Freshmen Report: Kang, Grichuk, Syndergaard, Jungmann by Marc Hulet August 3, 2015 Today at The Freshmen Report we take a look at a few interesting — and surprisingly productive — athletes (both hitters and pitchers) from around both the National League. Jung-ho Kang, IF, Pirates: Cuban players have been all the rage for a few years now but players from South Korea may be the new cool thing, thanks to Kang. He’s gone from an $11 million gamble to saving grace for the playoff hopeful Pirates — who have a left side of the infield that’s been ravaged by injuries. Kang has been the second most valuable position player on the Pirates in terms of WAR, right behind Andrew McCutchen and in front of Starling Marte. The rookie is a well-rounded player who can do a little bit of everything on the field and has actually gotten better as the year has progressed. Randal Grichuk, OF, Cardinals: It’s probably time to start referring to Grichuk as “the guy that was drafted one slot ahead of Mike Trout.” Still just 23, the powerful outfielder has continually found a way to offset his massive strikeout rates (30% in 2015) to remain not only relevant but an above-average offensive threat as witnessed by his 143 wRC+. His power is a valuable asset for a club that didn’t hit many home runs in 2014 and desperately needed to add pop to its lineup this season (hence the offseason addition of Mark Reynolds, who just might be Grichuk’s future if he can’t get the Ks under control). His ability to play center field also provides a significant bump to his value. He’s a little bit like Mike Cameron without the additional speed element on the base paths. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets: Fans of the Blue Jays have long bemoaned the Dickey-for-Syndergaard deal and will continue to do so for many years. However, a playoff berth during the veteran knuckleballer’s tenure with his Canadian brethren will go a long way to removing some of the sting. The young hurler, aptly nicknamed Thor, hasn’t missed a beat since shifting from Triple-A pitcher to big league contributor. He’s averaging 97 mph with his heater and has plus control for his age; he has legitimate ace pitcher potential for the Mets and, at the age of just 22, should head the rotation for years — along with a young supporting cast that’s almost equally as impressive. Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Brewers: In the midst of Jungmann’s disappointing minor league career (after a very good college career), I asked a Brewers official if they were worried about the prospect’s results to date. Emphatically, I was told know — that the organization had specifically taken away one of his pitches in an effort to help him strengthen his other offerings. Well, what-do-ya-know? The reigns have been released from Jungmann and he’s been outstanding in the Majors by commanding three pitches and inducing lots of ground balls. Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson and Jungmann give the Brewers a strong pitching core to build off of for the future.