Down on the Farm spotlights Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop prospect Ji-Hwan Bae.
Unfortunately for Pirates prospect Ji-Hwan Bae, his 2019 season will be remembered as much for off-the-field issues than it will for his progression on-the-field, as the shortstop was suspended 30 games by commissioner Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy.
After playing only five games for the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Bae was handed the 30 game suspension for an incident that occurred earlier in the year in South Korea, where Bae reportedly slapped, choked and kicked his 19-year-old girlfriend. The incident served as a major black cloud over his young career and impacted his progression in the minors.
The 20-year-old prospect was originally drafted and signed by the Atlanta Braves, but his contract was voided, when the Braves were found to have violated Major League Baseball’s international signing rules. As a result, the Pirates would sign him to a $1.25 million international signing bonus, one of the largest in Bae’s draft class.
At 6’1” and 176 pounds, the left handed hitter is currently rated as Pittsburgh’s 16th best prospect. He has a decent hit tool and may develop power as he fills out his lanky frame. While Bae did not hit any home runs in 380 plate appearances with Greensboro last season, he has managed to hit for power in winter ball for the Pirates, which serves as an encouraging sign for the youngster.
Bae projects as a leadoff hitter, due to his ability to make good contact and his excellent speed. He grades out as a 65 out of 80 on the speed scale for prospects, with 50 being average. In addition, he possesses a plus defense with a plus arm.
Last season, Bae hit for a .323 batting average, with 69 runs scored, 38 runs batted in, zero home runs and 31 stolen bases for the Grasshoppers. He projects as a player who could hit around .300, with 10-15 home runs, and 35 plus stolen bases in the big leagues, while playing solid infield defense.
Eventually Bae may have to shift to second base, as fellow shortstop prospects Oneil Cruz and Cole Tucker project to be in the majors ahead of him. Currently, Bae is projected to make the major leagues in the 2022 season.
Bae is projected to begin the season with the Greensboro Grasshoppers and if he can replicate his production with the team from last season, should see an early promotion to the Bradenton Marauders. His progress will certainly be something for Pirates fans to be cognizant of this upcoming season.