The list of first-team spring camp participants coming out in mid-January can gauge the competitive landscape. It’s an annual event for a main player with a solid position, but for backups or 1.5 team players, putting their names up is the first gateway to settling down or leaping forward.
On the 15th, the Kia Tigers announced a list of 36 players participating in the first camp in Arizona, USA. Right-handed pitcher Hoo-seop Song, who has only played one game in the first team, pitcher Lee Tae-gyu, who has been in the team for 5 years, catcher Kim Seon-woo, and infielder Hong Jong-pyo, who have been in the team for 5 years, have names that are unfamiliar to non-KIA fans.
KIA’s goal for this spring camp is to make the 메이저놀이터 bullpen players (depth) thicker. In the homeroom, Park Dong-won left for the LG Twins, and competition for the starting pitcher intensified. The infield also needs to find a starting third baseman and a utility backup player. Young prospective players who will make the claws of the Tiger Corps sharp and hard made their names through fierce competition.
However, rather than positions with new faces, the outfield, which consists of relatively well-known players such as Kim Seok-hwan, Kim Ho-ryeong, Na Seong-beom, Lee Chang-jin, Choi Young-woo, Socrates Brito, is drawing more attention. The reason is the opposite. This is because Ko Jong-wook, who has a lot of experience in the first team and is well-known, is missing.
Ko Jong-wook wore a KIA uniform ahead of last season (2022). Although he was released from his former team, SSG Landers, he was recognized for his contact ability, which recorded a batting average of 30% (0.304) in 856 games in his career, and got a chance to make a comeback.
However, the 2022 season presence was insignificant. He made only 62 appearances, mostly as a pinch hitter. He was not competitive due to his relative lack of defensive prowess. He left a good batting average (0.283) even in a situation where he could not play consistently, but he was pushed by other players in the first outfield competition of the 2023 season.
One spot in the KIA outfield is empty. Na Seong-beom is on the right, and Socrates is in the middle. Choi Hyeong-woo is sure to be the designated hitter. The most advanced player last season was Lee Chang-jin, who was also selected as the KBO League Monthly Most Valuable Player (MVP) in July. He appeared in 111 games and had a batting average of 0.301 (104 hits in 346 at-bats).
Kim Ho-ryeong is the best on the team when it comes to his defense. Kim Seok-hwan, who started as a starting pitcher in the first month of the opening season last season, is also poised to unleash his potential by accumulating practical experience in the Australian league throughout the winter.
Coach Kim Jong-guk tried to melt the baseball he pursued into the squad last year during his first season in charge. In addition, individual strengths and weaknesses were identified from the point of view of the command tower. It can be said that Lee Chang-jin, Kim Ho-ryeong, and Kim Seok-hwan, who joined the first team camp, got a chance to compete.
Koh Jong-wook can also join the second camp in Japan. However, it is true that the starting line is different. In the middle of the season, Choi Won-joon, who played as the main outfielder with a batting average of 0.326 in the 2022 season and 0.295 in the 2021 season, returns after completing military service. Even if a player gets as many chances as a starter, he has to compete with Choi Won-joon again.
The KIA failed to secure three main outfielders after Hyung-woo Choi was fixed as the designated hitter. Can there be a player who can solidify his position this season? Fierce competition is predicted even before spring camp begins.