This Year’s Pitcher’s Feast, Rookie of the Year ‘Shoulders’ Are Hot

The baseball rookie of the year race is heating up. This year, a number of “pure rookies” have quickly established themselves as mainstays and are heating up the rookie race.

The leading contenders are Yoon Young-chul (KIA Tigers), Song Young-jin (SSG Landers), Park Myung-geun (LG Twins), Kim Seo-hyun (Hanwha Eagles), and Kim Min-seok (Lotte Giants). All of them are pitchers except Kim Min-seok, who is an outfielder. Yoon Young-cheol and Song Young-jin are the starters, while Park Myung-geun and Kim Seo-hyun are in the bullpen. In particular, Kim Seo-hyun, Yoon Young-chul, and Kim Min-seok are all highly touted prospects who were selected between the first and third overall picks in this year’s rookie draft. Song Young-jin was selected in the second round and Park Myung-geun in the third round.

Song, a right-handed pitcher, became the first rookie to win a game in his debut this year. On April 14, he pitched five innings against the NC Dinos, striking out seven and allowing no hits or runs to earn his first win. With an injury gap in the SSG starting lineup, Song Young-jin was called up as a tinkering starter, and he seized the opportunity like a ‘ready rookie’. Since then, he has steadily rotated through the starting rotation, posting three wins (and no losses) by the 24th. His only regret was that his pace dropped a bit this month compared to last month (1.93 ERA). SSG coach Kim Won-hyung is busy praising Song Young-jin, calling him “a pitcher who doesn’t look like he was born in 2004.”

Graphic by Hyun-seo Kim
KIA left-hander Yoon Young-chul has started all seven games, solidifying his status as the “post-Yang Hyun-jong. After a bumpy adjustment period in April (4.85 ERA in three games), he has emerged as a strong Rookie of the Year candidate with a 2.11 ERA in four games in May. He picked up his first win on May 3 against Lotte (five innings, one run), snapping his opponent’s 10-game winning streak, and on May 24 against Hanwha (six innings, one run)토토사이트, he made his first quality start (six or more innings pitched and three or fewer earned runs allowed).

Commentator Jung Min-cheol said, “Song Young-jin is a ‘hidden master’. Among young pitchers these days, he throws the ball with the best use of his chest and back.” “He has a lower velocity (up to 142 kilometers per hour) than other rookies, but he stands out for his guts. Without guts, it’s hard to throw the ball in the strike zone,” and “He pitches like a veteran because his technique is good. He is a very complete rookie.”

The rookies in the bullpen also stand out. LG Park Myung-geun throws a fastball that reaches nearly 150 kilometers per hour with his side arm. Manager Yoon Kyung-yeop, who took over this year, stamped his authority early on and provided backup fire. By the 24th, he had appeared in 20 games with a 2.95 ERA. On the 21st, he pitched one scoreless inning against Hanwha to earn his third save of the season. He seems to be solidifying himself as the “go-to guy” on the LG mound.

Kim Seo-hyun, the No. 1 overall pick who is known for his hard-hitting fastball, is also gaining experience on the mound after making his first first-team appearance last month on the 19th. After Choi Won-ho took over as manager on Nov. 11, he became the bullpen’s go-to set-up man, and he earned his first save with a scoreless inning against SSG on Nov. 12.

Second-year players Moon Dong-ju (Hanwha) and Choi Ji-min (KIA), who joined the team last year, and third-year player Kim Dong-ju (Doosan Bears) are also “second-hand rookies” who are challenging the juniors for the rookie title. Moon, who pitched just 28 and two-thirds innings last year due to injury, has been a mainstay in the starting lineup since the start of the year. He became the first Korean pitcher in the KBO to hit over 160 kilometers per hour.

A 2021 second-round pick (10th overall), Doosan’s Dong-ju has made the most of the opportunity to start after foreign pitcher Dylan Pyle went down with an injury. He has a 1.45 ERA in four games this month. Left-hander Choi Ji-min, a second-round pick (fifth overall) last year, has also entered the rookie of the year race with back-to-back scoreless outings out of the KIA bullpen.

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