The potential of left-handed prospect Kim Jin-wook (21, Lotte Giants), who joined with high expectations but suffered confusion during the first two seasons, is gradually being revealed. He may follow in the footsteps of his senior team, who performed well out of the bullpen and made it to the starting lineup.
Kim Jin-wook climbed the mound following starter Park Se-woong at the end of the 6th inning when the team trailed 0-3 in the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO league away game against the NC Dinos at Changwon NC Park on the 23rd.
As soon as he took the mound, 메이저놀이터Jin-wook Kim gave a walk to the first batter, Young-su Oh, and seemed to be shaken. However, he caught the next hitter, Do Tae-hun, with a pitcher’s floating ball, and Ahn Jung-yeol, who had been playing with the battery until last year, also struck out three pitches. The 9th pitcher Kim Han-byeol also closed the inning by catching him with a ground ball.
The 7th episode went with a similar flow. Kim Jin-wook walked lead batter Park Min-woo, but caught Cheon Jae-hwan’s bunt ball and threw it quickly, putting the runner on first out from second base. Then, Park Gun-woo and Son Ah-seop were treated with a ground ball to the third baseman and a floating ball to the left fielder, respectively, to finish the 7th inning.
Kim Jin-wook was replaced with Choi Lee-joon in the 8th inning and finished the mound. On this day, Kim Jin-wook recorded no runs in 2 innings, no hits, 2 walks and 1 strikeout. In a situation where Lotte declared a rest for Pilseungjoong, such as Choi Jun-yong, Koo Seung-min, and Kim Won-joong, pitcher management was freed thanks to Kim Jin-wook blocking the second inning. Also, thanks to maintaining the score difference without further widening, Lotte scored 5 points at the beginning of the 9th inning and won 5-3 come-from-behind.
This season, Kim Jin-wook plays a role like salt in the Lotte bullpen. He has appeared in 7 games this season until the game on the 23rd and has 1 win, 1 hold and 0 ERA. Although the number of walks pointed out as a weakness is still high (7 walks in 9 innings), it is somewhat understandable except for the Incheon SSG game on the 4th (3 walks in ⅓ innings) on the 4th.
Instead, there is only one hit this season, and the hit rate is a whopping 0.038. As a result, his on-base percentage (WHIP) per inning went down to 0.89. Strikeouts are also recorded at a rate of more than one per inning (10 strikeouts in 9 innings).
Recently, in the situation of Lotte, where the starting lineup is going down after playing few innings, Kim Jin-wook is truly like Altoran. In the KIA game on the 18th, starter Park Se-woong took the mound with 2 outs in the 5th inning and struck out all 4 out counts. Two days later, in a match against KIA, he threw only 3 innings and pitched after Dan Strayley, who was demoted, threw 3 innings, 4 strikeouts and no runs.
Kim Jin-wook, who was expected to win the High School Choi Dong-won Award (2019) during Gangneung High School, wore a Lotte uniform with No. 1 overall in the 2nd round of the 2021 rookie draft. He boasted an excellent pitch with a fastball that exceeded 150 km/h, a slider and a curveball.
However, the past two years were a confusing time for Kim Jin-wook. He started as a starter for the 2021 season, then switched to the bullpen as sluggishness continued, and was also selected for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic team. Last year, he started again as a starter and made a good pitch in 7 innings and 10 strikeouts against NC on April 5, but he contracted Corona 19 shortly after and could not continue the good trend.
His pitch was excellent enough to strike out 97 in 92⅓ innings of his career until last season, but his 4 balls were also 95, which was more than the number of innings. Accordingly, ahead of this season, Pitching Coach Bae Young-soo ordered Kim Jin-wook, “If you have the confidence to throw into the middle, there is nothing to wish for.” In fact, he showed good performances one after another during spring camp or demonstration games, and he himself said, “It’s easy to play because it’s a fastball command.” And that flow continues into the season.
For the time being, Kim Jin-wook is planning to go out as a long relief player. Lotte coach Larry Sutton recently said, “With Seo Jun-won and Lee Min-seok out, we have been looking for a player who can play a long relief role, and Kim Jin-wook is doing an excellent job.” The player himself also focused on the role of salvation from the camp.
Lotte already had a player from Long Relief who joined the starting lineup, so it was Na Gyun-an (25). In 2021, his first season in the first team as a pitcher, he went back and forth between starting and saving, and started the season in the bullpen last year. On April 8 of that year, Sajik showed impressive pitching with 10 strikeouts and 2 runs in 5 innings against Doosan, and joined the starting lineup in August. From this time until the end of the season, he had a decent ERA of 3.33.
This year, he proudly started the season as the opening 2 starter, and as of the 24th, he is showing excellent statistics with 3 wins and an undefeated average ERA of 1.75. He is making perfect pitching as he proves himself in relief and rises to the starter position.
Kim Jin-wook can also step on this train. In fact, team senior Cha Woo-chan, who went back and forth between selection and salvation in his youth, advised him, “Don’t be disappointed if you went to the middle, and if you prepare well there, you will have a good opportunity.” As Cha Woo-chan said, Kim Jin-wook may have a chance to start again.