MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins were hopeful slugger Byungho Park would clear waivers after being designated for assignment last Friday. The club got its wish on Thursday, as he went unclaimed and was outrighted to Triple-A Rochester.
The Twins designated Park for assignment to make room for reliever Matt Belisle, and were strategic about their decision, as they thought he'd pass through waivers after an uneven rookie year that ended with hand surgery and $9.25 million remaining on his contract over the next three years. Reliever Pat Light, however, was traded to the Pirates for a player to be named or cash after he was designated for assignment on Monday to make room for infielder Ehire Adrianza.
Park will head to Spring Training as a non-roster invite and will compete with Kennys Vargas for the designated hitter role, although Vargas has the advantage because he remains on the 40-man roster.
Park, 30, hit .191/.275/.409 with 12 homers and 24 RBIs in 62 games before a demotion to Triple-A and season-ending hand surgery in late August. The two-team MVP in the Korean Baseball Organization also batted .224/.297/.526 with 10 homers and 19 RBIs in 31 games with Rochester.
Park, though, did show impressive power, as evidenced by Statcast™ data. As highlighted in a recent Fangraphs.com article on Park's breakout potential, he had an average exit velocity of 97.2 mph on fly balls and line drives that ranked as the 10th-best mark in baseball. And of his 123 balls put into play, 18.7 percent were classified as barreled, which was the second-highest rate in the Majors behind the Yankees' Gary Sanchez.
So Park still has plenty of promise, and the Twins believe that he'll be more comfortable this season in his second year in the United States. He's worked hard to learn the language, but the first season makes for a tough cultural adjustment.
"The challenge from coming overseas is not easy and he handled himself professionally," Twins chief baseball Derek Falvey said last week. "I would expect to continue as a young player to grow and get better. From a distance, we saw some of that power. We know that. There's a lot of areas of growth going forward. We'll see where he goes this year, but I'm hopeful for him."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.