Consider the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jung-ho Kang’s knee injury a blessing in disguise, as it creates the last opportunity fantasy owners will have to draft Kang at anything that can be considered a value. Kang tore his left MCL and fractured his left tibia in a game last September, after being taken out at 2nd base by Chris Coghlan during a double play. His exact return date for next season is still uncertain, but he is expected to miss only a few weeks. Just enough time to scare off some of your opponents from drafting him, but not enough time to seriously hurt his overall 2016 fantasy value. And for Dynasty leagues, the missed time should not even make you blink an eye.
Kang is getting some love in the fantasy community, but not nearly enough. He can flat out hit. In only 54 post all-star break games last season, he triple-slashed, .310/.364/.548, and hit 11 homers. That was good for a .913 OPS. In 2014, he hit 40 homers in Korea. I would not be surprised if he ended up with the highest OPS of any SS eligible player this season. Not that I would bet on it, but I think it is a very realistic scenario. People are talking about Kang like he is a solid hitter that should provide decent value, but the numbers dictate he can be much more than that. Solid hitter is his floor.
Kang comes with 3B eligibility, as well. While his true value lies at SS, you never know when positional flexibility will come in handy. The knee injury will most likely limit his stolen base totals for next season, but he was not known as a burner anyway, so it shouldn’t affect his value too much.
Pittsburgh absolutely stole Kang right out from under the league’s nose last off-season, signing him to a 4-year deal, with only $11 million guaranteed. There is also a fifth year team option for $5.5 million. The knee injury gives fantasy owners the same opportunity for 2016. I will give Kang the projection of 70/20/70/.284/4 in 130 games played. In Dynasty leagues, Kang should be your number one target after all of the flashy names are off the board.
By Michael Halpern