“Yang Ji Suk’s self-appointed successor surpasses Lee Seung-yup and Kim Tae-gyun’s waiting list

I thought he was just another Sinestealer, but he’s becoming more and more prominent. NC Dinos’ Kim Hyung-jun (24) is becoming a main character in the fall of 2023.

NC defeated SSG 7-3 in the second game of the semifinals of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League postseason (best-of-five, best-of-three) at SSG Landers Field in Michuhol-gu, Incheon, on Nov. 23.

Kim Hyung-jun’s home run in the top of the eighth inning proved to be the game-winner. He hit an eight-pitch changeup off Moon Seung-won, who had pitched four scoreless innings, over the left-center field fence. The game was still close with NC leading 4-3 in the seventh inning, but this one hit tipped the scales in their favor.

After the game, NC coach Kang In-hwa was asked about the moment when he was sure of victory, and he replied, “Kim Hyung-joon’s home run in the eighth inning was decisive,” while SSG coach Kim Won-hyung expressed regret, “If it wasn’t for the three runs in the eighth inning…”.

It was a tongue-in-cheek blow, whether you were an ally or an enemy. Park Sung-seong (25-SSG), a teammate of Kim’s at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games in Incheon before the series, warned, “I think (Kim) has been to Hangzhou and has opened his eyes to hitting.” Park didn’t hesitate to praise his junior. Despite his 5-for-3, two-run blast that earned him Game 2 MVP honors, Park said, “(Kim) Hyung-joon is really good. I hit a changeup from Seung-won Moon and it was an outfield fly, but seeing him hit it was a different class,” he said.

He also shared an interesting backstory. “When I came to NC, my brother Ji-won told me to take a look at Hyung-joon when he came back (from Commerce). He often told me that he was the player who would succeed me, so I watched him play after he was discharged from the army, and he was definitely different.” He continued his praise.

As they say, Kim Hyung-jun is living up to the hype this season. He joined NC with the ninth pick of the second round of the 2018 Rookie Draft after graduating from Yonghwa High School, Segwangjoong High School, and Segwang High School. Since his high school days, he was considered to have the highest potential among his peers in both offense and defense. After his professional debut, Yang didn’t get much playing time due to the top catchers in the KBO, but with Kim Hyung-joon as his backup, the NC infield was recognized as one of the best in the league.

Despite injuries, both major and minor, this year, and a small sample size of 20 games with a .250 batting average, five home runs, 10 RBIs, and an OPS of 0.898, he was named to the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games squad. As one KBO team official put it, “Barring injury, Kim Hyung-joon will be the starting catcher for the Asian Games.” No other catcher in his age group had the skill and experience to match him. In the Asian Games, however, Kim didn’t have the offense that was expected of him, batting .167 (3-for-18) with a .378 OPS in five games. Instead, he played solid defense on the mound, leading South Korea to a gold medal and their fourth straight Asian Games title.

The lack of offense on the national team has manifested itself in extreme form on the club level. After hitting a multi-homer game in the wild-card deciding game against the Doosan Bears, he followed it up with a three-run blast on Sunday (Nov. 23) that sent SSG packing. Kim now has three home runs in three postseason games, which is tied for the second-most in a single postseason for a player under the age of 24. The top spot is held by Lee Seung-yeop (Samsung Lions) in 1999 and Kim Tae-gyun (Hanwha Eagles) in 2006, and he needs just two more to surpass the record set by KBO legends in their youth. 먹튀검증

“I felt like I threw cold water on the team by failing to bunt in my previous at-bat, so I was happy to hit an important home run after that,” said Kim. “In Hangzhou, I was off-balance, so when I came back to NC, I worked with my coach to get my balance back. So it feels good to hit three home runs in the postseason. I think it definitely helped that I played under pressure at the international tournament.”

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