Who Will Quell the First Base Risk?
The position with the most question marks in the KIA Tigers’ 2024 lineup is first base. It’s the only one without a current owner. It’s the only position without a current owner. At the same time, we’ll be interested to see if anyone emerges who can help mitigate the risk. Kia can build a strong offense by eliminating the first base risk.
Before the start of the 2023 season, Hwang Dae-in was the main first baseman. The young slugger drew attention as a rookie but didn’t break out until the middle of the 2021 season, when he took over as the starting first baseman and shined, 바카라사이트 hitting 13 home runs and 45 RBIs. In 2023, he got his first regular at-bats as a full-time first baseman and went 2-for-5 with 14 home runs and 91 RBIs.
Choi Hyung-woo set career highs as the Socrates created countless opportunities for him.
He set his sights on 20+ home runs and 100 RBIs in 2023, but couldn’t keep the momentum going. Injuries and poor form limited him to just 60 games and 199 at-bats. His numbers were 2-for-1 with five home runs, 26 RBIs, and a .618 OPS. Neither his power nor his slugging percentage were business cards. A sudden promotion.
No one stepped up to fill the void. Ryu Ji-hyuk, Byun Woo-hyuk, and even Choi Won-jun, who had retired from commerce, played first base. Seven players wore the first base mitt throughout the season. Ryu Ji-hyuk, who was a great first base alternative, was traded to Samsung for catcher Kim Tae-gun. Byun Woo-hyuk also provided stability at first base, but his offense wasn’t there to back it up.
As the season ended, there were calls for reinforcements. The possibility of signing Yang Seok-hwan, a free agent, was discussed, but it didn’t materialize. The team also considered bringing in an outside first baseman, but they couldn’t ignore the hitting of outfielder Socrates Brito. In the end, they had to find an answer from within. For now, three players are in the running for the first base job. At least one of them, Hwang Dae-in Byun Woo-hyuk or Lee Woo-sung, should be solidified.
Hwang had season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.
A full rehabilitation will be a factor, but a return to his 91 RBI career will be of interest. Of the three, he has the most experience at first base and hit double-digit home runs twice. He added a family at the end of the year, adding to his responsibilities. He will also have a lot of reflection and determination after a disastrous 2023 season.
Byun Woo-hyuk, who was acquired from Hanwha after the 2022 season, has gained the most experience since his debut last year. He has 226 at-bats in 83 games. He showed off his potential by hitting seven home runs, including a grand slam. He can be utilized as a third baseman as well as a first baseman. This year, he’s aiming for more than 400 at-bats. Best case scenario if he settles in at first base.
Lee Woo-sung is ready to move from the outfield to first base.
Last year, he hit .301 with three triples in his first 400 at-bats as a rookie. He practiced at first base throughout the final camp in Okinawa. The outfield was saturated, so he decided to switch to first base to help the team and himself. At the end of the camp, he was evaluated as “surprisingly good at first base.” He continued to play first base in spring training in Australia and Okinawa. He is also proficient at second base, which gives him a lot of versatility.
Along with the three players, there is Oh Sun-woo, who played first base at the end of last season. He’s a one-hit wonder. In addition, 2023 season rookie Jung Hae-won caught the eye of manager Kim Jong-kook with his mid- to long-range hitting in the final camp. He can play third base as well as first base. He could be a hidden card in the absence of a first baseman.