“They’re asking for a catcher here and there”.
Just a year ago, this was an unheard of phrase for the Kia Tigers. The Tigers have been plagued by catcher risk for years and have pushed to trade catchers here and there. Now, after the 2023 season, they are being asked to do the opposite. That’s how deep their catching depth has become. Catcher risk is a thing of the past.
Shim Jae-hak watched the catchers train at the Okinawa offseason camp last November and said, “They’re asking for our catchers here and there. Our catchers are very popular these days,” he laughed. “We can’t say yes yet because our team needs to look to the future and deepen the depth of our catching staff,” he added.
KIA has struggled to find a starting catcher in the last two years.
It signed Kiwoom catcher Park Dong-won at the beginning of the 2022 season. The deal included Kim Tae-jin, 1 billion won in cash, and a rookie second-round pick. Park helped the team reach the top five, but after the season, he became a free agent and signed a 6.5 billion won contract with the LG Twins.
When it became clear that Park Dong-won would be released, the team negotiated with Kiwoom again to acquire Joo Hyo-sang. They gave up a rookie second-round pick. The Twins entered the 2023 season with Han Seung-taek and Joo Hyo-sang, but their batting struggled and their defense faltered. Injuries also kept them out of the first team. Future Team catchers Shin Beom-soo and Kim Sun-woo were called up and held on for dear life.
In late June, Seo began to shine. 온라인카지노 Han Jun-soo, the 2018 first-round pick who returned from the military after losing 20 kilograms, was called up. He opened the season as a developmental player. When Shin Beom-soo and Kim Sun-woo were promoted to the first team, he continued to play catcher for the Futures, excelling in both defense and hitting. Shin was promoted to the first team on June 25 and made his debut in the starting lineup on July 5 against SSG Landers in Incheon, going 3-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs.
On the same day,
KIA negotiated a trade with the Samsung Lions to acquire veteran catcher Kim Tae-gun in exchange for infielder Ryu Ji-hyuk. Kim did his part in the offense as the starting catcher. Han Jun-soo also made his presence felt in the offense and remained as the second catcher until the end of the season. The Kim Tae-gun-Han Jun-soo system is now in place. KIA signed Kim to a multi-year contract for three years and 2.5 billion won. The catcher risk was neatly erased.
It didn’t stop there. In the 2024 rookie draft, KIA selected former Gyeonggi State catcher Lee Sang-jun in the third round. At the Okinawa finalization camp, Sang-jun showed off his long-ball power, hitting the top of the backscreen. On defense, he kept the seniors on their toes with his steady hand and bullet delivery. We booked him as a future starting catcher. In January, Kwon Hyuk-kyung will return from active duty. The catcher led the team to a 2-0 shutout in his debut in the 2021 season.
During the final camp, Shin Beom-soo was selected by SSG in the second round of the draft, but with Han Seung-taek and Joo Hyo-sang holding on, the catcher depth has thickened. It is expected that there will be fierce competition for the first team starting position from next year. Han Jun-soo, who has first-team experience and improved his skills in the final camp, is also aiming to become a starter. The competition for the backup spot will also be fierce among the catchers. It’s hard to call it a catcher’s kingdom yet. The young catchers still need to develop. But it’s clear that the catcher woes are over.