Lee Jung-hoo (25, Kiwoom Heroes) has a reputation for not striking out much, and his ability to do so has garnered attention in the United States. However, there have been reports that he may struggle early on in the Major League Baseball (MLB).
NBC Sports Bay Area said on Aug. 28 (KST), “The only concern about Lee is the fastball in the major leagues. Depending on how quickly he adjusts, he could strike out more.”굿모닝토토
The media outlet took a look at Lee, Yoshinobu Yamamoto (25), and Shota Imanaga (30), three international free agents the Giants could sign. His club, Kiwoom, cleared Lee to play overseas earlier this year, and he filed for posting with the Major League Baseball office on April 24. Now, he has taken the first step toward the United States.
San Francisco has been interested in Lee for some time. MLB Network, a sports channel that broadcasts Major League Baseball across the United States, reported on March 21 that “San Francisco and the New York Yankees have shown interest in Lee.” At the end of this season, it became a hot topic when general manager Pete Putilla personally visited the Gocheok SkyDome to watch Lee play.
An agent told The Athletic, “Putilla didn’t go to Korea to see Lee’s one at-bat. But the sight of him will touch his heart. He was a superstar there, and he’ll have a chance to sign with a team that treats him like a star player.”
NBC Sports Bay Area said, “Cody Bellinger is the best free agent center fielder available this offseason. But Lee might be a better fit for San Francisco.” “The Giants have fallen in love with Lee and have sent scouts to see him three times.”
Lee joined the Nexen Heroes (now Kiwoom) with the first overall pick in the 2017 rookie draft and has been with the organization for seven seasons, batting .340 with 65 home runs, 515 RBI, 581 runs scored, 69 stolen bases, a .407 on-base percentage, a .491 slugging percentage and an .898 OPS in 884 games. His batting average is the best among active players with at least 3,000 career at-bats.
In the 2022 season, he won the MVP with a staggering .349 batting average, 23 home runs, 113 RBIs, and a .996 OPS. What’s especially impressive is that he struck out just 32 times in 627 at-bats that year. Of his 142 games that season, he only had two games with more than two strikeouts. Even though he more than tripled his home runs from seven in 2021, he only struck out five fewer times (37). The media was so impressed that they put two exclamation points in their comments.
Lee Jung-hoo won the KBO MVP award last year. /Photo=News1
However, the media also mentioned a concern. Major league pitchers are faster than Korean pitchers. “The only stumbling block for Lee is that he comes from the KBO, where fastballs average 93 mph (149.7 km/h), which is slower than the big leagues, where they average 88 mph (141.6 km/h),” the outlet analyzed. “That could lead to more strikeouts in his initial adjustment,” they added. “The level of play in the KBO is considered to be between Triple-A and Double-A,” the outlet added.
Despite this analysis, Lee’s journey to the United States is well underway. “(Lee) Jung-hoo will leave for the U.S. between the 27th and 28th,” Lee’s father, LG Twins coach Lee Jong-beom, said at the 2023 Hope Plus Charity Baseball Tournament organized by the Yang Joon-hyuk Baseball Foundation at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. According to Kiwoom officials, Jung-hoo will train at a training center owned by U.S. agent Scott Boras and wait for the results.
MLB’s 30 clubs will be able to negotiate a contract with Lee from 8 a.m. ET on the day following the MLB office’s posting until 5 p.m. ET on the 30th day, and if a contract is reached, they will be required to pay Kiwoom a transfer fee in accordance with the Korea-U.S. Player Contract Agreement. If a contract is not reached by the expiration of the negotiation period, the posting will be terminated and Lee Jung-hoo will not be posted until November 1 of the following year.