KIA fans have been waiting for June 2023 with bated breath. Injuries at the beginning of the season prevented the team from building a 100% field strength, but the expectation was that by June, the reinforcements would be ready to go.
This was especially true in the outfield, where one of the team’s top prospects, Won-jun Choi, 26, who was the top hitter in the Futures League last year, was scheduled to be released in mid-June. He had been in the team’s plans since pre-season camp, and Kia manager Kim Jong-guk had memorized his release date. With his precise hitting and quick feet, there were high hopes that he could fill in some of KIA’s weaknesses at the same time.메이저사이트
In late June, the team was set to welcome back its top hitter, Na Sung-bum, who hadn’t played a single game this season due to a calf injury. Na signed a six-year, 15 billion won contract with KIA before last year’s season, and the investment paid off. He batted .320 with 21 home runs and 97 RBIs in 144 games last year, solidifying himself as the team’s center fielder.
When Choi Won-jun and Na Sung-beom returned, they were expected to form the outfield lineup alongside foreign hitter Socrates Brito, who was already occupying a spot. This was the picture everyone was painting, but as the season progressed, a “maybe not” began to form. Ko Jong-wook, Lee Chang-jin, and Lee Woo-sung took turns filling in for Na Sung-beom, and it was Lee, 29, who kept his spot by continuing to feel good until the end.
When Choi Won-jun came back and when Na Sung-beom came back, Lee still held his spot. The outfield spot is his. In 55 games this season, Lee is batting .323 with five home runs, 23 RBIs, and an OPS of .852. He’s also batted well in scoring position and has made a big impact in clutch moments.
While he’s had his fair share of “beautiful months,” this is the first time in his KIA career that he’s been this consistently good. In April, Lee had an OPS of 0.792 to keep his roster spot, and in May, he hit .302 with an OPS of 0.856 in 21 games to make the jump to the starting lineup. It didn’t stop there. As of June 26, he’s batting .351 with an OPS of .862 in 20 games, meaning he’s on the rise instead of falling.
Lee Woo-sung is a case of someone who has earned his spot with his skills ⓒKIA Tigers
Lee’s leap forward also sends a message to the team ⓒKIA Tigers
You can’t just drop a player with such good instincts. In fact, it looks like Choi Won-jun has been pushed to the bench. Lee’s adjusted wRC+ (wRC+), compiled by the statistical site ‘Statiz’, is 141.2. This is second on the team behind Choi Hyung-woo (158.8), surpassing that of Socrates (138.7). Considering he’s 13 at-bats shy of regulation, it’s safe to say that this performance belongs to Lee Woo-sung. Considering the expectations at the beginning of the season, it’s fair to say that he’s been one of KIA’s biggest discoveries this year.
Lee hasn’t been able to fulfill his full potential since being traded in 2019. He put a lot of pressure on himself, which contributed to a vicious cycle of not getting over the hump and underperforming. The fact that the 11-year-old player, who was selected in the 2013 rookie draft, is paid 55 million won, which is just over the standard salary for first-team appearances (50 million won), symbolizes Lee’s trials and tribulations.
However, since last year, he has decided to “not worry about what I can’t control,” and his performance has improved by sticking to a routine of coming out in the morning and training diligently. I had the best season of my career last year, batting .292 in 80 games, and I’m on pace to top that this year.
Everyone thinks, “It’s about time he sagged,” but Lee defies that notion. His hitting has been steady, with a .368 batting average in his last 10 games. In 20 games in June, he had only three games without a hit and only one game without a run batted in. Conversely, he has seven multi-hit games. He’s already instilled a lot of confidence in the bench, and his track record makes him an indispensable part of the starting lineup. Lee Woo-sung tore up the picture that everyone expected. But it feels good. The repercussions for the squad are not light.