Lee Jae-won has always been at the center of SSG Landers’ ‘Anbang’. The late-year prospect catcher who was aiming for the ‘second Lee Jae-won’ failed to blossom and chose to retire. Is a seismic shift possible this year?
SSG catcher Lee Hyeon-seok announced his스포츠토토 retirement from active duty. Lee Hyun-seok, born in 1992, is from the 1st round of the 2015 rookie draft. At that time, SK Wyverns (now SSG Landers) highly evaluated his talent as a catcher from a long-term perspective and nominated Lee Hyun-seok as the first choice. Even in the past, when it was based on regional connections, it was rare to choose a catcher as the primary designation. It can be seen that the expectations placed on Lee Hyun-seok were high. However, at the time of his entry into the party, his expectations did not become a reality. After his professional debut, he played in 24 games in the first team until last year, recording a batting average of 10.6 and 1 Lee (5 hits in 31 at-bats) and 1 RBI. He spent most of his time at Futures, and as he decided to retire ahead of the start of this season, he had a final meeting with the club on the 15th. He delivered the conclusion that he would stop playing baseball, and as the club accepted the doctor, he was in the process of retiring.
The main catcher line, which includes Park Kyung-wan, Jeong Sang-ho, and Lee Jae-won, is still in effect. Currently, SSG’s veteran catchers include Lee Jae-won, Kim Min-sik and Lee Heung-ryeon. Lee Jae-won and Kim Min-sik played in a ‘two-top’ system until last year’s first team game and the Korean Series.
With Lee Hyun-seok choosing to retire, there is, of course, a next-generation catcher prospect that SSG is counting on. It’s Cho Hyeong-woo.
Cho Hyung-woo, who was born in 2002 and joined with the 8th overall pick in the 2nd 1st round in the 2021 rookie draft, is currently the promising catcher that the SSG coaching staff is looking forward to the most. The problem is that it is still a process of accumulating experience. Cho Hyeong-woo, whose 2022 season is his debut season for the first team, has 57 days of registration for the first team based on the regular season, but only played 9 games. Last year, SSG couldn’t afford to give Cho Hyung-woo more opportunities. The process of running toward the championship while running for first place from the beginning of the opening. He had no choice but to rely on more experienced veteran catchers rather than young prospect catchers. Of course, Hyung-Woo Cho also spent a lot of time in the first team and gained valuable experience by watching and playing many matches, but the difficult aspects coexisted because the playing time was short.
Director Kim Won-hyung revealed his plan at this spring camp, saying, “I plan to give Cho Hyeong-woo more opportunities this year.” Based on his strong shoulder, he has the ability to throw and hit, so he has the qualities to become a punchy catcher. Of course, even if he gives a chance, it’s entirely up to the player how he seizes it. Cho Hyeong-woo prepared for the 2023 season by filling in his regret about the number of games played last season at Geelong Korea.
However, it is not that veteran seniors are just giving up. Lee Jae-won, who gave up his FA application and set out to restore his reputation, has been preparing for the new season more fiercely than ever before, and Kim Min-sik and Lee Heung-ryun, who need to secure more opportunities, are in the same position. Will SSG really be able to develop its next main catcher this year? More expectations are focused on the process of unraveling.