You can only receive a Rookie King once in your lifetime. So it’s even more meaningful. This year is a bumper rookie year. It’s early in the season and there are already nearly 10 Rookie of the Year contenders.
Before the season, the spotlight was on the Hanwha Eagles’ Kim Seo-hyun, 19, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the rookie draft. Since making his professional debut, Kim has been performing well as a reliever in the first team. She has already appeared in 12 games with a 2.08 ERA. She recorded her first professional save against the SSG Landers on April 12. In 13 innings pitched, he struck out a whopping 19 batters. He is averaging 1.46 strikeouts per inning.
In terms of performance, there are a few players who are ahead of Kim Seo-hyun. One such player is SSG Landers right-hander Song Young-jin (19). Selected with the 15th overall pick in the second round of the rookie draft out of Daejeon High School, Song has become a mainstay in SSG’s starting lineup. With a 3-0 record and a 3.95 ERA, he leads all rookie pitchers in wins.
Left-hander Yoon Young-chul, 19, who was selected by the KIA Tigers with the second overall pick in the first round after Kim Seo-hyun, has also established himself as a starter. He has started six games and is cruising to a 2-1 record with a 3.49 ERA. He has held opposing batters to three runs or less over five innings in four straight starts.
Ten wins in a start is almost a guarantee for the rookie of the year. In recent years, Ryu Hyun-jin (18 wins – Hanwha Eagles, now Toronto Blue Jays) in 2006, Shin Jae-young (15 wins – retired) in 2016, and Choi Soo-joon (13 wins – KT Wiz) in 2020 won the Rookie of the Year with 10 or more wins as a starting pitcher. If Song Young-jin and Yoon Young-cheol can win 10 or more games as starters, they will have an even better chance of winning the Rookie of the Year.
Among the relievers, Park Myung-geun (19) stands out as the LG Twins’ best pitcher. He throws a fastball that reaches nearly 150 kilometers with a side arm, and his strength is his nerves of steel that don’t waver in a crisis. As of the 23rd, he has appeared in 20 games with one win, three saves, four holds, and a 2.95 ERA. He leads all rookies in games pitched, saves, and holds.
Among the hitters, Kim Min-seok (19-Lotte Giants), who is expected to be the “next Lee Jung-hoo,” stands out. In 32 games, he has already earned a spot in the lineup, batting .260 with one home run, 13 RBIs, and six stolen bases. Lotte’s early season surge has garnered a lot of attention. Recently, he has been playing consistently as Lotte’s leadoff man.
The rookies in the middle of the pack are also making their mark. The KBO allows pitchers who have pitched 30 or fewer innings within five years of joining the league and batters who have accumulated 60 or fewer at-bats within five years to retain their rookie status.
NC Dinos right-hander Lee Yong-jun, 21, made his debut in 2021 but pitched only 23⅔ innings in the first team until last year, so he retains his rookie status. He has appeared in seven games this season, going 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA. Initially a bullpen pitcher, he has been a regular starter since stepping in to fill the void left by injured foreign pitcher Taylor Widener.
Doosan Bears’ second-year right-hander Kim Dong-ju (21) is also a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year. After appearing in 10 games last year and throwing 16⅔ innings in relief, Kim has emerged as the hope for Doosan’s starting staff this season. He has started seven games and is 2-2 with a 2.08 ERA. He ranks fifth overall in ERA among pitchers with at least 25 innings pitched this season and first among rookies.
Moon Dong-ju (20-Hanwha Eagles), a “second-year” pitcher with a 160km fastball, has faltered recently after being considered a “zero” candidate for Rookie of the Year. In seven starts, he has a 2-4 record with a 4.50 ERA. However, if he can find his form soon, he still has a chance to be the No. 1 Rookie of the Year candidate.
Other rookies to keep an eye on include Kim Dong-heon (19), who has been touted as the next big thing for the Kiwoom Heroes, and Moon Hyun-bin (19), who was a starter in the opening game for the Hanwha Eagles. 안전놀이터