The KIA Tigers, who finished the season in 5th place in the 2022 KBO League, are not very bright this year. All two foreign pitchers must be changed to remove the question mark about settling down on the Korean stage. While there was no special power reinforcement such as recruiting an external free agent, even the main catcher Park Dong-won, who was an internal free agent, was lost. Park Dong-won first acquired FA qualification in November last year and transferred to the LG Twins for a total of 6.5 billion won over 4 years.
KIA brought catcher Joo Hyo-sang through a trade with Kiwoom Heroes ahead of Park Dong-won’s free agent transfer. However, since Joo Hyo-sang made his professional debut in 2016 with the Heroes’ first nomination, there has been no season in which he has played more than 100 games. Even after the end of the 2020 season, he enlisted in the military on active duty and was unable to play for the first team for two years until last year. Joo Hyo-sang, who was recruited by KIA general manager Jang Jeong-seok, but the urgent priority is to establish himself as a backup catcher for the first team.
After Park Dong-won’s departure, observations were made that KIA would secure a major catcher through a large trade. However, from the 2nd to the spring camp in Arizona, USA, there was no trade for the main catcher. During spring camp, trades usually do not go through, so KIA’s catcher trade scenario has gone down to the surface for the time being.
Currently, Han Seung-taek, who has the most experience as the main catcher for the KIA, is the most likely. Han Seung-taek, who joined the Hanwha Eagles in 2013, transferred to the KIA as a reward player for FA Yong-gyu Lee after the season ended that year. The reason why KIA chose Han Seung-taek, who could not be immediately used as a sense of power ahead of enlistment at the National Police Agency, was because he had been chosen as the future hostess.
After returning to KIA after being discharged from the National Police Agency, Han Seung-taek was selected for the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) team in November 2017 and played as the main catcher. Due to age and year restrictions, it could be interpreted as the most promising catcher in the KBO league by serving as the host of the national team composed mainly of young players. 메이저놀이터
However, Han Seung-taek did not prove his growth as expected. After his professional debut, the only season in which he played more than 100 games was 105 games in 2019, and there is still no season that meets the regulation at bat. He never had a season in which he had a batting average of 0.250, a double-digit home run, or an OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of 0.750. He never had a year in which his WAR (based on the Kaby Report), which indicates his contribution to a win versus his replacement, exceeded 1.0.
Due to Han Seung-taek’s slow growth, KIA suffered from a chronic weakness in the home. In order to recruit Park Dong-won from Kiwoom through trade in April of last year, KIA gave Kim Tae-jin, the right to pick in the second round of this year’s rookie draft, and 1 billion won in return. In order to make up for the weakness of the home, he had to endure tremendous bleeding by adding a large amount of cash as well as players who are currently in the first team and future top-ranked rookies.
In November of last year, seven months after that, when Park Dong-won transferred, KIA’s troubles returned to the starting point. There is even an analysis that in May of last year, veteran catcher Kim Min-sik was traded to SSG Landers, and KIA’s home weakness was even worse compared to the time before Park Dong-won was recruited. Now, it is no exaggeration to say that Han Seung-taek is the only first-team catcher that KIA can trust.
Until the end of the spring camp, KIA is expected to check whether Han Seung-taek’s skills have improved. However, if KIA’s home weakness does not disappear even after the demonstration game and the opening of the regular season, there is no choice but to endure another bloody trade like last year. Attention is focusing on whether Han Seung-taek will be able to establish himself as an unwavering main catcher by turning KIA’s weakness into a strength.