Welcome to another edition of Down on the Farm. With the recent influx in high-quality prospects, it’s easy for Jae-Hoon Ha to get lost in the mix.
After a breakout season in 2012, which was highlighted by his appearance in the 2012 Futures Game, Ha would enter the 2013 season as the Cubs’ 11th-best prospect within the organization, according to MLB.com. After the acquisitions of C.J. Edwards, Kris Bryant, Mike Olt, and Neil Ramirez, Jae-Hoon Ha would drop to the #15 ranked prospect by season’s end. In 2013, Cubs brass called him up to Triple-A Iowa.
The 23-year-old South Korean outfielder possesses exceptional speed, making him a valuable asset at the three outfield positions. While Ha is capable of taking the ball out of the park, fans shouldn’t expect to see him hit too many home runs.
While he doesn’t possess plus power, his speed around the bases allow him to hit for extra bases, regardless. To date, Ha has a career batting average of .274, with a .322 on-base percentage and a .395 slugging percentage. His career stolen base percentage is a tad misleading. In 87 attempts, Ha has been caught stealing an outstanding 34 times. This is the result of one uncharacteristic season in 2011 where Ha stole 13 bases, but was caught stealing 17 times. Getting back to form in 2012, Ha stole 11 bases, getting caught 5 times. He followed up with 15 stolen bases in 2013, being stopped in his tracks only three times. The kid’s got wheels.
Ha doesn’t have many deficiencies in his game. You won’t see him take a ton of walks, and he has a tendency to strike out, but his ability to hit for average and his speed around the base-path allow him to make up for that. In his career Ha has accumulated nearly three strikeouts for every walk, 117 BBs and 305 Ks. 2013 was no different.
Ha walked only 28 times, with 68 strikeouts. However, this was his first season at the Triple-A level, which also showed in his batting average of .254. Outside of his rookie year, where he batted .242, Ha has always maintaining a season-by-season average of at least .270. In the field, he is far from a liability. Proving to be human, Ha has committed the occasional error. The errors may be a product of his ability to throw runners out from the outfield, however. Every season of his career he has gotten twice as many assist. Last season was no different, with seven assist to three errors.
Jae-Hoon Ha is expected to be a fourth outfielder when he reaches the big league level. Possessing useful skills, and minimal flaws, Ha will be a quality bat off the bench as well. Should he improve his walk-to-strikeout ratio, Ha could potentially find a place in the starting outfield of another MLB franchise. Otherwise, expect to see Ha get called up sometime in 2014, with 2015 being the worst-case scenario.