Kiwoom Heroes Ahn Woo-jin (24) expected the performance of his junior Jang Jae-young (21).
An Woo-jin played 30 games (196 innings) last season with 15 wins, 8 losses and an average ERA of 2.11, growing into the best pitcher in the KBO League. He caught 224 strikeouts, ranked second in the most strikeouts in a single season, won two pitching crowns (ERA, strikeouts) and won the Pitcher Golden Glove.
In Kiwoom, there is a top-notch prospect who is expected to grow as the next-generation ace following Ahn Woo-jin. Jang Jae-young, who is the second-largest newcomer contract in the KBO league and the first in the club’s all-time rookie contract (900 million won), is the main character.
Jang Jae-young joined Kiwoom as the first pick in the 2021 rookie draft. Jang Jae-young, who has been attracting attention since his high school days with his fastball that easily exceeded 150 km/h, received high expectations from his debut season. But in his last two years, he hasn’t done much. He left a sluggish performance with a career average of 8.53 with 1 loss in 33 games (31⅔ innings).
There are no results yet, but there is no doubt about Jang Jae-young’s potential. His fastball of nearly 160 km/h and sharp curve are pitches that can overwhelm batters. The problem is that he is having a hard time catching the ball in real matches. He played more games in the strike zone than battling hitters.
Kiwoom believes that Jang Jae-young’s anxiety about ball control is due to his lack of actual game experience. So he was sent to Geelong Korea this winter to gain experience in the Australian league. The results were good. He recorded good results with 1 win, 2 losses and an earned run average of 3.30 in 6 games (30 innings). His walks per 9 innings dropped significantly to 2.70.
In an interview on the 18th, Ahn Woo-jin emphasized Jang Jae-young’s potential, saying, “(Jang) Jae-young is the best when you see him throwing the ball.” He said, “There is an image that I give a lot of balls, but when I pitch the bullpen, I throw it to the strike zone border line and the curve is really good. However, it seems that he is doing this because he has not yet adapted to the game and his motivation is a little ahead of him. He has a part where he tries to throw hard, so he seems to have a hard time getting his ball.”
The experience in the Australian league is expected to be a great help to Jang Jae-young. Ahn Woo-jin said, “I watched the video of Geelong Korea throwing this time, and it seems that he is very calm and his pitching form has become consistent, so I think he will do well this year. I wish I could play a lot with my older brothers, and I think it’s important to maintain well when I feel like I’m a junior with a good ball.” 메이저놀이터
After returning from Australia, Jang Jae-young said, “I played baseball more earnestly than I thought to make him feel comfortable. He has not shown anything so far, so I prepared earnestly, and I felt that if I do well here, the club will think well of me next year. Fans are expecting it, but if I can’t do it here, I think that expectation will disappear now, so I was more earnest,” he said, revealing his mindset when he went to Australia.
Jang Jae-young, who was equipped with a new pitch, a forkball, along with a pitching form correction in Australia, said, “I also made some modifications to the pitching form and threw a new pitch. The pitching form changed the feeling of throwing. Making the balance more consistent helped with control. As for the new pitch, I threw a changeup and threw a forkball. He threw a lot of forkballs at the end, but I think he hit it a little better,” he said, adding that he gained confidence in Australia.
Kiwoom has a solid starting rotation of four players, including An Woo-jin, Eric Yokishi, Ariel Hurado, and Choi Won-tae. However, as Han Hyun-hee signed with Lotte in the FA market and the contract with Jung Chan-heon has not been made, at this point, there is no clear 5th starter. Lee Seung-ho, Kim Seon-gi, and Joo Seung-woo are potential candidates for the 5th starting lineup, and if Jang Jae-young is added to this, Kiwoom’s starting lineup can become even thicker.
Jang Jae-young is making various attempts to find an opportunity to rebound, such as working as a pitcher in Australia. However, the way to maximize Jang Jae-young’s value is to fully develop his potential as a pitcher. Let’s see if Jang Jae-young, who expected a rebound from top-class ace Ahn Woo-jin, will be able to show a different side of himself this year.