First base isn't lacking for star power, but as Scott White noted earlier in the offseason, it isn't quite as deep this season as in year's past. Typically, you were able to wait to pick your first baseman and still get 30 homers and 90 RBI and at least a .270 average, but things tail off pretty quickly with this year's crop of options.
Sure, you could take a chance on Mark Teixeira or Lucas Duda and hope they can keep their average over .250 -- and avoid injury, of course. Or maybe you can hope the first-half version of Stephen Vogt shows up again -- it's not impossible! -- or maybe reach and see if Kendrys Morales can replicate last season. The point is, if you aren't going to take a first baseman in the first few rounds on Draft Day, you are going to be choosing from a bunch of relatively unappealing options.
So, why not bypass the ones you know aren't likely to be very good and take a chance on the unknown quantity? Why not take a chance on Twins new first baseman Byung Ho Park? He's a risk, but no more than anyone else in that tier, and he might have an even higher upside.
Park is off to a terrific start in the spring, clubbing three homers in his first nine games. That doesn't mean much, necessarily, but it's a good sign. Especially since all the 29-year-old did over the last few years in Korea was mash. A lot.
The Korean Baseball Organization has seen an increase in league-wide power in recent years, and Park has been at the head of the pack, leading the KBO in homers in each of the last four seasons. He clubbed 31 in 2012 and his increased his total in each season since, peaking with 103 over the last two seasons. Even in a league that has seen offensive numbers increase recently, Park stands out; his OPS+ over the last two seasons is 189 and 173. To give those numbers some context, a 173 OPS+ has been topped in the majors just seven times in the last five seasons; a 188 is basically what Bryce Harper did a year ago.
Of course, dominating the KBO is very different from dominating the majors, and we got a good example of that in the form of Jung Ho Kang last season. Kang posted a 193 OPS+ in his final season in Korea, and managed just a 124 mark in the majors the following season. Kang still had a strong season, of course, but .287/.355/.461 with 15 homers in 126 games isn't exactly what you're looking for from a first baseman.
Kang and Park are making the same jump, but that obviously doesn't mean things will go the same for both. It is interesting to note, however, that Kang's strikeout rate was identical from his final season in Korea to his first in the majors. That is a pretty good sign for Park, because the biggest knock against him is a strikeout rate that could get out of control eventually.
Park struck out in 25.9 percent of his plate appearances in 2015. If the transition to the majors exposes some holes in his swing, he doesn't have a ton of margin for error; that's not that far from Mark Reynolds territory. However, if he can keep it in the one-quarter range, that is pretty manageable, especially if the power translates. Kang's didn't, but he also didn't have nearly as long a track record of elite power production to fall back on as Park does.
Park almost certainly won't be a 50-homer threat in the majors for a number of reasons. The degree of difficulty is higher, the parks are bigger -- his home park last season was 387 feet to center field and 322 feet down the lines -- but if he can avoid major contact issues and keep his strikeout rate in line, it isn't crazy to think Park has 30-plus homer upside.
Park is no less of a risk than the likes of Teixeira or Morales, to be certain. And it might be easy to overstate how much upside he might have just because we haven't seen him fail yet. It's easier to dream on the best-case scenario with Park, while ignoring the obvious downside at play.
Still, if you're passing on the sure things at first base, you might as well go all the way with and grab the biggest wild card on the board. Mark Trumbo isn't winning you a Fantasy championship; maybe Park could.