Hyungwoo Choi’s Last Tango? The fate of young giants is also at stake

Choi Hyeong-woo (39), the KIA Tigers’ leading hitter, is leaving for spring camp on the 30th, which may be the end of his professional life. This year, the second FA contract period of 3 years ends. It is not known whether he will put an end to his baseball life after the 2023 season or whether he will extend his active career. This year’s performance will tell. 

Choi Hyeong-woo’s two free agency careers 안전놀이터 were a hyperbola of joy and sorrow. After completing the 2016 season, he qualified as a free agent and joined the KIA Tigers after being treated for 4 years and 10 billion won, and achieved splendid results. In 2017, he posted a batting average of 3.4, 2 runs, 26 homers and 120 RBIs, serving as a pillar of the batting line and leading the unified championship. 

In his first four years of free agency, he posted a batting average of . 3.5 with 86 home runs and 324 RBIs. He was a special hitter with a slugging percentage of 0.552, an on-base percentage of 0.428, and an OPS of 0.980. In particular, as if ridiculing the aging curve, he rose to the batting title at the age of 36 in the 2020 season. The club also succeeded in his second free agent contract by offering a condition of 4.7 billion won for 3 years. 

However, an eye disease and thigh injury in the 2021 season led to a sudden drop. He went so far as to describe himself as “freaked out”. He sat down with a batting average of 2.3, 4, 12 homers, 55 RBI, and an OPS of .792. In the 2022 season, he also recorded a batting average of 2.6, 4, 14 homers, 72 RBIs, and an OPS of 0.787. He boasted an on-base percentage of over 40% in his career, but was only in the 30% range (.354-.366) for two consecutive years. 

Although it has improved compared to the 2021 season, it can be said that it showed signs of an aging curve (senescence). However, there were signs of recovery in the second half. In the first half, his batting average was only 2.27, but in the second half, his batting average increased to 3.14. I prepared for the 2023 season with a special heart. The pride of the leading hitter who dominated the KBO league is lacking. Lee Seung-yeop’s record of 1498 runs batted in is also in sight. He has 1461 runs batted in. 

Choi Hyung-woo’s 2023 season moves are also intertwined with the growth of his younger juniors. Managers say, “If you have one starting position, you can raise 2 or 3 players.” KIA has promising players that can be used as designated hitters. They are Kim Seok-hwan, a left-handed hitter, and Byeon Woo-hyeok, a right-handed hitter. Kim Seok-hwan plans to use left fielder and first baseman, and Byun Woo-hyeok as third baseman and first baseman. First baseman Hwang Dae-in can also be used as a designated hitter. 

All three hitters are potential candidates to succeed Choi Hyeong-woo. This year, Choi Hyeong-woo is expected to keep more than 500 at-bats in order to reap the meaning of the end. Conversely, if the aging curve comes like a wave, the ‘Post Choi Hyeong-woo’ plan can work little by little. Young players must be nurtured by giving them the water of opportunity. Hyungwoo Choi’s last tango is meaningful.

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