With the number of new faces in the Lotte Giants this season, the competition for each position is intensifying, and the first baseman position has emerged as the most competitive battleground. There are only 6 candidates.
The role of first baseman is to catch rather than throw, so it is a position that can be digested without difficulty even if the shoulder is not strong. That’s why the defensive difficulty is low compared to other positions. Instead, the first baseman is the most suitable position for big guns representing the league, such as Park Byeong-ho. For this reason, there is a high possibility that a player who is good at batting rather than defense will take the first base owner position.
Last season, Lotte’s regular first baseman was Jung Hoon. From 2021, Jung Hoon played as the first baseman for two consecutive seasons and played the most innings among team players. The first baseman in front of Jeong-hoon was Lee Dae-ho, the “4th hitter of Joseon.” However, as Lee Dae-ho came out as the designated hitter to arrange physical strength ahead of his retirement, Jung-hoon naturally filled the vacancy.
Jung Hoon has excellent defensive skills. His range of defense is wide and his catching ability is also stable, so he can catch bad throws as well. Even last season, he exquisitely caught a hitting ball that split the middle right with a diving catch, creating exclamation. However, his considerable age holds him back. Jung Hoon, who debuted as a professional player in 2006, is already 37 years old this year. It would be icing on the cake if Jeong-hoon showed his full potential this year, but it is very rare for a player in his late 30s to complete a season full-time.
That’s why Lotte needs a backup first baseman resource. There are numerous players on the list of candidates. Representatively, Han Dong-hee, Kim Min-soo, Lee Ho-yeon, and Jeon Jun-woo are on the list. In addition to this, in a recent spring camp practice game, Lotte put Koh Seung-min, who usually played as an outfielder, on the first baseman test, increasing the number of competitors.
Coach Larry Sutton narrowed down the candidates, saying, “Currently, the strongest first baseman candidates are Han Dong-hee and Ko Seung-min.”
Superficially, among the candidates, Han Dong-hee is most likely to take over as first base. Han Dong-hee is the successor to Lee Dae-ho, who retired last year. A plan to move to a first baseman with relatively less defensive burden is considered for a typewriter that needs to hit a lot of long hits and lead Lotte’s lineup. However, it is unknown whether a change in defense will actually occur, as Han Dong-hee himself prefers the third base he was originally in charge of. Han Dong-hee said, “I prepared for the first and third base defenses at the spring camp,” but said, “Since I have continued to defend the third base, the existing defensive position is the most comfortable.”
When Han Dong-hee is placed on first base, the Lotte infield team becomes a clean ‘traffic control’. As Lee Hak-joo continues to show good form recently, he can draw a picture of being placed at shortstop, the main position, and free agent Noh Jin-hyuk at third base. Lee Hak-joo was brought back by Lotte last year, giving away pitcher Ha-neul Choi and the 3rd round nomination for the 2023 season to Samsung to strengthen the center line. However, he did not perform well last season, and has been wielding a fierce fire bat since the beginning of this year. Noh Jin-hyeok alternated between shortstop and third baseman in his previous team, NC.
Excluding Han Dong-hee, the most prominent candidate is Koh Seung-min. Ko Seung-min, who wore a Lotte uniform in the 8th overall in the 2nd round of the 2nd round in 2019, competed for a position in the outfield with Hwang Seong-bin at the beginning of last season, and the ‘poten’ broke out late in the second half. Koh Seung-min recorded a batting average of 0.316 and a 5 home run OPS (slugging percentage + on-base percentage) of 0.834 in 92 games last year, and especially at the end of the season, she performed at the top of the league. He also succeeded in establishing himself as the starting right fielder by completely filling the outfield void left by Aseop Son, who left for NC.
If so, is an infielder an unfamiliar position to Koh Seung-min? Not really. Koh Seung-min has experience playing mainly as a second baseman in his first year as a player. If Koh Seung-min goes as an infielder this season and Jeon Jun-woo, a built-in outfielder, becomes the designated hitter for stamina, Ahn Kwon-su, Yoon Dong-hee, Kim Min-seok, and Hwang Seong-bin are expected to compete for two spots in the outfield. In particular, the three players, excluding Yoon Dong-hee, are showing off their quick feet, and Lotte is showing such an active performance that it is difficult to exclude any one player from the first team entry.
It’s a later date, but Na Seung-yeop, who is currently serving in the military at Sangmu, can also be used as a first baseman resource.안전놀이터 Na Seung-yeop, who wore a Lotte uniform with the 11th overall in the 2nd round of the 2nd round in 2021, joined Sangmu in May of last year to solve military problems. He is scheduled to be discharged after completing his service in November. He is playing mainly as a first baseman in Sangmu and is making a big success with a batting average of 0.300 and an OPS of 0.903 in 82 games.