Second-year Yoon Dong-hui hits triple-double, rookie Kim Min-seok hits 2-for-7 with 12 stolen bases
- Joint 7-hit performance against Kiwoom on the 22nd
- Expectations for Lotte’s first rookie in 31 years
안전놀이터The Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization will be crowning a rookie champion this season. The main protagonists are Kim Min-seok (19), a ‘resignation idol’ who has been performing exceptionally well, and Yoon Dong-hee (20), a second-year player. It’s been 31 years since Lotte last had a rookie champion, in 1992 (Yeom Jong-seok of Donghwa University of Science and Technology), and the chances of winning the award are growing.
Kim Min-seok and Yoon Dong-hee combined for seven hits in the second game of the second half of the season against Sajik Kiwoom on 22 April. Lotte totaled 13 hits in the game, more than half of which came from the two rookies.
First up was Kim Min-seok, who started in the ninth spot in the batting order and went 4-for-5 at the plate. It’s the first time he’s had four hits in a game. However, he already has five three-hit games under his belt, so he’s not exactly a rookie. Kim opened the day with a hit in his first at-bat. Trailing 1-4 in the bottom of the second inning, he stepped up to the plate after the leadoff batter, Yoo Kang-nam, walked and took a six-pitch two-seam fastball from Hurado for a single up the middle. Yoon Dong-hee followed with a single and stole second base, but was unable to score as he was unable to follow up with a hit. Kim Min-seok reached base in all four of his at-bats before retiring the side in order in the bottom of the ninth.
Kim is proving his worth. Kim was the third overall pick in this year’s rookie draft, and the first outfielder, so Lotte had high hopes for him. With the exception of catcher Son Sung-bin, this is the first time in five years that Lotte has selected an outfielder with the first pick in the draft since Han Dong-hee.
Kim Min-seok was voted the best hitter in this year’s spring training, beating out all of the top seniors, and was easily included in the opening day roster. He did have his share of struggles, at one point striking out when his bat followed the pitcher’s pitch to the plate. But despite his limitations, Kim has lived up to the expectations of his team and fans, batting .274 with 24 RBIs and 12 stolen bases through 23 games, and is cruising to the Rookie of the Year title.
Yoon Dong-hee also had a big day at the plate. Batting first and batting in right field, he was perfect in the leadoff role, going 3-for-6 with a home run and an RBI. Yoon got a hit in the first inning before adding RBI singles in the fourth and eighth innings to complete her three-hit performance. Drafted by Lotte with the 24th overall pick in the 2022 second round, Yoon played primarily as an infielder in high school. Since joining the professional ranks, Yoon has made the transition to the outfield seamlessly and continues to rack up hits along with solid defence.
In fact, Yoon is one step closer to winning Rookie of the Year than Kim Min-seok. He was called up to the first team mid-season in April and has yet to get a regular at-bat, but his recent hot streak, coupled with the release of fellow foreigner Jack Rex, means he’ll be the starting right fielder for the rest of the season. With a .320 batting average, he will be the team’s top hitter if he gets his regular at-bats.
Park Myung-geun (LG), Yoon Young-cheol (KIA), and Kim Dong-joo (Doosan) are among the many Rookie of the Year candidates this season. However, if Kim Min-seok and Yoon Dong-hee continue their current pace, they could be in with a chance of winning the Lotte Rookie of the Year for the first time in 31 years.