The feeling of hitting is still the best. KT’s flagship hitter Kang Baek-ho seems to be continuing the sense that has been passed down since the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in the league.
The problem is defense. He, who has been only a designated hitter for the past year, will also take on the role of a defender, but he will go out into the outfield rather than the familiar first baseman. The outfielder is three years old. It is an important decision for the KT team as well as for the future of individual players. The biggest key will be whether he will be strong and show how much defensive ability he will have, and whether he will be able to maintain his current batting ability.
As of the 22nd, Kang Baek-ho is recording a ‘on-base rate of 100%’ in the 2023 KBO League demonstration game. He is showing an amazing performance, going 3-for-3 with 2 walks in 5 at-bats, although he has only played in 2 games. You can see how great his presence is in that the 2 walks are the result of pitching in which the opponent actually ran away.
Kang Baek-ho’s sense of hitting continued from the WBC in March. Although there was controversy due to an embarrassing shot during the ceremony in the game against Australia, Kang Baek-ho’s performance was outstanding apart from that. He went 7-for-14 (0.500) with 2 RBI and 3 runs in 4 games. The national team was eliminated early, and Kang Baek-ho also went through hardships, but his skills were certain.
After Kang Baek-ho returned to his team, he announced that he would become an outfielder. He expressed his desire to return to the outfield to manager Lee Kang-cheol, and manager Lee accepted it.
In high school, he played catcher, pitcher, infielder, and outfielder all-around, but after joining the pro, he focused only on hitting and fixed his position as an outfielder. However, in contrast to his batting ability, which was nicknamed ‘genius’, his defense was very unstable.
After 2020, when manager Lee took over, he moved to first base. It was because it was a position with relatively less defensive burden. He won the Gold Glove in the first baseman category for two consecutive years in 2020 and 2021, but his defensive evaluation was still at the level of a “failure point”.
After Byeong-ho Park was recruited in 2022, his place as a designated hitter was solidified. Park Byeong-ho was a first baseman who was in the limelight not only for his batting ability but also for his outstanding defense skills, so it was a natural procedure. Kang Baek-ho himself was injured several times and could not even dare to compete as a first baseman.
From his team to the WBC national team, Kang Baek-ho’s position, which seemed to be solidified as a designated hitter, was broken again by himself. Being hardened as a ‘designated hitter’ at such a young age is itself a ‘minus’ to him. Even if he achieves overwhelming results in batting, he is bound to be tagged as a ‘half player’, and his use within the team is limited.
There was a background like this for Kang Baek-ho to express his will to go outfield again. It is difficult to outrun Park Byeong-ho with first base defense right away, so it is a calculation that he will increase his competitiveness as an outfielder.
Coach Lee, who accepted Baek-ho Kang’s intention, plans to ‘test’ Baek-ho Kang as a right fielder in an exhibition game. Even in the WBC, there was little outfield defense training, so the outfield defense that goes back in three years is bound to be unfamiliar right now. In particular, the outfielder is a position where one mistake leads to a big crisis, so it is difficult to guarantee that the player will be put into practice even if he wants to.
First of all, Kang Baek-ho coordinated the feeling of hitting as a designated hitter in the last two games. Everyone knows that ‘Healthy Kang Baek-ho”s batting ability is beyond proof. In addition to this, if the option of ‘compliant defense’ is added, Kang Baek-ho’s value will inevitably rise in an instant. He can follow the example of Lee Jeong-hoo (Kiwoom), who became much more valuable after moving from right field to center field.
Even within the KT team, it is nice to see Kang Baek-ho,안전놀이터 who can play both an outfielder and first baseman. This is because the decrease in offensive power can be minimized while granting the designated hitter role to Park Byung-ho, who is older, and Anthony Alford, who is somewhat unstable in defense.
Of course, this is just an assumption when Kang Baek-ho received a passing grade in defense. This is why the remaining demonstration games are important for Kang Baek-ho, who must be recognized for his potential as a ‘defender’.