“Prepare for next winter. The best hitter in the KBO league is coming.” Lee Jeong-hoo (24, Kiwoom Heroes), a leading professional baseball hitter, is already receiving the attention of the major leagues (MLB). The American media immediately paid attention to the news that he decided to challenge the MLB a year later.
On the 20th (Korean time), MLB.com reported Lee Jung-hoo’s performance and characteristics this season in detail through an article titled “This KBO star will shake up the free agent (FA) market next winter.” In addition, “If you think the free agent market has moved quite wildly this winter due to the chain transfer of top players, then you should prepare for next winter as well. I hope for,” he said.
On the 19th, Lee Jung-hoo visited the Kiwoom club office and conveyed his will, “I want to challenge the MLB after the 2023 season.” Lee Jung-hoo, who joined Nexen (currently Kiwoom) in 2017, completes his 7 years with the end of the next season to qualify for overseas advancement through the posting (private competitive bidding) system. The consent of the affiliated club is required, but it is unlikely that Kiwoom will oppose Lee Jung-hoo’s MLB posting. Kiwoom has been actively supporting key stars such as Kang Jeong-ho (retired), Park Byung-ho (KT Wiz),토토 and Kim Ha-seong (San Diego Padres) to enter the MLB. An official from Kiwoom also said, “We support Lee Jung-hoo’s willingness to take on a challenge. We will discuss it early next year and come to an official conclusion.”
Lee Jung-hoo has established himself as the best hitter in the KBO league in name and reality over the past six years. He set a new record (179) for the most hits in a single season by a rookie while playing all 144 games from his first year as a pro in 2017. Even after that, he recorded more than 160 hits while exceeding his batting average of 0.333 every year, and in 2021, he also won his first hitting title (0.360) after his debut.
This season has been even better. He recorded a batting average of 0.349, 193 hits, 23 homers, 113 RBIs, an on-base percentage of 0.421, and a slugging percentage of 0.575 in 142 games, winning 5 batting titles (batting average, RBIs, hits, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage). As a result, he was selected as the MVP of the regular season this year, and he also won the Golden Glove in the outfield category for 5 consecutive years.
MLB.com also considers Lee Jung-hoo’s landing in the MLB a year later as an established fact. Photos and articles of Lee Jung-hoo were placed on the main screen of the homepage, and “Lee Jung-hoo’s father is KBO legend Lee Jong-beom (LG Twins coach). His father’s nickname is ‘son of the wind’, so Lee Jung-hoo is also called the ‘grandson of the wind’. “Lee Jung-hoo struck out only 32 and walked 66 in 627 at-bats this year. His career batting average was 0.342, the highest among all KBO league hitters who played more than 3,000 at-bats.”
In particular, he praised Lee Jung-hoo’s contact ability and recommended, “If you are a fan of Vladimir Guerrero’s ability to hit anywhere the ball flies, you can’t help but like Lee Jung-hoo.”
He also predicted that the World Baseball Classic (WBC), which will be held in March next year, will be a ‘showcase’ for Lee Jung-hoo. “Although the entry for the Korean national team has not yet been confirmed, Lee Jung-hoo, who was a national representative for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, is expected to participate in the WBC,” he said. “If Korea reaches the semifinals, it will play in Miami, USA. You will be able to see Lee Jung-hoo in advance.”