‘The 2nd Lee Jong-beom’ who did not meet expectations, will he be the starting pitcher next year?

The eventful year of 2022 in the KBO League is coming to an end. It is also meaningful to check how accurate the predictions and prospects raised ahead of this year’s opening are. Like the proverb, ‘the ball is round’, there are bound to be more missteps than hits on expectations or prospects. If you play 144 games in the regular season for 6 months, unexpected results will come out.

Ahead of the opening of the regular season, the player expected to be the strongest rookie of the year was KIA Tigers’ ‘Super Rookie’ Do-young Kim. Infielder Kim Do-young, from 메이저놀이터 Dongseong High School in Gwangju, joined the KIA as the first choice and received a down payment of 400 million won. KIA chose Kim Do-young, who was called the ‘second Lee Jong-beom’, instead of Moon Dong-ju, a right-handed fireballer from Jinheung High School.

In the demonstration game, Kim Do-young drew attention by winning the batting average with a batting average of 0.432, 2 homers, 5 RBIs, and an OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of 1.068. Recently in the KBO League, it was rare for a high school graduate rookie to become a first team starter in his professional debut season, but optimism prevailed that Kim Do-young would be different. 

Kim Do-young drew attention by starting as the first hitter in the opening two matches of the regular season against the LG Twins at the KIA Champions Field in Gwangju, the home stadium. However, he got off to a poor start, going 0-for-9 total with 3 strikeouts and never getting on base. 

During the month of April, Kim Do-young played 88 at-bats in 22 games, but was extremely sluggish with a batting average of 0.179 and 4 RBIs and an OPS of 0.445 without a home run. In the demonstration game, opponent pitchers challenged Kim Do-young to a head-to-head match, but as the regular season began, the pattern completely changed, focusing on manned balls with breaking balls. 

Kim Jong-kook has been using Kim Do-young as a major runner and a major defensive agent since May. However, it was difficult to regain the batting pace as Kim Do-young, who had absolutely no experience, appeared as a backup agent. Until June, Kim Do-young entered the plate sparsely and did not exceed the monthly batting average of 0.250.

As the summer began, Kim Do-young’s batting pace seemed to come back to life, but this time he was hindered by an injury. On August 17, while defending against SSG Landers in Gwangju, he suffered a torn right palm injury. Kim Do-young, who was excluded from the first team for 23 days, returned to the first team on September 9th. 

After returning from injury, Kim Do-young had a good batting pace with a batting average of 0.294, two RBIs and an OPS of 0.812 without a home run. However, perhaps because the ranking battle was urgent, coach Kim Jong-guk did not actively use Kim Do-young as he did in April. He was included in the wild card game, which could have been his first fall baseball, but did not play. As a result, Kim Do-yeong received many opportunities during sluggish times, but did not receive opportunities during good times. 

Kim Do-young finished his debut season with a batting average of 0.237, 3 homers, 19 RBIs and an OPS of 0.674. The WAR (based on the KB Report), which indicates the contribution to victory compared to substitute players, was 0.83, which was less than 1.0, and was far from winning the Rookie of the Year award. The rookie of the year was Doosan Bears bullpen pitcher Jeong Cheol-won.

This winter, KIA’s main catcher Park Dong-won moved to LG as a free agent, but there is no special reinforcement, raising concerns. If Do-Young Kim becomes the starting player only when he explodes his rich potential, KIA can gain new vitality. In 2023, it is noteworthy whether Kim Do-young will play a big role in air defense and take the lead in advancing to the top of KIA.

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