Lotte was once a typical high-cost, low-efficiency club. They spent a lot of money, but didn’t perform well. The high-priced veteran players could certainly hit and throw well. But the younger players behind them were slow to develop.
Clearly recognizing this problem, Lotte began to shift gears in 2020. They paid more attention to the younger players. This was the moment when the word “development” became Lotte’s biggest buzzword. After the arrival of Sung Min-kyu, the team did well in the rookie draft, and stories of young players’ development began to emerge, and it became a matter of survival when key players Son Asub (NC) and Lee Dae-ho (retired) left the team one after another.
It takes a long time to develop a first-team player. Now that the level of the KBO has improved, it takes more time and patience than before. Han Dong-hee (24), a fielder, and Kim Jin-wook (21), a pitcher, were the two players who would show the success of Lotte’s development. There was no doubt that they had great talent and could be the future of the club.
Han Dong-hee, who grew up being called the “second Lee Dae-ho,” made his first-team debut after being drafted in 2018. From 87 games in 2018 to 586 games in her fifth year, Han has gotten a lot of playing time. It’s a result of her own hard work, but it’s also a result of Lotte’s strategic push. It paid off. He hit 17 home runs in back-to-back seasons in 2020 and 2021, and last year he hit .307 for the first time in his career.
Jin-Wook Kim (2nd overall in 2021), who was able to turn a “last place” finish into a gritty, persevering performance, has also been playing consistently since his rookie season in 2021. The team strategically nurtured him by sending him to the second team for systematic training when his performance dropped in the first team, and giving him a chance to play in the first team when he showed some promise in the second team. With some good performances at the beginning of the season, it seemed like this huge talent was starting to shine through.
In fact, he was just a few steps away from becoming a really stable first-team player, and from there, he could become one of the best players in 스포츠토토 the KBO. It was clear that he was the closest Lotte player in his early 20s to reach that height. But just as they were expected to cross the final hurdle, a crisis struck for both players. Han Dong-hee’s hitting wasn’t as good as it was last year, and Kim Jin-wook, who had been going strong, hit a wall.
As of April 19, Han is batting just .232 with two home runs in 47 games this season. His OPS, which is the sum of his slugging percentage and on-base percentage, is just .601. His frustration is mounting as he has struck out nine times. His adjusted run production (wRC+) was 108.5 in 2020, 119.0 in 2021, and 129.2 in 2022, according to Statiz. This year, the expectation was that he would improve both his batting average and his long ball, but both have collapsed, leaving him with a wRC+ of 68.4.
Kim Jin-wook, who pitched an incredible 10 games in April without allowing a single run, also started to fall apart in June. On June 3, he allowed one run in 0 innings against KIA, two runs in 0 innings against KIA on June 4, and two runs in 0 innings against KT on June 6. He didn’t record a single out. He made adjustments in the second team, but on his return to the first team on June 17 against the Incheon SSG, he again collapsed with three runs in 0 innings. He hasn’t recorded an out in four games since June.
If the trend continues, both players will stumble in the step-up phase. First, Han Dong-hee and Kim Jin-wook must “graduate” from the system before it can move on to the next player, and their setbacks could be a setback for the Lotte system as a whole. However, Lotte head coach Larry Sutton remains optimistic about the future of both players. Han Dong-hee is headed in the right direction, and Kim Jin-wook has been aggressively pitching until the second inning after a poor outing on the 17th.
The numerical data isn’t too bad either. According to Trackman, which provides tracking data for all nine KBO clubs, Han’s average bat speed last year, when he had his highest wRC+, was 143.1 kilometers per hour. This year, his average bat speed is 142.7 kilometers per hour, which is not much different from last year.
Last year, she had a jagged launch angle, but this year, she’s been able to get the ball in the air consistently. Last year, the average launch angle was 3.7 degrees, while this year it’s up to 10.6 degrees. As a result, I’m seeing a decrease in my ground ball rate. If he can get his changeup up a bit more, he’ll be on his way to ideal numbers. As Sutton says, Han is on the right track. It may just take some time for the results to come.
Kim Jin-wook also had a rough outing on the 17th, but showed good power with the ball, averaging 147.1 km per hour on his four-seam fastball according to Trackman. This is much faster than the 144.5 kilometers in his last game, against KT in June. It’s definitely a sign that the rest and adjustment in the second team went well. There’s still plenty of time and opportunity to get back on track if they do it quickly.