If you have been reading our winter league coverage, this comes as no shock. Aguilas Cibaenas have released third baseman Jung-Ho Kang according to Jeeho Yoo from Yonhap News.
I mentioned this week and again this morning that Kang hasn’t been on the daily roster this weekend. In the Dominican, teams submit 28-man rosters each day. Kang was replaced in the starting spot early last week by Johan Camargo, who made his big league debut with the Atlanta Braves this year. When Camargo needed to go home to Panama this weekend, not only was Kang not back in his starting spot, but he wasn’t on the bench, which obviously wasn’t a good sign.
Kang struggled from the beginning in the Dominican, never getting on track as a hitter. He had three weeks of preseason work there, as well as some exhibition games, so he had a chance to shake off some of the rust before entering the league. His hitting actually got worse as the season went along and he finished with a .143/.219/.202 slash line in 24 games. Those numbers rank him last among league leaders in each category, while his 31 strikeouts lead the league. His defense was apparently solid after making four errors in his first ten games.
For someone with the Major League experience that Kang has, he should have performed much better than he did in the league. He didn’t play last year, but he was staying in shape during the season in case the Pirates were able to get him a visa to come to the U.S. When you add in that the Dominican league is about equal to Triple-A ball as far as talent, he really had a tough time in the league. He was scheduled to remain in the league until the last day of the regular season on December 21st and his September 22nd arrival in the Dominican coincided with his 90-day limit to stay in the country. Players from South Korea can spend 90 days in the Dominican Republic without a visa.
It’s not unusual for foreign players to get released from winter leagues for poor performance, but usually that call is made much sooner. Kang seemed to get a break due to his track record in the majors. We have seen Pirates over the years, who were foreign to their league, get released after a slow first week, but none of them had the big league success that Kang had. So now we wait to see if the Pirates can get him to the U.S. for the 2018 season.