In the 2024 KBO rookie draft, there were several hot players regardless of the order of nomination. A representative player is Jung Hyun-soo (22), a left-handed pitcher from Songwon University who became known through the JTBC baseball entertainment program ‘Best Baseball.’
Hyunsoo Jeong was selected by the Lotte Giants as the 13th overall pick in the second round of the 2024 KBO rookie draft held at the Westin Chosun Hotel in Jung-gu, Seoul on the 14th. Among the players appearing in Strongest Baseball, not only Jung Hyun-soo, but also infielders Hwang Young-mook (Yeoncheon Miracle) and Ko Young-woo (Sungkyunkwan University) were selected by the Hanwha Eagles (31st pick in the 4th round) and Kiwoom Heroes (39th pick in the 4th round), respectively.
As expected, attention is focused on Jeong Hyun-soo. Among the best baseball players of all time, he had the highest nomination ranking. In last year’s rookie draft, catcher Yoon Jun-ho and infielder Ryu Hyun-in, who played in the best baseball league, were selected by the Doosan Bears (49th overall in the 5th round) and KT Wiz (70th overall in the 7th round), respectively.
Hyunsoo Jeong had high expectations for his top pick even before his rookie draft. Apart from being a top baseball player, he made a name for himself as a top pitcher in college baseball. The final selection ranking was the 2nd round, but some experts predicted the possibility of being selected as a lower 1st round pick.
He appeared in 12 games in 2021 and recorded 6 wins, 1 loss, and an ERA of 2.29, and in 2022, he appeared in 19 games and recorded 10 wins, 1 loss, and an ERA of 3.58. Although his earned run average was somewhat high, he struck out 129 batters in 83⅓ innings. He pitched in 11 games this year, recording 4 wins, 2 losses, and an ERA of 2.09. He pitched 42⅔ innings, striking out 75.
Jeong Hyun-soo’s strength is that he is a left-handed pitcher and uses a variety of breaking pitches, such as a slider, change-up, and curve. In particular, a curve with a large drop that catches the batter off guard is a powerful main weapon. He gets most of his strikeouts via curveball. His pitch control is not bad, with an average of 3.59 walks allowed per 9 innings this year.
However, some Lotte fans are raising concerns that Jung Hyun-soo’s skills have been inflated compared to his actual size due to the broadcast effect. It may be a hasty judgment as he has only been playing for a year, but it is also true that the rookie players from the strongest안전놀이터 baseball teams last year did not show remarkable performance.
Hyunsoo Jeong’s weaknesses are as clear as his strengths. In addition to his small physique, his fast ball speed is only in the low 140 km/h range. In a situation where there are many high school graduate pitchers who throw fastballs in the 150 km/h range, there is clearly some disappointment regarding velocity. In addition, Hyun-soo Jeong pitched 83⅓ innings, which is unusual for a college player in 2022. He has been followed around like a tag by abuse controversy over the fact that he threw 567 pitches in 13 days.
Hyunsoo Jeong is a college athlete. As soon as he becomes a pro, he must immediately prove that he is a force, and the reason why Lotte selected Hyun-soo Jeong is clear. He wants to help the team’s left-handed bullpen, which is lacking. Lotte is suffering from a chronic thirst for left-handers. The only left-handed pitchers who played on the Lotte mound this season are Kim Jin-wook and Shim Jae-min, who was traded from KT Wiz last May. Shim Jae-min lived up to expectations, but Kim Jin-wook was so disappointed that his ERA was as high as 5.86. In particular, chronic control anxiety has not been resolved.
Jeong Hyun-soo is definitely a player that Lotte needs. The fact that he is from Busan is also an attractive factor for Lotte. Hyunsoo Jeong attended the beginning of the year, Busan Middle School, and Busan High School.
Hyunsoo Jeong also knows very well that Lotte has high expectations for him. In an interview after being nominated, Jeong Hyeon-soo said, “I am excited to return to my hometown,” and added, “It is important to work hard in the future, but I want to become a good player.” He added, “I just thought that it would be better to be selected unconditionally rather than to be ranked in a few positions,” and “I just thought that only then would I be able to play professionally again.”
Will Jung Hyun-soo be able to put all the controversies and concerns behind him and replicate the skills he displayed in ‘Best Baseball’ on the professional stage? It’s an interesting highlight of next year’s professional baseball.