Choi Jae-hoon (35), the Hanwha Eagles’ “Bangmaen,” smiled at strengthening the team’s strength this season.꽁머니환전
Hanwha finished the season in ninth place last year, after being at the bottom for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022.
Above all, the team’s firepower did not explode properly. Last year, Hanwha ranked the lowest among the 10 teams with a batting average of 241.
There are new faces all over the lineup. He signed a total of 7.2 billion won for 4+2 years with FA An Chi-hong.
He is a second baseman who can hit a batting average of .300 or double-digit home runs at any time. He hit 292 with eight home runs in 121 games last year, but analysts say he is still at the top of the league’s second baseman.
Expectations have also increased for foreign hitters.
Last year, Hanwha spent the season with Brian Ogredi and Nick Williams. Neither of them was a solid contributor to their performance. Ogredi remained at a batting average of .125 in 22 games, and Williams, who came as a substitute for foreign players, hit only .244 with nine home runs in 68 games.
Jonathan Peraza, the newly recruited batter by Hanwha, is a one-million-dollar slugger, which is the upper limit of foreign players in the first year. Born in 1998, a young outfielder from Venezuela, the club introduced him as a mid- to long-distance hitter who produces strong batting based on fast bat speed. Last year, he hit 23 home runs in Triple-A.
Ahead of the spring camp, Hanwha manager Choi Won-ho said, “The bat speed seems to be good, and double-digit stealing is possible,” adding, “I think the energetic play will mix well with the existing players, creating a synergy effect.”
In addition, Noh and Chae will be placed in the top lineup. Last year, Noh hit 31 home runs to become the “homer king.” Chae successfully signed a six-year contract worth 9 billion won with the Hanwha Eagles ahead of the 2023 season, and had 23 home runs in 137 games.
Choi said, “We need to maximize the effect of Peraza, An Chi-hong, Noh Si-hwan, and Chae Eun-seong. We discussed with the data team whether to put them in the 1st to 4th, 2nd to 4th, or 3rd to 6th. We will place data and maximize it together with the coaching staff.”
As the top lineup has been clearly strengthened, how much the bottom lineup keeps pace has become the key to maximizing team firepower.
Choi Jae-hoon clearly decided his direction to play according to this team situation.
Choi Jae-hoon said, “What our team didn’t do well last year was that pitchers and fielders were offbeat a lot. If a batter scores, the pitcher allows more points, and if the pitcher blocks well, the batters often fail to score points. Now that the players are better, I think there will be good results if we get on base in the lower batting order. That’s why I’m thinking about getting on base more. Then, I think it will make the pitcher feel more comfortable.”
Choi had a batting average of 223 and five homers in 114 games in 2022. He posted a batting average of 248 in 125 games this season, showing good offense as a catcher. Choi focused on raising his on-base percentage to 0.392 last year. Choi’s on-base percentage career high was 0.405, which was set in 2021.
Choi Jae-hoon said, “I paid a lot of attention to batting training this year. I am trying hard to score more points in my team. I have many regrets about batting, so I tried to fill that gap.” “I especially want to increase my on-base percentage. If I bully a pitcher, the batters who follow me will be able to hit more comfortably.”
Choi Jae-hoon said, “My first goal is to stay healthy and consistently for this season,” adding, “I think I will be able to fight for the best five teams this year. I will try my best to produce good results.”