Try as I might to avoid attaching meaning to the term “backup player,” I can’t. The more the KIA Tigers’ keystone duo struggles, the more they look forward to the return of prospect Kim Do-young (20).
A graduate of Gwangju Daesung Elementary, Gwangju Dongseong Middle, and Gwangju Dongseong High, Kim was the last first-round pick selected by KIA in the abolished first-round draft system that ended with the 2022 KBO League Rookie Draft. A shortstop with quick feet and outstanding athleticism that impressed major league scouts, he was nicknamed “the next Lee Jong-beom.
Kia’s internal evaluation was no different. His top batting speed of between the late 160 kilometers per hour and early 170 kilometers per hour, along with Lee Woo-sung (29) and Na Sung-beom (34), made him one of the top three hitters. Cho Seung-beom, KIA’s power analysis coach, said, “Kim Do-young is very athletic. If he develops his hitting skills further, I think he will become a great player.” “He has a very good reaction speed and a good center of gravity, so he has a lot of power and distance for his size. With his athleticism, if he can establish himself in the batter’s box, he’ll be much better than he is now.”
However, due to a series of unfortunate injuries, he hasn’t been able to make any significant achievements in his second year as a professional. Last year, he entered the season unable to build up his body due to the COVID-19 pandemic and got off to a rocky start. This year, he broke his left metatarsal while running the bases in the opening series against SSG Landers and hasn’t played since.
However, watching KIA’s recent performances, it’s hard not to look forward to the return of the “backup” prospect, who is expected to return as early as July. This is because the minor disappointments of the main Keystone Combination shortstop Park Chan-ho (28) and second baseman Kim Sun-bin (34) keep getting stepped on. Such was the case in the 0-1 loss to Gochuk Kiwoom on the 13th.
The mound, which ranks fourth in the league in team ERA (3.65), remained strong. Ace Yang Hyun-jong, whose ERA had fallen to 22.74 in his last two games, pitched five innings of five-hit ball with six strikeouts and one run (0 earned). Behind him, Park Jun-pyo (1 inning), Jang Hyun-sik (⅔ innings), Lee Jun-young (⅔ innings), and Lim Ki-young (⅔ innings) also pitched scoreless innings to keep the game close.
It’s just that the bats didn’t help. After going 0-for-5 with a total of five hits, Kim Sun-bin, who batted fifth, failed to get another hit in his four at-bats 메이저사이트. He’s a solid hitter with a triple every month and an OPS over 0.7, but he’s been in a bit of a slump in June with a .200 batting average and a .562 OPS. In the last week alone, he’s batting .059 (1-for-17) with a .297 OPS, including a 0-for-4 day at the plate, which doesn’t bode well for a No. 5 hitter.
The defense hasn’t helped either. In particular, shortstop Park Chan-ho’s failure to catch Lee Jung-hoo’s (Kiwoom) grounder directly in front of him in the first inning led to the only run of the game. This was Park’s 10th error of the season, the fourth most among league infielders. Following his animalistic jump catch against Doosan in Jamsil on the 9th, Park is not without his standout defensive plays, such as chasing down Lee Jung-hoo’s fly ball in the third inning and snagging it all the way down the left field foul line, but his inability to catch balls that should have been handled is increasingly causing anxiety in the infield.
Unfortunately, this has been a recurring problem with the shortstop-Chan-ho Park-2B-Sun-bin system that has been in place since 2020. Chan-ho Park, the best defensive shortstop on the team, and Kim Sun-bin, a steady franchise star with a batting average of over 30% and an OPS of over 0.7 every year, have provided stability that makes it difficult for any manager to give up on them. However, Park Chan-ho has never posted an OPS above 0.690 despite making more than 15 errors every year (24 in 2021), while Kim has consistently made more than 10 errors every year (19 in 2021) due to his slow feet, and his defensive range at second base has become increasingly narrow. There is no point in maintaining the status quo in the absence of progress.
Kim Do-young is considered to be a talent who can shake things up in the hardened Park Chan-ho and Kim Sun-bin system. Although he showed shaky defense last year, the coaching staff knows that it was due to the COVID-19 pandemic that he was unable to complete his spring training. However, there is no denying that he is a player who should be a mainstay in the KIA infield one day.
His career stats include a .246 batting average, three home runs, 20 RBIs, 38 runs scored, 14 doubles, a .318 on-base percentage, and a .366 slugging percentage. If you look at the numbers on the surface, Kim is a backup infielder who isn’t expected to make much of a jump when he returns. But right now, KIA is in need of an infield shakeup that could come from a backup who has been praised by major league scouts and called the next Lee Jong-beom.