Photo courtesy: Twitter @TampaTarpons

Hoy Jun Park can play multiple infield positions and provide some left-handed pop for the New York Yankees.

Josh Benjamin

Many New York Yankees fans have never heard of Hoy Jun Park.

If we’re being honest, neither did I until the pandemic. I was stuck at home like everyone else. Playing MLB The Show 20 became not just a luxury, but a necessity to stay occupied. Thairo Estrada, my usual utility infielder in my Yankees franchise got injured, and Park filled in for him.

What I didn’t expect was Park going on to bat over .300 as a utility infielder, not to mention becoming an important part of my virtual team.

Fast forward to today, and the New York Yankees can make one upstart baseball writer’s PlayStation fantasy a reality. Thairo Estrada is now a San Francisco Giant, but Hoy Jun Park has been tearing up the Yankees’ minor league system.

Given Rougned Odor’s struggles, why not give the Korean rookie a chance? Between the lefty bat and ability to play three infield positions, what’s not to like?

 

The Yankees have an Odor problem

In fact, let’s kick off the conversation with Rougned Odor. On paper, trading for him made sense. The Yankees were in need of a left-handed bat, Odor still has some pop, and the Texas Rangers agreed to pay the $27 million left on his contract.

Except aside from five home runs, Odor hasn’t done much in pinstripes. He’s slashing a mediocre .185/.265/.353 line and is still an awful fielder, posting -3 defensive runs saved (DRS) at second base.

Additionally, if we dig a bit deeper, Odor really only produces in the middle innings. He’s batting .244 in innings 4-6 compared to .108 in innings 1-3 and .158 in 7-9. With the Yankees in lots of close games as of late, is this really who they want up to bat when it matters most?

If there’s any time to call up Hoy Jun Park, it’s now.

 

Thairo 2.0?

And why should the Yankees cut bait on Rougned Odor in favor of Hoy Jun Park? Simply put, Park is tearing it up in New York’s farm system. He’s batting .303 in 26 games across Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Since being promoted to Triple-A, he’s batting .362.

Granted, most of Park’s hits are singles, but he also has six home runs with 17 RBI and five steals. In his last five games, he’s batting .421 with three roundtrippers.

Now, let’s shift the conversation back to Thairo Estrada. He was batting .381 with six homers and 21 RBI for Triple-A Sacramento. Evan Longoria was injured, so Estrada was the natural choice to fill in for him.

Odor isn’t injured, but we’ve all seen the Yankees’ offense struggle this year despite two big wins in Minnesota this week. There’s no point in having an automatic out in the lineup when the team is already struggling to score as it is.

There’s thus really no reason to keep 25-year-old Hoy Jun Park toiling away in the minors when there are MLB at-bats readily available for him.

 

Final Thoughts

At this point, it seems a matter of when the New York Yankees designate Rougned Odor for assignment, not if. The moment Luke Voit comes back from his strained oblique, finding playing time for Odor will be tougher. He can really only play second base and offers little at the plate besides batting lefty.

But Hoy Jun Park is younger, more versatile, and at least deserves a cup of coffee in the major leagues. He’s performing too well in the minors to be ignored. Even if the Triple-A balls are juiced compared to MLB’s new “deadened” baseball, it doesn’t hurt to see if he can keep up in the Bronx.

Plus, we all know the truth. Odor is one of general manager Brian Cashman’s “high upside” acquisitions who has proven, like many others before him, that his best days are behind him. At 27, he plays with the effectiveness of someone who’s 37.

Hoy Jun Park, on the other hand, could have an actual future as a pro. There’s no need to worry about manipulating his service time. We’re past that point. Now, it’s time to see him play at the next level.

That is, if the Yankees can get over holding onto Odor in the name of “analytics.”

Cashman, your move.