Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang is out six to eight months following knee surgery, the team announced. Kang left yesterday's game early with a knee injury after colliding with the Cubs' Chris Coghlan. The surgery was to repair a torn MCL and a fractured tibial plateau.
The 28-year-old had been one of the better rookies in baseball, hitting to the tune of .287/.355/.461 with 15 home-runs. His hitting made him worth the $16 million that the Pirates spent on Kang this past winter. Combined with his defense and Kang was an emerging candidate for National League Rookie of the Year.
Pittsburgh was making up ground in the NL Central standings, finding themselves only four games back of the Cardinals. However losing a bat like Kang will undoubtedly make that chase a little bit harder.
In his place, the Pirates will rely on Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison for their infield alignment. Mercer had been a proven commodity for Pittsburgh over the past couple of seasons, but he is hitting just .240 in 2015. A combination of those two may not be able to match the production of Kang, but the Pirates will be able to survive.
The recovery time for Kang, as a best case scenario, could have him ready late in spring training. That could lead the Pirates to be a bit more active this winter, and possibly pick up a utility infielder to shoulder the burden until Kang can return.