Jung Hoo Lee Could Be MLB’s Equivalent of Jalen Brunson

It might sound crazy, but Jung Hoo Lee might be having a career arc similar to that of the Knicks superstar point guard, Jalen Brunson.

Jung Hoo Lee of the San Francisco Giants celebrates a team victory with Wilmer Flores during a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Jung Hoo Lee #51 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates a team victory with Wilmer Flores #41 during a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on March 30, 2024 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Getty Images)

Okay, relax, this is probably only the — and we’re being conservative here, mind you — 5th-most ridiculous sports take you’ve read in the last week. It’s certainly not even close to the craziest thing this very website has produced. But unlike those neanderthal takes, this is one that will age well: Jung Hoo Lee is going to be a superstar equivalent to the level of Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson. 

Not necessarily in terms of overall fame, but vibes. And aren’t vibes, really, what this is all about?

I’ve made NBA comparisons before on this very website, so please have faith that the plane carrying this take well be landed swiftly and with the intensive care of a kangaroo holding its little baby child in that weird body pouch of theirs. 

Initially Viewed as Overpaid

This past offseason, Jung Hoo Lee surprised some by inking a six-year, $113 million dollar deal with the San Francisco Giants. The surprise comes not just because he’d spent his entire career up to that point in the KBO and never seeing one MLB pitch come his way, but also because he hadn’t shown signs of being a power hitter.

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As you might know: power is good, and hitting a baseball very far gets you paid more. In seven KBO seasons, Lee only eclipsed 10 home runs twice, with his 2022 campaign of 23 bombs seemingly being an outlier. 

Jalen Brunson, back in the 2022 offseason, had a similar criticism after signing a four-year, $103 million dollar contract with the Knicks. He was a solid scorer with Dallas, but playing alongside Luka Doncic — a possible demi-god — might’ve inflated his efficiency given opposing defenses focusing so much on the latter and freeing up the former Brunson for easier shots.

The signing, just like Lee’s, was met with plenty of questions and overpaid allegations. And, well, we all know how that turned out…but more on that later.

Will His Skillset Translate to Another Team?

Both Lee and Brunson signings were met with skepticism in regards to their particular play styles not being able to acquiesce to new surroundings. The latter was his ability to score at a high level while being the no. 1 option, while the former was a mixture of acclimating to MLB pitching as well as his power output, which was lower than fellow KBO star Ha-Seong Kim. 

In terms of Brunson, such questions were quelled almost immediately. He went from scoring 16.3 points per game to 24, with the near-same level of efficiency as his previous tenure for the Dallas Mavericks. He also finished 12th in MVP voting, and has only continued to improve (27.8 points per game this season) as a number one option for a historically cursed Knicks team that’s suddenly become the league’s darling and made their fans, let’s just say, a little excited

And I know what you’re thinking: Jung Hoo Lee hasn’t done anything remotely like that yet!

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But the key word is “yet”, because even in such a small sample size, he’s looked quite good. The eye at the plate and bat-to-ball skills aside, Lee’s signs of adjusting to MLB pitching are even more encouraging when it comes to his power.

As Grant Brisbee pointed out in The Athletic, the exit velocity on one of Lee’s home runs (109.7 MPH) was better than any of the balls hit at any point in the 2023 season from notable MLB veterans like Michael Conforto, Cody Bellinger, Dansby Swanson, and even Alex Bregman. 

It’s early but, just like Brunson, Jung Hoo Lee is already showing signs that he’s going to fare just fine with his new club. 

The Need For a Star

Even if you have just a cursory knowledge of recent NBA history, you’ll know that the Knicks had been in dire straits for a long time. Them being at the center of some horrible trade, signing, or managerial hire was fait accompli; there was, simply put, no hope.

That goes especially true for the point guard position, where the Knicks only success over the last decade-plus was Linsanity. And then along came Brunson, who has served as the vaccine to their lengthy stretch of suckitude. 

The San Francisco Giants have had their own problems with acquiring superstars (although not for the lazy reasons you’ve been told). And here comes along KBO star Jung Hoo Lee, who — just like Brunson — people weren’t initially sold on for all the reasons mentioned earlier. Neither had the hype, but they’re going to more and more as the season goes on despite all of the skepticism. 

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Based on how much the character arc of Jung Hoo Lee has mirrored that of Brunson, different sports aside, he’s also going to be viewed as underpaid by season’s end. They’re both not quite at the tier of cosmic-level superstars (e.g. Lebron, Ohtani, Trout, Durant), but the effect that both players can have on their respective teams is eerily similar, in my professional opinion. 

Jump aboard the Jung Hoo Lee bandwagon while you can, because we’re all seeing just how egg-on-your-face foolish the initial Jalen Brunson doubters look right about now.