KIA’s first base this season has been nothing short of hopeless. Opening day starter Hwang Dae-in was sent down to the second team after batting .212 with three home runs, 18 RBIs and a .583 OPS in 36 games. Byun Woo-hyuk, who was expected to keep the starters on their toes by switching between first and third base, also fell short with a .196 batting average with four home runs, 14 RBIs, and a .687 OPS in 36 games.
Even Kim Seok-hwan, who was designated for assignment along with Hwang Dae-in, returned to the second team on July 7. In four games, he went 1-for-14 with a .071 batting average, two doubles and one RBI. Who would have thought that KIA’s top three first basemen would struggle in tandem this season, but suddenly, against SSG in Gwangju on the 8th, Kim Kyu-sung started at first base.
KIA’s batting graph has been on the rise since May. The variation from game to game is quite large, but considering the absence of Na Sung-bum and Kim Do-young, it’s a good sign. Through eight days, they have three players in the top 10 in the league in batting average (Kim Sun-bin at 0.321, Choi Hyung-woo at 0.318, and Socrates Brito at 0.316). In fact, they, Ryu Ji-hyuk (0.302) and Park Chan-ho (0.287) are the core of the offense.
However, Kim Sun-bin has an ankle problem, and Choi Hyung-woo is an indomitable veteran. Ryu Ji-hyuk was injured in the 8th game after rushing home. Ryu Ji-hyuk and Park Chan-ho have a lot of defensive responsibilities. The first basemen are in desperate need of support.
In this situation, it’s interesting to see the progress of Choi Won-jun (26, Commerce), who is on the countdown to return to the first team. On July 7 and 8, Choi started at first base in back-to-back Futures League home games against Chinjung KIA. Perhaps Choi will emerge as an alternative first baseman for KIA after his discharge on the 12th.
Choi played a variety of positions under former manager Kim Ki-tae, switching between two or three positions a day. He hasn’t played much at 메이저놀이터 first base, but he has experience. If Choi Won-jun starts at first base with the first team and performs well on offense, it could provide a healthy boost to the trio mentioned above.
The truth is, the KIA outfield is saturated. Anchored by Socrates, Go Jong-wook and Lee Woo-sung have been better than expected. At the end of this month or early next month, Na Sung-bum will also return. Socrates and Na Seong-beom are locked in. With Choi Won-jun locked into the outfield, Go Jong-wook and Lee Woo-sung, as well as Lee Chang-jin, who can switch between starting and backup, will be underutilized. There is no reason for KIA not to consider Choi as a first base option.
Choi’s bat and quick feet are very appealing. After his retirement, he should be the next big hitter and pillar behind Choi Hyung-woo, Na Sung-beom, and Kim Sun-bin. While his defense at first base will need to be proven, his recent transformation into a first baseman in the Futures League is intriguing in many ways.
If anything, his batting average hasn’t been great this year. In 27 games, he’s batting .214 with one home run, nine RBIs, 20 runs scored, and an OPS of .685. Even if Choi does end up playing first base after his service time, he’ll need his bat to break out for a happy ending. The number one thing KIA wants from Choi upon his return is run production.