The New York Yankees signed shortstop Hoy Jun Park at the age of 18 as an international free agent in 2014, giving him a signing bonus of $1.1 million. He was a part of a group of international signees that also included highly regarded prospect, Wilkerman Garcia.
The Yankees assigned him to the Pulaski Yankees in 2015 to start off his professional career.
By the time Park arrived in Pulaski, he had turned 19 and had made the move to the United States. Park is still learning English, but by all accounts, adjusted well to the move and playing professional baseball.
Park appeared in 56 games and produced a .239/.351/.383 line. He collected 53 hits with 11 doubles, three triples, and five home runs while driving in 30 runs. He showed some pop in his bat which took people by surprise. He also drew 34 walks while stealing 12 bases in 19 attempts.
In the field, Park played in 54 games at short, making 14 errors in 214 chances for a .935 fielding percentage.
Park was bumped up to Charleston after his showing at Pulaski in 2015. The Yankees also assigned fellow shortstop prospect Kyle Holder to the RiverDogs. The Yankees decided to rotate the two between shortstop and second base.
Park became an instant fan favorite on Opening Night at Joe Riley Park in Charleston when a base running mistake he made ended up in a RiverDogs walk-off win. Johnny Magliozzi was on the mound for the Columbia Fireflies in the bottom of the ninth, Chris Gittens was at the plate with Eduardo Navas at third and Park at second and Trey Amburgey at first with the score 4-3 in favor of the Flies. With a 3-2 count, Park took off anticipating Magliozzi going to the mound. Magliozzi stepped off and ran toward Park. Navas took off for home from third base. Magliozzi then turned and fired a high throw home that went off catcher Tyler Moore‘s glove allowing Navas and Park to for the winning run.
Park played in 116 games registering a .225/.336/.329 line. He collected 98 hits with 15 doubles and a South Atlantic League-leading 12 triples. Park stole 32 bases, good for seventh best in the league, out of 35 attempts. Part of the reason why his home run production fell from five home runs at Pulaski down to two at Charleston was due to his home ballpark. Joe Riley Park is known as a pitchers park where the wind off the Ashley River behind the outfield wall knocks down fly balls.
In the field, Park made some errors at shortstop and played well at second base. He played 73 games at shortstop and 32 games at second base. He made 20 errors at shortstop in 275 chances for a .927 fielding percentage. At second base, he made five errors in 122 chances for a .959 fielding percentage.
Park is still young at the age of 19. He will be 20 by the time the 2017 season starts.
He has a really strong arm but needs to work on his footwork. Luis Dorante, his manager in Charleston, had this to say about Park’s defense, “He relies a lot on his arm and accuracy. I recognized that in spring training this year when I was watching him and giving him some ground balls and I say, ‘you gotta use your lower half.’ At such a young age for those guys, I think you gotta take your time and repeat it over and over until they get it and they get the feel for it.”
At second base, he looked strong in the field, and with the glut of shortstop prospects in the Yankees system, he could see more action there next year. He does have the talent to play shortstop, but compared to his infield mate Holder, has more work to do at that position.
Offensively, Park needs to cut down on his strikeouts and be more patient. He struck out 120 times at the plate. He does have decent pop in his bat and as he gains strength, that will bear out more in his stats. He can be a weapon on the base paths as his 32 stolen bases indicate. He just needs to get on base more and improve his base running skills when the ball is put in play. He did make mental errors running the bases at times throughout the season. With that said, he’s young and those types of things will improve with maturity.
“We just gotta be patient with a young guy like this. He’s got potential,” Dorante said about Park.
With the number of prospects, the Yankees have stacked at shortstop, it’s a good possibility that Park returns to Charleston for 2017. He can continue to grow at shortstop and can work on improving his patience and knowledge of the strike zone. He could also see a lot of time at second base again as well, depending on where the Yankees decide to place their corps of middle infielders throughout the system.