Can Choi Ji-min (19), a prospective left-hander who performed overwhelmingly in Australia, become a hope for the KIA bullpen?
While Geelong Korea finished its 메이저놀이터 40-game ABL (Australian Baseball League) regular season schedule with an away game against the Adelaide Giants on the 22nd, Choi Ji-min, who left excellent results as the team’s closer, stands out.
Choi Ji-min participated in 17 games, the third most among Geelong Korean pitchers, posting 2 saves and 3 holds with an average ERA of 1.47, helping the team to win. He recorded the lowest average ERA after Koo Dae-seong (54), the “undefeated great” who pitched in 3 unbeaten games at the age of 50.
The grades were good, but the pitching was also excellent. When Choi Ji-min was an amateur at Gangneung High School in 2021 or when he was nominated in the second round (5th place) last year, his average speed was in the late 130km range and his highest speed was only in the early 140km range. However, he increased his speed during last year’s season, and in the ABL, he showed the appearance of a power pitcher who threw a fast ball of up to 148 km and threatened the batter with force.
Choi Ji-min, a left-handed pitcher with a short arm swing and good reception, has been evaluated as a ‘pitcher with good game management’ along with advantages based on a good slider and changeup. On the contrary, it means that he did not show any special advantages in his redemption. However, he received systematic training in the professional world, and the results of his efforts were finally shown in Australia as content and results.
The ABL is a league sponsored by the major leagues, so it is a place where experienced former major leaguers who need real matches with minor league prospects under each MLB affiliate visit. As competitiveness has increased in recent years, it has become a tough league. It is more meaningful that Choi Ji-min caught both rabbits with confident pitching.
Coach Kim Jong-guk and general manager Jang Jeong-seok, who flew to Australia and closely watched the KIA players active in the ABL, also took a proper picture. Coach Kim, who cited “strengthening bullpen depth” as one of the key points in operating the KIA mound this season, is rumored to have been pleased with Ji-min Choi’s growth.
Thanks to this performance, Choi Ji-min was included in the spring camp roster in Tucson, Arizona, USA, where 18 pitchers participated. KIA’s spring camp is divided into the United States (first round) and Japan (second round), and Choi Ji-min is likely to join the Japanese camp after undergoing physical strength, technique, and tactical training in the United States.
If Choi Ji-min shows a good figure through this spring camp and continues to perform well in real matches against Japanese and Korean teams in Japan, he is likely to play an active part as a first-team bullpen pitcher in the 2023 season. It is the Tigers bullpen that suffered from a ‘lefty famine’ because there were no left-handed pitchers who performed well except for Lee Jun-young last year.
If Choi Ji-min can show a further growth throughout the season following his appearance in the ABL, emerging as a new hope for the KIA bullpen will never be a dream.