Pittsburgh Pirates Kang Jung Ho Nominated for Top Rookie Honors in MLB

Kyung Ho Kim, Sept. 16, 2015, 9:47 a.m.

South Korean infielder Kang Jung-ho of the Pittsburgh Pirates has been nominated for the top rookie honors in a new Major League Baseball (MLB) awards program. MLB.com announced candidates for 24 categories for the Esurance MLB Awards. It's an expanded program officially sanctioned by MLB, and the five different groups of voters -- fans, media, club front-office personnel, former MLB players and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) members -- each account for 20 percent of the winner selection.

Online fan voting at MLB.com and individual club websites began Wednesday, Korean time. The more traditional MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards are only voted on by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and they're given separately to players in the American League and the National League. The Esurance MLB Awards don't hand out separate honors for each circuit. Winners will each get the Greatness in Baseball trophy, more commonly called the GIBBY.

Kang was one of 13 nominees in the Best Rookie category. After going 1-for-4 in the first game of a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs at home Tuesday, Kang is batting .289/.358/.465 with 15 home runs, 58 RBIs and 60 runs scored. He has split time at third base and shortstop.

"Kang came to the majors as a bit of an uncertain commodity -- this despite hitting .356 with 40 homers in the Korea Baseball Organization in 2014 -- but he has proven he belongs at the highest classification of professional baseball," MLB.com noted of the first South Korean position player to jump from the KBO to the big leagues. "Kang has been a vital part of Pittsburgh's postseason pursuit this season, seeing extensive time at both third base and shortstop, hitting for a solid average and bopping the occasional round-tripper."

Kang is enjoying a strong second half. Prior to Tuesday's action, Kang was leading the Pirates in batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, total bases and extra-base hits since the All-Star break. Other contenders include Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs, the leading NL Rookie of the Year candidate with 24 home runs and 92 RBIs, and Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros, a former No. 1 draft pick who has launched 18 home runs in just 82 games after never playing above Class A Advanced before 2015. Among other categories are: Best Major Leaguer, Best Starting Pitcher, Best Defensive Player and Best Bounceback Player.

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