“There were players Sanchez recommended, but…” After much deliberation, Hanwha chose Kim Hyun-soo, a rival in the ML.

Through a series of twists and turns, Hanwha got a new foreign hitter. Not in the United States, but in Mexico. Former Major League Baseball left-handed hitting outfielder Nick Williams, 31, has been selected as Hanwha’s new foreign bat.메이저놀이터

Hanwha officially announced the signing of Williams on April 18 for a total of $450,000 ($150,000 signing bonus, $250,000 salary, and $50,000 incentive). This was a whopping 18 days after releasing Brian O’Grady on March 31. The process took much longer than expected, and there was plenty of backstory.

One player after another was called up to the major leagues and the deal fell through, another had to back out due to family issues, and a third had a child in tow because his favorite player was non-negotiable with the American club. More than two weeks went by with no signings, even though I had expanded my search to include all positions.

Finally, as of last week, we turned our attention to other leagues outside of the United States, one of which was the Mexican League. I asked the foreign players on the team for recommendations. There was a player in the Mexican League who was recommended by Ricardo Sanchez, who has been performing like an ace since coming in as a substitute foreign pitcher at the end of April, but it was Williams who stood out.

Hanwha coach Choi Won-ho said, “There was a player recommended by Sanchez, and I also watched him in the Mexican League. Honestly, the player Sanchez recommended fell short of our expectations. Williams looked the best of the players we could bring in quickly. He has over 900 career at-bats in the majors with an OPS over .700 (.727), and over 1000 at-bats in Triple-A with a 2-for-7 (.274) mark. He’s also been hitting well in the Mexican League lately.”

“If you look at the hitters who are hitting well in the Mexican League, there are quite a few players who are older and can’t play defense. The younger players in the Hotazun style were risky because their careers were so low in Single-A. In many ways, Williams was the best of the bunch in the Mexican League. Last year, Edison Russell (Kiermaier) also played in the Mexican League, and if you look at his batting average, he was better.” “He’s a natural two-seamer, but there are a lot of changeup pitchers in the Mexican League. I think he will be able to handle the changeup to some extent.”

In fact, last year in the Mexican League, Williams batted .370 with 29 home runs, 72 RBIs and a 1.172 OPS in 84 games. That’s better than Russell, who hit .348 with 24 homers, 74 RBIs and a 1.120 OPS in 80 games. Russell, who returned to the KBO after a three-year absence when he signed with the Kiwoom, is batting .739 with two doubles, six triples, four home runs, 42 RBIs, and an OPS of .739 in 59 games this season. Williams’ performance is a huge boost for Hanwha, which has a weak batting lineup.

Williams has spent the last two years playing in Mexico, but he was once a highly touted prospect in the major leagues. In four seasons in the majors, from his debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2017 to the Chicago White Sox in 2021, he batted .294 with 31 home runs, 110 RBIs, and a .727 OPS in 294 games. He hit double-digit home runs for the second straight year with 12 in 2017 and 17 in 2018.

In 2017, the Phillies also had the pleasure of playing with Korean outfielder Kim Hyun-soo (LG). Williams made his big league debut on July 1, and less than a month later, on July 29, Kim was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in a trade. Aaron Altair, who played in the NC in 2020 and 2021, was also in the mix for the Philadelphia outfield at the time. The rebuilding Phillies gave Williams and Altair more opportunities, and after two years, Hyun-soo Kim retired from the majors after the season and returned to South Korea to sign a free agent contract with LG.

Neither Williams nor Altair developed as well as expected in the majors, with weaknesses in contact and initiative. Altair was designated for assignment (DFA) by the Phillies in May 2019 and Williams in August 2020. Altair came to Korea in 2020 and helped the NC win its first championship, and over the next two years through 2021, he batted .279 with 63 home runs, 192 RBI, and an .833 OPS in 279 games. He struck out a league-high 305 times in that span, but capitalized by ranking third in home runs and fifth in on-base percentage (.528). He was also a solid defensive contributor in center field.

Williams comes to Korea at a low point in his career, but the competition with Altair has raised expectations. Coach Choi Won-ho said, “He has good bat speed. He strikes out a little bit, but he spins the bat quickly. The batting order will be either No. 2 or No. 5, in front of Noh Si-hwan and Chae Eun-sung, or behind them. As for defense, I’ve seen him play center field, but he’s been playing corners for a few years now. In the middle infield, Moon Hyun-bin is doing a good job, so I’m thinking about the corner,” he said.

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