Middle infielder Hoy Jun Park has been in the Yankees’ system for six years now. He started off his journey as a 19-year-old playing in Rookie ball, and he never posted a slugging percentage above .400. Not in one stop — never.
In fact, FanGraphs prospect guru Eric Longenhagen wrote this about him in his evaluation of the Yankees’ system earlier this year: “Park is 24 and has an average contact/patience profile and 45 raw power. He might be someone’s bench infielder, but the Yankees big league roster is packed.”
You would imagine, then, that Park’s .350/.487/.618 line in 160 Triple-A plate appearances has raised some eyebrows this year. You don’t go from failing to slug .400 to posting above .600 without implementing some changes.
At first glance, Park is making a concerted effort to hit the ball harder: he is striking out a bit more (20.6 percent strikeout rate, compared to 18.7 percent at Double-A in 2019) but already has eight homers at Triple-A, already a career-high. The .350 average is fueled by an unsustainable .422 BABIP, but the fact that he is hitting plenty of line drives (27 percent) and is a speedy guy tells us that his performance won’t fully collapse. Hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson recently praised Park’s improved workout regimen, so the strength isn’t coming from nowhere.
The uptick in power is incredibly interesting, and while it’s all coming in a small sample, the Yankees should be excited to see if he can hold on to some of those gains over a full season. If he projected as a bench piece with slightly below-average raw power, he could be a regular if he shows he can maximize his game power tool. To be clear, a player can have more game power than raw power if he maximizes his contact skills, elevates and pulls the ball frequently.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said this week that there is no room for Park in the big league roster. And he may be right, depending on what you think the Bombers should do with struggling players occupying a roster spot. But the question is on the table now: can Park force his way up at some point?
Here is the exact Cashman quote, per Max Goodman:
“Hoy Park is obviously swinging the bat very well, but there’s no place to play him here right now ... I just don’t want to do something where we don’t feel like it’s going to make a difference.”
One has to wonder if Rougned Odor’s .211/.286/.414 line and .700 OPS is enough, and the same goes to Tyler Wade and his .224 average, .283 OBP, and .548 OPS. While there may not be enough data to suggest Park could make a difference, he could very well be better than those two infield alternatives. We know that the sample is not huge, but 160 plate appearances are certainly not insignificant. And Park is hotter than ever before these days, going 8-for-21 with six runs and two homers in his last five games. He batted .349/.496/.628 in June … those are some big boy numbers.
Roster spots are always at a premium, and that’s understandable to some degree, but it’s quite clear that the team needs a shakeup. Something needs to be done from a personnel standpoint, because it’s evident that this Yankees team has a hard time competing with elite opponents — otherwise, they wouldn’t be standing outside of the playoffs as you read this.