Hanwha outfielder Lee Jin-young, 26, was recognized as a talented prospect from his first year as a professional in 2016, when he joined KIA and followed the first team spring training. Former manager Matt Williams saw him as one of his options in the middle infield in his first year in 2020, but he only played 97 games in five seasons in the first team before being traded to Hanwha in late April 2022.
In Hanwha, Lee’s talent slowly began to blossom. In 2022, his first year with the team, he batted just 2-for-44 (220 at-bats) in 70 games, but showed his potential with eight home runs. This year, he broke into the lineup, batting .249 (89-for-358) with 10 homers, 50 RBIs, and a .738 OPS in 121 games. Lee’s 10 home runs were the only ones in the league among outfielders in their 20s.헤라카지노
Hanwha manager Choi Won-ho, who took over during the season in May and moved Lee to the top of the order, said, “He had more than 3 WAR this year (3.32 according to Sports2eye). If he performs like this, he should be given priority (as a starter) next year,” Choi said, hinting that he would give Lee the first chance as the starting center fielder.
But Lee isn’t letting his guard down. “I don’t think I’ve established myself as a starter yet. I think I have to make my place the same,” he said. “I’ve learned and felt a lot from playing a lot of games this year. You have to hold on even when you don’t feel good. I think if I do a good job with my tactics, I can stay in the game and play more. In defense, there were some areas where we were too greedy. Based on these experiences, I will be better prepared next year.”
Lee has been training with weights every evening since the spring camps in the United States and Japan this year. After watching him sweat in the weight room almost every day, club officials expected him to do something this year. Even during the season, he was recognized for his diligence within the team, requesting a night special if he didn’t get a hit in a home game against Daejeon, and working out on the baseball field even on his Monday off
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted, but I thought I had to do something special to get rid of my disappointment. It was to relieve my anxiety. It was better than going to Seosan (District 2) because I couldn’t do it. It was hard to go back and forth between the first and second teams.” This year, Lee started the season in the Futures League, dropping to the second team after a trial game, but after registering for the roster on April 28, he stayed in the first team until the end.
Lee’s step-up has become a source of hope and curiosity for other second-team players who have been on the borderline between the first and second teams for a long time after entering the professional ranks. “When players in the second team ask me, I tell them, ‘Be more greedy for baseball,'” Lee said. “When I started the season this year, I focused on my workouts, thinking, ‘It’s either this or nothing.’ Even on my days off, I never went out and played. I actually liked it when other people went out, and I used that time to lift weights, thinking, ‘I just need to add a little bit more.
After playing a full season and then traveling to Miyazaki, Japan, for a training league and finishing camp, Lee didn’t take much time off to prepare for next year. Lee, who practices Pilates with the help of his sister, said of his ‘baseball-only life,’ “Being in Seosan is no longer fun. It’s even less fun when you stop playing baseball. You can play later,” he said, adding, “I’m more greedy for baseball now that my hard work this year has paid off. I will work harder next year,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.