‘Moon Dong-ju→Kim Seo-hyun→Hwang Jun-seo’ 3 years in a row last place made ‘power 150km↑’, Hanwha Mound is likely to start with strong fastballs
The pain of finishing last for three straight years is turning into hope. The Hanwha Eagles’ mound, which boasts a “160 kilometer per hour fireballer duo,” has become even more colorful and elevated with the addition of “150 kilometer lefty” Hwang Jun-seo (18-Jangchung-go).
Hanwha selected Hwang Jun-seo, a third-year left-hander from Jangchung-go, with the first overall pick in the 2024 KBO Rookie Draft on Thursday at 2 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Chosun Hotel in Jung-gu, Seoul.
It was an expected result. Hanwha was undeterred by the value of Incheon High right-hander Kim Taek-yeon, 18, who was named to the relief pitching all-star team at the 2023 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup, which ended earlier this month. After the draft, Hanwha said, “Overall, it’s a satisfying draft because we got the players the club wanted. In the top rounds, we drafted two great left-handed pitchers in Hwang Jun-seo and Cho Dong-wook (Jang Chung-go) to strengthen our left-handed mound depth.”
Hwang Jun-seo is a highly touted left-handed prospect who has been a favorite to represent Korea since his sophomore year. He throws a fastball up to 150 kilometers per hour, a curveball, a splitter, and a slider. As a junior, he had a successful year, going 6-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 15 games, striking out 17 batters in 49⅔ innings (16 walks and one hit-by-pitch), and finished his high school career with a 9-4 record in 31 games, a 1.93 ERA, and 132 strikeouts in 112⅓ innings.
It’s easy to get caught up in his velocity, as he’s one of the only pitchers in this year’s draft with a fastball that can reach over 150 miles per hour, but he’s more about his command. He has excellent command of all of his pitches, placing them where he wants them, inside and outside the strike zone, inducing a lot of false swings from opposing batters.
He does have some work to do. He still hasn’t perfected his changeup, including a slider against lefties, so he’s getting hit more often as he moves up in the order. However, his frame is not yet complete, and if he can add more velocity and a changeup, he has the potential to be a dominant left-handed starter in the league.
This would allow Hanwha to field a five-man starting rotation with a minimum of 150 kilometers per hour (km/h), which is nearly impossible in the KBO. Typically, foreign pitchers are brought in to throw at least 150 kilometers per hour, and ironically, this is a possibility thanks to three straight years of last place finishes.
Hanwha, which finished last in the league with 46 wins, three ties, and 95 losses in 2020, selected Gwangju Gwangjin High School right-hander Moon Dong-ju, 20. After making his debut last year, Moon went through an adjustment period this year, posting a 3.72 ERA in 23 games with 8 wins, 8 losses, and 95 strikeouts in 118⅔ innings, and was selected to the Korean national team for the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, showing promise as the next right-handed ace of the Korean national team.
In particular, on April 12 against the Gwangju KIA, he threw a 160.1-kilometer-per-hour fastball against Park Chan-ho in the first inning, according to the KBO’s official pitch tracking system (PTS). Moon became the first Korean pitcher to break the 160-kilometer-per-hour mark in the KBO’s first division.
Hanwha, which finished last in 2021 with 49 wins, 12 ties, and 83 losses, has one more pitcher capable of reaching 160 mph. Seoul High right-hander Kim Seo-hyun, 19, made his debut this year, going 0-1 with one save and a 7.25 ERA in 20 games. However, Kim also showed promise in the first team, striking out 26 batters in 22⅓ innings while throwing a fastball that topped out at 157 kilometers per hour in PTS.
Add Hwang Jun-seo to the mix, and Hanwha has all the makings of a pitching rebuild. Unlike in the U.S. and Japan, pitchers capable of throwing over 150 kilometers per hour are rare in Korea. 스포츠토토
His mindset and work ethic are also excellent. After the draft, Hwang Jun-seo said, “I think I’m a pitcher with good command of my pitches and the ability to run a game. I also have the ability to strike out batters easily and easily.” He introduced himself and said, “I don’t care about the position. I want to be the go-to guy in crunch time. I want to win the team championship before my personal goals. I will pitch hard to help the team go as high as possible,” he said.