SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) -- The former manager for Minnesota Twins' Park Byung-ho is predicting even bigger things to come for the South Korean slugger once he starts getting around on major league fastballs.
Yeom Kyung-yup of the Nexen Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) told reporters Tuesday the last hurdle for Park is to be able to connect on fastballs with more consistency, since he can already hit breaking balls well.
"If Park Byung-ho can start catching up to fastballs, he will be even better than he's been so far," Yeom said prior to the Heroes' game Tuesday evening. "Korean hitters are as good as major league hitters in terms of hitting breaking pitches, and Park was the best hitter in the KBO."
Park hit his third home run Tuesday morning, Korean time, and belted another one Wednesday morning. The two-time MVP and four-time home run king in the KBO is leading the Twins with four home runs.
Of his four long balls, two were hit off sliders, one was off a curve and one came off a fastball.
"I think he's doing a tremendous job early in the season in a whole new league," Yeom said of the player who signed a four-year deal with the Twins last December after getting posted. "I think the last obstacle for him is hitting fastballs. He will probably need more time for adjustments, and once he does that, he will be able to show more of what he's capable of."
According to the statistics site FanGraphs, the average velocity of four-seam fastballs this season is 92.2 miles per hour (mph), or about 148 kilometers per hour. That's about 7 kilometers per hour faster than in the KBO.
Some hard-throwing relievers routinely throw heats in the high 90s in miles per hour, and they don't offer hitters anything straight, with an arsenal of two-seam fastballs and cutters. Park himself once admitted he had a hard time dealing with fast pitches with movement.
According to another stats site, Baseball Savant, Park had faced 27 four-seam fastballs with a velocity between 92 mph and 96 mph through Tuesday. He failed to get a hit off any of those pitches, while fouling off 10 and whiffing on two.
For all his power production, Park has struck out 16 times in 43 at-bats to rank second on the Twins.
Yeom said when he watches Park play, he gets as nervous as any father watching his son in action.
"I really get nervous every time," Yeom said with a smile. "I see him foul off fastballs to get behind in the count. But I think he will get better and better."
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