“Be stronger” is the call of a national hitter who admitted to failing to train… Will it be a signal for the revival of Hwasubun, the first-choice prospect?
“You have to be tougher. As a professional player, you need a stronger mind to not lose to anyone.”
That’s the message Doosan Bears manager Lee Seung-yeop left for outfielder Kim Dae-rae, 23, who had his season cut short last month after performing below expectations this year안전놀이터. Kim made a name for himself as a two-hitting prospect during his time at Whimungo. He threw a 150-kilometer fastball as a pitcher and batted fourth in the youth national team, so his two-handed talents were so impressive that he was drafted by Doosan in the first round of the 2019 draft. The club tried to develop him as a pitcher first, but he expressed his desire to focus on the outfield and has been playing there ever since.
In the professional ranks, Kim hasn’t been able to fulfill his potential at all. His power is real, as evidenced by the occasional home run, but he still hasn’t figured out how to use his talent. He hasn’t had a season with more than 70 games in the first team yet, so he hasn’t even established himself as a backup. His first-team stats are 103 games, a .203 batting average (39-for-192), a .284 on-base percentage, a .349 slugging percentage, five home runs, 18 RBIs, and 27 runs scored.
There’s no time to cool off now. Kim has already completed his military service by enlisting for active duty during the 2020 season. Both the player and the organization decided that the pressure of being a first-round pick should come first. After returning from the military, Kim raised expectations last year by batting .240 (23-for-96) with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 51 games.
When Lee took over the reins at Doosan this season, he focused on younger players to develop, and he was impressed with Kim’s hitting talent on multiple occasions. If he could develop into a mainstay outfielder, Doosan could continue to build on its tradition of hitting for power.
Injuries got in the way. Kim went down with a fractured metacarpal in his right hand in the final game of the exhibition season. Lee felt bad because he had been hitting so well in spring training and the exhibition games. Kim ended the season on the second team after batting just .198 (16-for-81) with one home run and seven RBIs in 33 games this season. His postseason entry was an uninspiring one. Kim headed to Japan’s Miyazaki Education League immediately after the Futures League, where he was injured in a collision with infielder Jeon Min-jae on defense and had to return home early for treatment. In many ways, the year 2023 was not going well.
Last month, Lee summarized Kim’s year, saying, “The injury was the first reason, and I think he didn’t show his best self when he came to the first team after the injury. I didn’t maintain the good balance I had in camp. One year is precious, and one year has already passed. It’s a pity and a waste for the player himself, and it’s a pity that the things we expected from Kim Dae-hyun haven’t come out in his performance yet.” He continued, “He needs to have a stronger mind.
“He needs to be a little stronger. He’s been in the army, and I think he’s still young, but in the pros, age doesn’t matter. You’re in and out of the game based on who’s playing well. As a professional athlete, you need to have a strong mind to not lose to anyone. You have to have a strong mindset that you’re not going to miss your chance. It’s true that my mindset is still weak and I don’t have enough first-team experience. He has the ability, now it’s up to him to show it. That’s all we can do to help him,” he said, adding that he expects him to crack the egg on his own next year.
Dusan has failed miserably this year to develop Kim Dae-rae and beasts in general. Of the young players who played fewer than 70 games in the 2022 season, only infielder Lee Yoo-chan (104) played more than 70 games this year. He started the season as the opening day shortstop, and as his stamina waned in his first full season, he was moved to second base, where he held his own, but both his hitting and defense fell apart in the second half. Another first-round pick, shortstop Ahn Jae-seok, also struggled with injuries and poor play, ending his season early.
As Lee wrapped up his first year with Doosan, he said, “The younger players who came out of the gate were slower than I thought. It would be energizing if the younger players came up a little more. Next year, I’m determined to create a power resource immediately.”
On the contrary, players who were categorized as non-performers in spring training made their mark on Lee. Infielders Park Jun-young and Park Ji-hoon are the main characters. Park came to Doosan as compensation for catcher Park Se-hyuk, who was a free agent transfer to the NC Dinos before the season, but he was still rehabbing from shoulder surgery at the time of the transfer, so it was difficult for him to join the team from the start. Park has been with the first team since July and has shown promise at the plate and on defense. In 51 games, he batted .228 (29-for-127) with a .417 on-base percentage, four home runs, and 17 RBIs, which was made even more impressive by his .310 slugging percentage in scoring position. He also made no mistakes defensively at third base and shortstop.
Park is an infield prospect who was drafted by Doosan in the fifth round of the 2020 KBO Draft. He was so well-received by former Doosan manager Kim Tae-hyung (now manager of the Lotte Giants) that he was included in the 2021 Korean Series roster. After realizing the high barriers set by prominent seniors such as Kim Jae-ho and Heo Kyung-min, he enlisted in active duty after the 2021 Korean Series and was discharged in June this year. Since August, he has gotten a chance with the first team, batting .211 (19-for-4) with two RBIs in 22 games. He closed out the year with a 1-for-1 performance in the first game of the wild-card deciding series against the NC Dinos on Sept. 19, coming off the bench to go 1-for-1 with a walk and an RBI.
Lee was pleased with both Jun-young Park and Park Ji-hoon, calling them “players I’m looking forward to next year.” He believes that if the two players continue to prepare for the season, starting with spring training, they will be able to provide good tension in the infield next year.
If Park Ji-hoon and Park Joon-young make their mark in the infield, it will be important for Kim Dae-hyun to find a spot in the outfield. With the main outfielders Kim Jae-hwan and Jeong Soo-bin in their mid-to-late 30s, it’s time for a younger outfielder with more than just backup skills to step up. Along with Kim, Kim In-tae, Cho Su-hyun, Kim Tae-geun, Yang Chan-yeol, and Song Seung-hwan have been consistently challenging for the starting outfield spot, but none have won the title yet. It will be interesting to see if Kim Dae-hyun, in his sixth year as a professional, can signal the resurgence of Doosan Hwasubun baseball next year.