Jae-Hoon Ha's Tools Impressing Cubs
CHICAGO—The Cubs never had any doubt about the boldness of Jae-Hoon Ha. As a highly regarded catcher, he turned down a chance to be a star in his native Korea to chase success in North America, signing with the Cubs in 2008 as he was finishing high school.
"It takes some guts to leave your country," Cubs scouting director Oneri Fleita said. "For him to do what he's done, walk away (from family and friends), that takes some guts."
Moving from catcher to the outfield, as Ha did after his first trip to instructional league, counted as a minor adjustment. He's far more accurate with his throws from the outfield than he had been on ones from behind the plate, which is one of the reasons why he's become one of the most upwardly mobile players in the organization.
The biggest is that, in the words of Fleita, is that "all he's done is hit."
Blessed with the bat speed to handle good fastballs, the 20-year-old Ha was hitting .296/.332/.473 with eight homers and 41 RBIs in 260 at-bats between high Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, where he played for two weeks in late May while 2009 first-round pick Brett Jackson was sidelined. He hit .317/.334/.468 with seven homers at low Class A Peoria a year ago.
Inexperience is the only weakness in his arsenal.
"There are times now he's going to run until he's out, times he's going to swing at the rosin bag," Fleita said. "We'd like to see a little more (plate) discipline. But you can teach a guy to hone in."
You can't teach a guy to make laser throws from the outfield. Ha, who moves between center field and right, piles up outfield assists: eight in the first two months of this season against only two errors.
Fleita said the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Ha is considered a 70 runner on the 20-80 scale, but he has not yet become a skilled basestealer. He was caught 10 times in his first 16 tries this season.
His English, however, has progressed nicely, and Fleita said teammates enjoy his outgoing nature.
• Led by power-hitting first baseman Justin Bour, Daytona went 46-19 to clinch the first-half title in the North Division of the Florida State League. Bour, 23, was hitting .316 with 16 homers (second in the league). He was a 25th round pick in 2009 from George Mason.
• The highly regarded Matt Szczur was not disappointing at Peoria. The former Villanova football star continues to project as a future center fielder/leadoff man, hitting .327/.383/463.