(ATTN: ADDS awards results in paras 8-9; CHANGES 1st photo)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- The top-hitting shortstop in South Korean baseball said Monday he'll have a chance to reach the majors following the 2020 season.
Kim Ha-seong of the Kiwoom Heroes revealed that his Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club had promised to make him available for Major League Baseball (MLB) via posting after next season.
KBO players must complete seven full seasons or the equivalent to become eligible for posting, whereby any interested team among 30 big league clubs can negotiate with the player. Kim, 24, will be entering his seventh year in 2020.
"I'll be able to test the overseas market next year, but first, I am going to have to play well," Kim told reporters before the Golden Glove Awards ceremony in Seoul. "If I have similar numbers as this year, then I think it's going to be difficult. I hope I can stay healthy next year."
By most standards, though, Kim had a very good season in 2019. He batted a career-high .307 this year, when offensive numbers across the KBO fell precipitously with the heavier and bigger official ball in play. Kim had 104 RBIs to rank second in the league, and scored a KBO-best 112 runs. He also set career highs with 33 steals and 38 doubles, while falling one homer shy of his second 20-20 season.
Kim led all KBO shortstops with 7.17 in wins above replacement (WAR), as calculated by the baseball statistics site Statiz, with LG Twins' Oh Ji-hwan a distant second with a 3.37 WAR.
Kim made his KBO debut in 2014 as a 19-year-old and played in 60 games. In five full seasons, Kim has averaged about 20 home runs, 92 RBIs, 21 steals and 96 runs scored.
Kim earned his second straight Golden Glove later Monday, and also became the top overall vote-getter with 325 out of 347 votes cast by baseball media.
"I didn't expect I'd get the most votes because there were so many great players," he said. "I was just happy to get the Golden Glove. I am really grateful. As long as I am playing in Korea, I'll try to win the Golden Glove every year."
If posting doesn't work out, Kim can wait out another year and enter free agency after the 2021 season, at which time he will still just be 26 years old.
Kim, who came out of high school to play in the KBO, would normally have become a free agent after 2022. But he has collected 85 additional days in his service time, after helping South Korea to the gold medal at last year's Asian Games and to a runner-up finish at this year's World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 tournament.
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