After the LG-Keum trade… “I knew I’d seen it coming.” Six golden picks left to play for
“It really looks like Lee Jung-hoo after he hit a home run. It was like watching Lee Jung-hoo.”
During the game between Kiwoom and Lotte at Gocheok Sky Dome on April 18, Kim Sung-bae, a member of Sportime Baseball, watched a player’s home run swing and marveled. It was Lee Joo-hyung, 22, who was acquired by Kiwoom at the trade deadline, and he hit a decisive three-run home run in the eighth inning to lead Lotte to a 5-4 comeback victory.
“스포츠토토After hitting a home run, the overall picture of his batting and his arm swing is similar to Lee’s,” Kim said with a smile. Indeed, Lee’s phalanx swing was similar to Lee’s from a distance, even if it covered his jersey number and name. Of course, it’s still a while before we can compare his overall ability to Lee’s, but the flashes of talent are enough to make Kiwoom fans excited.
The biggest trade ahead of the trade deadline was the July 29 deal between LG and Kiwoom. LG, united in their determination to win the championship this year, brought in Choi Won-tae, who had been performing well this season, to bolster what they thought would be their final problem: their homegrown starting lineup. Instead, Kiwoom seemed to be looking to the future. Kiwoom acquired Lee Ju-hyung, pitcher Kim Dong-gyu, and a first-round pick in the 2024 rookie draft. There’s no question that they paid cash and received a note.
Kiwoom’s situation was a bit more complicated. After coming up just short of winning the first Korean Series title in franchise history last year, Kiwoom spent quite a bit of money heading into this season. They acquired Won Jong-hyun and Lee Hyung-jong in the free agent (FA) and future FA markets, respectively. The team didn’t have much of a history of ‘signing’ in the free agent market, so it was surprising to see them make one last run at winning the Korean Series with Lee Jung-hoo, who announced he would be entering the major leagues after this season.
However, the team’s overall slump in the first half of the season, and Lee’s ankle injury at the start of the second half, which effectively ruled him out for the season, changed the mood. The team’s goal of winning the Korean Series was no longer possible. The math was clear, and the team quickly pivoted. The team decided to sell Choi Won-tae, who was about to become a free agent, and prepare for the “post-Lee Jung-hoo” era.
Lee Joo-hyung, whom Kiwoom picked as a frontrunner for the post-Lee era ⓒKyung Hye-mi Reporter
Lee Jung-hoo, who will enter the major leagues after this season ⓒKyung Hye-mi Kim
However, Kiwoom emphasized that they were “prepared for the present” when they signed Lee Joo-hyung. He was confident that Lee could still perform well. He was thought to be a replacement for Lee Jeong-hoo, who was injured. Of course, he was a prospect with good potential. But nothing was proven. As time went on, Lee Ju-hyung filled the gap better than expected. At least in the offense.
There was no place for him in the LG outfield, but Ki is different. Now that he’s gotten consistent playing time, the hitting talent that’s been lurking in the dugout and on the second team is shining through. In 26 games with Kiwoom, Lee is batting .330 with four home runs, 20 RBIs, and an OPS of 0.890. His adjusted wRC+ (wRC+) is 148.7, as compiled by the statistical site Statiz. Before his injury this year, Lee had a wRC+ of 144.9.
This is not to say that Lee is a player of Lee’s caliber, but at the very least, he is filling a significant offensive void. Kiwoom’s “for now” was not an exaggeration.
Lee has a good swing mechanic. He has a good eye and a good impact. He’s still a bit inexperienced, but that’s something that can be worked out gradually through trial and error, and even if it takes a while, he’s only 22 years old. And he’s already solved the military problem. I just have to play baseball and run. For Kiwoom fans, it’s a small consolation prize for a season that in many ways didn’t go their way.
And Kiwoom still has the draft picks he’s worked so hard to earn. They have six picks up to the third round of the 2024 KBO Rookie Draft in September. They added three via trade to their original three. Kiwoom has 6 of the top 30 picks (20%). With so many top picks, it’s easy for Kiwoom to strategize. Other teams are watching Kiwoom closely for a reason.
“Last year, when I was talking to scouts, they said that the pool for next year’s draft (2023) is better than this year’s (2024). Originally, I thought the market level was similar, but after the winter and into the spring, there were a lot of fast-rising players like Kim Taek-yeon. Last year, it was pretty clear who was going to the major leagues, Kim Seo-hyun and Yoon Young-chul,” he explained.
Kiwoom gained a solid prospect in Lee Ju-hyung in this trade ⓒYonhap News Agency
Kiwoom drafted Kim Gun-hee last year. This year, they have a number of top picks ⓒKyun Hye-mi Reporter
Kim said, “On the contrary, there are players who have grown more in their third year. This year’s market is better than last year’s because players who were good until their sophomore year have maintained their skills to a certain extent, and players who have not shown much have grown as rapidly as first-round players.” “The high school market is so rich that pitchers in the second to fourth year of college are in the shadows, even though there are many good players,” he said. In particular, the general consensus is that the pitching market is much more plentiful than last year.
Kiwoom, last year’s Korean Series runner-up, holds the ninth overall pick. If they didn’t get a pick from another team, they would have been at a disadvantage as a late pick. However, with LG’s 8th overall pick, KIA’s 16th overall pick, and Samsung’s 24th overall pick, there is a possibility that the semi-class players will be swept up.
Some believe that Kiwoom has already finalized its draft strategy for this year’s draft a year or two in advance and has begun securing picks. They decided that this year’s class was better than the 2023 class. Of course, the loss of Jang Hyun-seok to the major leagues is bad news for Kiwoom, but they still have six picks in the third round.
Not all rookie draft picks lead to success. You have to draft well and you have to develop well. And the results won’t start showing up until three or four years from now, not next year. Patience is required. Still, it’s clear that Kiwoom is well on its way to preparing for the “post-Lee Jung-hoo and Choi Won-tae” era. And Lee Ju-hyung is already proving it. In five years, this trade
“It really looks like Lee Jung-hoo after he hit a home run. It was like watching Lee Jung-hoo.” During the game between Kiwoom and Lotte at Gocheok Sky Dome on April 18, Kim Sung-bae, a member of Sportime Baseball, watched a player’s home run swing and marveled. It was Lee Joo-hyung, 22, who was acquired…