like he throws fine to me,” Anderson said. “He was a pitcher before he was a hitter. And again, let’s just say they’re not afraid of a 160-pitch count.
“He seems really healthy. He doesn’t complain. I’m always asking if he’s all right and reminding him that he doesn’t have to push through anything and if he’s feeling anything, to stop. He’s always good to go. Always.”
Anderson also mentioned how Wright and Bridwell “look really good, too.” Jason Garcia left last week after working out at the minicamp and again with Anderson, who also trained Trey Mancini and Mike Yastrzemski.