An unsettling premonition came true. The Lotte Giants have a hole at second base.
“Captain” Ahn Chi-hong is gone. The second-year free agent signed a four-year, $7.2 billion contract with the Hanwha Eagles on Tuesday.
Since joining Lotte in the winter of 2019 as a 2+2 year free agent for a total of 5.6 billion won, Ahn has batted .299 with 40 home runs, 257 RBIs, and an OPS of .791 over four years.
He’s been steady every year with no major ups and downs. Until last year, he was one of the pillars of the batting lineup behind Lee Dae-ho, and this year he led the team alongside Jeon Jun-woo.
Even this year, when the umbrella effect of Lee Dae-ho disappeared, Ahn’s performance was unwavering. He was second on the team in batting average (2-for-9), hits (124), RBIs (63), walks (49), slugging percentage (3-for-7), and on-base percentage (4), all offensive categories other than home runs and stolen bases. As a captain, he quietly led the team.
However, after the season, there was a sense of unrest. Lotte had steadily emptied its salary cap since the arrival of former manager Sung Min-kyu in 2019, but spent most of it on three free agents last year in Noh Jin-hyuk, Yoo Kang-nam, and Han Hyun-hee.
There was also chaos in the team’s leadership, from the manager to the general manager.
It was widely expected in the baseball world that Lotte would not be able to get both of them given the salary cap.
And it turned out to be true. Lotte offered free agent Jeon Jun-woo a four-year contract totaling 4.7 billion won. Other teams had already offered him contracts in the 5 billion won range.
However, the discussions ended when the total amount was presented to the agent. They didn’t discuss detailed options or incentives.
Jun-woo Jeon wanted to remain a Lotte One Club member unless there was a big difference. Unlike his last contract (four years and 3.4 billion won), the club showed a lot of sincerity. They promised not only the total amount of the contract, but also two years of coaching training to keep him in Busan.
However, it was difficult to keep Ahn Chi-hong. Lotte’s second base didn’t deserve an owner. In the four years that Ahn Chi-hong has been playing, the team hasn’t been able to develop a player worthy of the position.
The most reliable option is Park Seung-wook. He joined the team as a free agent in 2022, and this year he showed off his quick feet, solid defense, and hard-hitting bat as a multi-position infielder. He showed a step up in his hitting this season and has the footwork to be a starting shortstop at one point. However, his defense has been a bit lackluster this season, as he’s been guilty of making some bad plays.
In terms of expectations, Go Seung-min is the clear favorite.
Go Seung-min has been getting pitches at second base since the postseason camp. Manager Kim Tae-hyung said, “I’m just trying him out. It is not confirmed that he will move to second base next year.” He was also an alternative when Ahn Chi-hong was expected to be transferred.
Ahn was originally a second baseman, but after his military service, he played only the outfield and first base. However, given his poor batting performance last year (OPS of 0.651), he doesn’t deserve his spot right away. His position is unstable depending on the position of foreign hitters in the future. If he can defend second base at a certain level, he could knock on the door.
However, his defense is the biggest concern. 카지노사이트 In addition to throwing and fielding range, second base requires frequent communication and participation in all kinds of interlocking plays, unlike first base. It will be important to see if he can adapt to this quickly.
All eyes will also be on rookie Jung Dae-sun.
He is an infielder who joined the team in the fifth round last year. He was considered a third baseman with excellent hitting ability, as he batted 6-for-2 with a home run and 10 RBIs in 16 at-bats for the U-18 national team, but has since moved to shortstop and second base as a professional. His defense has also improved a lot. Especially in the final camp, he has been under the tutelage of coach Kim Min-ho.
Kim Min-soo, who is usually evaluated as a first and third baseman, can also challenge for the second base position. He has played first base and second base in the past. However, he will need to improve his batting average, which was in the low 20s last year.
Lee Hak-joo, who looked good at second base in this year’s exhibition games, also has a weakness for hitting. Na Seung-yeop, who practiced all positions in the infield during his time with the Sangmu, is also a candidate.