Professional baseball team Kiwoom Heroes called itself “lucky” to select infielder Choi Joo-hwan (최주환) in the KBO Secondary Draft.
Kiwoom selected Choi (SSG Landers) with the first overall pick in the first round of the KBO Secondary Draft on April 22 in Yangjae-dong, Seoul.
The secondary draft, which was revived this year after a two-year hiatus, allowed teams to select players from their 35-man protected list in the reverse order of their final standings for the 2023 season.
The compensation for players selected in the first through third rounds is 400 million won, 300 million won, and 200 million won, respectively, while players selected after the fourth round are worth 100 million won.
Kiwoom, which finished last this season, selected long-hitting Choi Joo-hwan to bolster its offense.
Choi Joo-hwan, who joined SSG as a free agent in 2021 after playing for the Doosan Bears, batted .235 with 20 home runs and 63 RBIs this year.
It was his second career 20-homer season after 2018 (26), but his batting accuracy left something to be desired.
SSG announced a major restructuring after the season and did not keep veteran Choi Joo-hwan, who has one year left on his free agent contract, on the 35-man roster.
As the news broke early on, Choi was labeled as the “biggest name in the second round of the draft” and ended up in a Kiwoom uniform.
Speaking to Yonhap after the second round of the draft, Kiwoom head coach Ko Hyung-wook said, “We decided who we wanted to take in the first through fifth rounds. Three of them, including Choi Joo-hwan, were players we had been waiting for, and two were unnamed because they fell out of the first round.”
On this day, Kiwoom selected Choi in the first round, followed by pitcher Oh Seok-ju (25-LG Twins) in the second round and pitcher Cho Sung-hoon (24-SSG) in the fourth round.
“Choi Joo-hwan is a versatile player, as everyone knows. I think he will fill the gaps in our team. We are lucky to have the No. 1 overall pick this year.”
Choi’s primary position at second base for Kiwoom is held by national second baseman Kim Hye-sung.
However, Kiwoom has been without a starting first baseman and designated hitter all season.
“Choi Joo-hwan can play second base, first base, and designated hitter. When we give Kim Hye-sung a break, Choi Joo-hwan can also play second base.”
“I was surprised by the sudden decision, and I received a lot of calls,” Choi said through the club, adding, “I will adapt well to the new team. Next year is an important year for me (to regain my free agent status), so I want to do well and become a player who can contribute to the team with good results.”
“They have a lot of young players, so I have a strong impression that they are a bright team,” he said of his new home, adding, “Even when we met as opponents in the Korean Series last year, I felt that they were a team with a lot of energy. (Kiwoom) senior Lee Won-seok is a year older than me in elementary, middle, and high school, and he just told me on the phone, ‘We met again, so let’s do well.
Oh Seok-ju and Cho Sung-hoon, taken by Kiwoom in the second and fourth rounds, are young pitchers in their mid-20s.
Oh has appeared in nine games for the first team this year with no wins and a 6.30 ERA, while Cho has one loss and a 6.43 ERA in two games for the first team.
About Oh, Ko said, “He throws in the low-to-mid 140 kilometers per hour and has good control. He didn’t get many opportunities in LG, but he has good control of his pitches, so we expect him to be a starting pitcher in our team.”
Cho Sung-hoon is a former prospect who was selected by the SK Wyverns (now SSG) with the fifth overall pick in the first round of the 2018 rookie draft.
“He’s a player with high growth potential. He was looking good, but then he injured his elbow and is rehabbing. His physical condition is good, and he has excellent pitches, so the possibilities are endless.” 슬롯게이밍