500 Million Prospect with an ‘ERA of 13.50’…”I wish I could grow as fast as Dongju”

“I hope he grows as fast as (Moon) Dong-ju, but not everyone does.”

Hanwha Eagles manager Choi Won-ho has become increasingly concerned about the struggles of his top prospect, Kim Seo-hyun, 19. Kim made his starting debut against the Changwon NC Dinos on April 17. He struggled with his fastball, giving up three runs on four hits and four walks with one strikeout in two innings. Even with his fastball reaching up to 153 km/h, he was unable to intimidate the NC batters. More than 24 of his 44 pitches weren’t strikes, so the NC batters just had to wait and see. His fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, and slider were all shaky.토토사이트

In two starts since returning to the first team in August, Kim has pitched 4⅔ innings with a 13.50 ERA. In that span, Kim has given up 12 hits with 10 walks and two wild pitches, while striking out just three.

Kim was selected by Hanwha with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 KBO Draft out of Seoul High School. With Duksugo Shim Jun-seok (now with the Pittsburgh Pirates) choosing to pursue a major league career in the U.S. ahead of the draft, Seo-hyun naturally inherited the title of the biggest high school star.

Hanwha showed their excitement by signing Kim to a contract worth 500 million won, the same amount as their 2022 first-round pick Moon Dong-joo (20). It was the third-highest rookie contract in Hanwha’s history. The previous highest contract for a Hanwha rookie was 700 million won for first-round pick Yoo Chang-sik in 2010, and the second was 550 million won for Yoo Won-sang in 2006.

Kim got off to a good start in the professional ranks. Kim made his debut on April 19 against the Doosan Bears in Daejeon, where he pitched a one-hit shutout with two strikeouts and no walks. His fastball had a top velocity of 160.1 kilometers per hour and an average velocity of 159 kilometers per hour, according to Trackman. With Moon Dong-joo and Kim Seo-hyun, Hanwha has a duo of 160 kilometers per hour fastballs, making them the envy of the rest of the league.

Kim Seo-hyun ⓒKyun Hye-mi Reporter

However, Kim’s happiness was short-lived. His fastball was in trouble. The coaching staff, including Hanwha head coach Choi Won-ho, decided that Kim needed time to regroup in the second team for now, so they had him pitch long innings as a starter to get his balance back.

It would be nice if the pitches were catching, but that’s not always easy, especially for young pitchers. “Anyway, we worked with the Futures coaches on balance by increasing the number of pitches. I focused on balancing my pitches, and I can say that I have improved compared to before, but at the higher level, I still need to train a little more. I think I need to see how I throw and see if I need to adapt more in the first team or if I need to go down to the second team and train more.” The results of the day’s pitching were enough for the second team to reorganize.

“If you have problems with your pitches, you’re actually not ready for the first team,” Choi said. If there’s a big difference between strikes and balls, he’s not ready to pitch in the first team. For a prospect like that, you have to make him throw a lot of pitches, whether in the first or second team, to get his balance.”

He then brought up Moon Dong-ju. Moon had an injury-plagued rookie season in 2022 and struggled to find his footing in the first team, going 1-3 with a 2.65 ERA in 13 games and 28⅔ innings pitched, but in just one year he’s become a regular starter. This year, he is the only Korean starter to keep his job for the entire season, going 7-7 with a 3.28 ERA in 20 games and 104⅓ innings pitched.

Hanwha Eagles’ Kim Seo-hyun (left) and Moon Dong-joo ⓒ Daejeon, Kim Min-kyung Reporter

“For players like Kim Seo-hyun and others, even if they don’t get results right away, they have to keep working on themselves, challenge themselves, and repeat these things,” Choi said. It’s the same with Nam Ji-min (2020 first round). They go down (to the second team) and when they think they’re ready, they come up and show, and when they need to go down here (to the first team), they go down again and keep doing that. It’s good if it happens in one or two years. It would be nice to grow as fast as (Moon) Dong-ju, but it doesn’t happen the same way, so you have to keep working on it.”

At the end of the day, it’s all about how quickly you get into the mindset. For that, it’s important to regain confidence on the mound early on. As a senior, Lee Tae-yang (33), the pitching coach, hopes that Kim Seo-hyun will continue to believe in his talent and move forward.

“(Kim) has a tremendous talent to play baseball very well. It’s a talent I don’t have even if I wanted to. I talk to Dongju all the time, too, and it can be a burden to be in the spotlight, but if you look at it the other way around, it’s an object of envy. Of course, it’s a burden, but if you stay humble on the outside and think of yourself as the main character on the inside, you can play baseball with more money and better treatment when they turn 30. Age is your weapon, and you have nothing to lose. You’re a pitcher who throws a fastball that everyone looks up to, so I hope you do it with confidence,” he said, soothing the junior’s sagging shoulders.

Kim Seo-hyun ⓒKyun Hye-mi Reporter

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