Home News Jung Hoo Lee has SF Giants buzzing about his power potential

Jung Hoo Lee has SF Giants buzzing about his power potential


Jung Hoo Lee has SF Giants buzzing about his power potential

SAN DIEGO — So it turns out that 109.7 mph line drive that landed on the grass berm at Salt River Fields a month and a half ago wasn’t an anomaly. The constant cracks of the bat emanating from the cage at Scottsdale Stadium were no desert mirage.

“Just the way the ball comes off his bat, the sound, you know it when you see it and when you hear it,” Michael Conforto said. “He squares the ball up. He does it a lot.”

Jung Hoo Lee did about all he could in spring training to put to rest any doubts about his ability to adjust to major-league pitching, peppering the middle of the field with line drives while batting .343 with a .911 OPS. As Conforto said, “I feel like we saw it right away. At least the guys who were there early on when he was taking batting practice.” But those were exhibitions, not always against the top competition, and worth taking with a grain of salt.

Yu Darvish? Joe Musgrove? Dylan Cease?

That’s the real deal.

Lee waited until his at-bat against lefty Tom Cosgrove in the eighth inning Saturday to unleash his most impressive swing yet, sending a 1-1 sweeper towering into the right field seats, 406 feet away, for his first MLB home run, kicking off a six-run rally in the eventual 9-6 win.

When the Giants signed Lee to a six-year, $113 million contract, they were confident in his ability to make the transition from the KBO because of his pitch recognition and contact skills. The power on display not only in his swing Saturday but throughout spring and his first three games has been better than advertised.

Lee only reached double-digit home run totals twice in Korea, topping out at 23 in 2022, though he noted through interpreter Justin Han, “When I got my first home run in the KBO, it was in one of the biggest stadiums … (and) I also got a lot of doubles, triples.”

“Originally, maybe,” Melvin said he thought of Lee as a contact hitter. “But then you see him take batting practice, and you saw what he did in spring training. He’s hitting balls over 105 (mph) pretty consistently. That’s a pretty tough lefty to hit his first home run off of. It’s been impressive across the board at this point.”

Lee’s home run ball found a friendly landing spot with a family of three from the Bay Area, who traded the souvenir for three autographed baseballs and a hat.

On top of his four hits in 12 at-bats, Lee has already driven in four runs, two coming on a pair of sacrifice flies that represent the type of situational hitting Melvin values.

Potentially more predictive of his future success, the balls Lee is putting in play have been well-struck.

Since striking out against Darvish in his first at-bat, Lee has put the ball in play in all of his 13 other plate appearances. Eight of them have left the bat at 95 mph or harder, the definition of hard contact, which leaguewide occurs on just over a third of batted balls.

Four have exceeded 100 mph, including his homer off Cosgrove, which left the bat at 104.4 mph. His second single on Opening Day was clocked at 108.9 mph, an exit velocity Giants batters produced only 51 times last season, the third-fewest in the major leagues.

It’s a team-wide trend, too, with 31 hard-hit balls the past two games, more than all but one two-game stretch last season.

“It’s a contagious thing,” said Conforto, whose grand slam following Lee’s home run left the bat at 105.1 mph. “You watch a guy grind a two-strike count, put the barrel on the ball, take really good swings, really good takes, it kind of just inspires the next guy and wears out the pitchers.”

One guy, though, seems to draw everyone’s eyeballs.

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