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"I judged that he has the ability to show good performance

"I thought it would be of great help to the growth of young outfielders such as Choi In-ho, Lee Jin-young and Lee Won-seok." It was a choice that instantly reinforced poor outfield performance and considered the future of the team.

Hanwha, which acquired An Chi-hong through free agency contracts, has strong infield power that is more competitive than other teams in the 2024 season. Players who are guaranteed to perform better than a certain level, including Chae Eun-sung, An Chi-hong and Noh Si-hwan, will fill the Hanwha infield next season. However, the situation in the outfield sector is a little different. Although there are young fielders with potential, it is unclear whether they will be able to fully demonstrate their abilities. It can be said that Hanwha's "winning baseball" in next season depends on the growth and rebound of its outfielders.

The case where Moon Hyun-bin, a rookie high school graduate, was hired as a center fielder for the 2023 season clearly shows the insufficient situation of Hanwha's outfielders. Moon left the second base and played as a center fielder for more than half of this season. It was a way to revive his batting skills, but it was possible due to the lack of competitiveness of existing outfielders.

On the contrary, hope has grown in the wilderness. Playing in more than 100 games for the first time since his professional debut in 2016, Lee has posted a batting average of 0.249, 10 homers and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 0.738 while playing all outfield positions. Choi In-ho, an outfielder who joined the team after being discharged from the military from Sangmu during the season, also posted a batting average of 0.298 in 41 games and an OPS of 0.790, raising expectations for the next season. Assuming that their growth will not slow down, the two players have a chance to play as the team's main outfielders along with foreign hitter Jonathan Peraza in the 2024 season.

According to the policy of Hanwha manager Choi Won-ho, who emphasized "multi-position," Moon Hyun-bin and Jung Eun-won are also likely to be deployed as outfielders. Moon Hyun-bin has already been reborn as a multi-resource inside and outside, as he has been used as a left fielder in the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) 2023 wearing a Taegeuk mark uniform, and Jung Eun-won has opened up the possibility of moving positions by training in the outfield defense at the closing camp in Miyazaki, Japan.

In order for Hanwha's outfield depth to become thicker, it is also necessary for existing outfielders such as Lee Myung-ki, Lee Won-seok, and Euro Gyeol to rebound. Veteran Lee Myung-ki, who has strength in contact skills, played only 14 games due to ankle injury in the early part of this season. Both Lee Won-seok and Euro Gyeol, who are "young blood," recorded a batting average of around 100%, failing to capitalize on the opportunities granted.
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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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