Lee Jung-hoo (25) and Kang Baek-ho (24), who joined Kiwoom in 2017 and KT in 2018, have been touted as the next big thing in the KBO since their debuts.
Lee won the Rookie of the Year award in 2017 and Kang Baek-ho won the Rookie of the Year award in 2018 and was praised as a genius hitter. From their first year, their hitting prowess put them on par with established stars. Each year, they grew one step further. They competed together in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.헤라카지노
In the 2021 season, Kang batted 30-for-47 (179 hits) with 16 home runs, 102 RBIs, a .521 on-base percentage and a .450 slugging percentage. Jung-hoo Lee batted .366 (167 hits) with seven home runs, 84 RBIs, a .522 on-base percentage, and a .438 slugging percentage. Lee was the No. 1 hitter and Kang Baek-ho was the No. 3 hitter. They won Golden Gloves side by side.
In the last two years, however, the gap between Lee and Kang has widened significantly. Lee peaked in the 2022 season when he won the regular season MVP. He batted 30-for-49 with 193 runs, 23 home runs, 113 RBIs, and a .996 OPS, winning five batting titles (batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, RBIs, and runs scored) along with the regular season MVP.
Kang, on the other hand, was plagued by two injuries in 2022 that limited him to 62 games. He finished with a career-low .371 batting average with six home runs and a .312 on-base percentage.
In 2023, both Lee and Kang suffered midseason ankle injuries that limited Lee to 86 games, where he batted .301 with eight doubles, six home runs, 45 RBIs, and an .861 OPS. Despite playing fewer games due to the injury, his ratio stats were typical of Lee.
Kang Baek-ho played in 71 games this year, batting .416 with eight home runs, 39 RBIs, a .347 on-base percentage and a .763 OPS.
Kang, who represented Korea at the World Baseball Classic in March, faced criticism for a so-called “ceremonial out” in his first game against Australia. After hitting a double, he made a ceremonial run toward the dugout in pursuit and was tagged out when his foot came off the second base. Criticism was heaped on Kang as the national team lost to Australia by one run.
In the regular season, he played right field against LG in mid-May and was called out for a loose play. After catching a line drive to right field with the bases loaded, he made a sloppy throw to the shortstop that allowed the runner from first base to score.
Ultimately, due to the extreme mental stress, Kang played only 12 games from June to August and took a long break to recover his body and mind. He returned in September to compete for the Korean National Team at the Hangzhou Asian Games, where he won a gold medal and briefly put a smile on his face. However, in the postseason, he suffered an oblique muscle injury in the team’s Blue-Black game, ending his season. It was a string of bad luck.
In late November, American baseball statistician FanGraphs introduced international prospects from South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, and listed Lee as a “current superstar” alongside Japan’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Roki Sasaki, and Munetaka Murakami. Kang Baek-ho, on the other hand, is categorized in the ‘backward or injured players’ group, saying, “After showing tremendous power, Kang Baek-ho has suffered from injuries and health problems in the past few seasons.”
Lee recently agreed to a six-year, $113 million contract with the San Francisco Giants to play in the major leagues after this season. All that remains is a medical exam.
Kang will play his seventh season and be eligible for posting if he meets the roster limit next season. If he plays through the 2025 season, he will be eligible for free agency.