For prospect fans, the name Hoy Jun Park is one that has been on the periphery for years. Park joined the Yankees organization as an international free agent back in the 2014 signing period, earning $1 million after being touted as the best available Asian talent on the market.
Park has shared time in the minors with higher-profile names like Estevan Florial and Chris Gittens, Albert Abreu and Thairo Estrada. He’s just never been a name that’s jumped off the page.
Nearly seven years to the day later, Park’s trajectory now seems to be aimed toward the Bronx.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound middle infielder has gradually climbed through the Yankees system, touching down in Pulaski, Charleston, Tampa and Trenton before the coronavirus pandemic put a hold on minor league baseball in 2020.
Park's skills were on display at each stop; he not only got on base at a 36% clip, but his defensive chops were so strong that he split time between second base and shortstop, flashing elite potential at both positions. Park’s speed—considered one of the strengths of his overall—translated well, with Park collecting 67 doubles, 28 triples and an even 100 stolen bases in 130 attempts.
Park’s rise through the ranks has only continued in 2021. After starting the year in Double-A with the Somerset Patriots—where he posted an uninspiring .638 OPS and 82 wRC+—Park was promoted to Scranton, where he's not only putting together arguably his best run to date, but is also showing why a visit to the big-league club may be in his not-so-distant future.
Over a 25-game span, Park's impressive on-base skills have been on display. He's walked more than he’s struck out (25 walks, 23 strikeouts) while posting an otherworldly .509 OBP.
His power has been a surprising addition to his game, with six home runs (including a walk-off bomb on June 20) and a .302 ISO in 86 at-bats. He’s posting career highs in multiple categories, including BABIP (.439), wOBA (.496) and walk rate (22%). Park’s defense has also continued to shine; not only has he played middle infield, but he got his first taste at the hot corner earlier this season with the Patriots
The Yankee bench has options, but none as intriguing as Park.
There was some cautious optimism when Brian Cashman acquired Rougned Odor in early April. Odor batted a combined .197 with an OBP of .268 between 2019 and 2020 but the Yankees GM has found offensive diamonds in the rough before—Gio Urshela and Luke Voit, just to name two.
A diamond in the rough, Odor is not. He’s batted everywhere from second to ninth over the course of 42 games and has a .194/.263/.388 triple slash to show for it. Odor’s power bat hasn’t flourished in Yankee Stadium. He has a .523 OPS with runners in scoring position.
Tyler Wade provides more defensive versatility than Park. He’s also performed better offensively in 2021 than in recent seasons, but only has a 59 OPS+ to show for it.
Gio Urshela is the next man up at shortstop, and while he’s competent at the position, the Yankees’ defense only weakens when he’s removed from third base.
Park’s speed, athleticism and defense are all tools Aaron Boone can use at his disposal, even on a part-time basis. It’s unrealistic to envision Park coming to New York and replicating what he’s doing in Pennsylvania; but at some point, it would be malpractice for Cashman to not give his future a chance when the present isn’t getting the job done.
Park was never the next big Baby Bomber, but give credit where it’s due: he’s forcing himself into the conversation.
And that decision may be coming sooner than later.
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