‘Outfield saturated’, KIA announces Choi Won-jun as first baseman

Choi Won-jun was named as one of three wild cards to the final roster for the Korean baseball team at the Hangzhou Asian Games (AG), which was announced today. If the team wins a gold medal at the AG, the players will be exempt from military service. Choi’s selection came as a surprise, as he had already completed his military service with the Commercial Baseball Organization.

“Team performance is more important than military service benefits,” said Cho Gye-hyun, the head of the KBO’s Strength and Conditioning Committee, explaining that Choi can play both infield and outfield defense and is highly regarded for his ball, field, and run skills.”

Choi played full-time for KIA in the 2021 season, batting .295-82 with 40 runs scored and 40 stolen bases. He batted first in the team’s lineup and played 1163 and one-third innings in right field. In 2022, when he played a Futures League schedule with the Commerce Baseball team, he played primarily in the outfield. He batted .382 and led the Southern League in batting.

Choi Won-jun, Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes) and Choi Ji-hoon (SSG Landers) are the only three players on the Hangzhou AG national team whose primary position is outfield. Choi Won-jun will most likely get a spot in the outfield for AG.

On the other hand, Choi will likely play first base for his returning team. KIA currently has a crowded outfield. While their top hitter, Na Sung-bum, is rehabbing from a left calf injury, the backup outfielders, including Lee Woo-sung, Jong-wook Lee, and Chang-jin Lee, have filled the void well.

Na is expected to return in late June. Choi Won-jun has also joined the team. Kia head coach Kim Jong-kook plans to use Choi as a first baseman to effectively distribute power and maximize offense. “Choi Won-jun was an infielder before he became an outfielder,” said Kim Jong-kook. He can play both infield and outfield.”

Choi started 40 games and played 309 innings at third base in 2019 before becoming a mainstay. In 2018, he logged the most defensive innings at shortstop (205). He also blocked 157 and a third innings at first base.

Currently, KIA’s starting first base position 메이저놀이터 is vacant. Hwang Dae-in, who held the position for the past two seasons (2021 and 2022), was demoted to the second team this season after batting .212. Byun Woo-hyuk, who has taken over at first base, has also failed to impress.

Choi Won-jun is a proven hitter. He can also run the bases well. If he settles in at first base, KIA will be able to boost its offense at the position.

“I think he (Choi Won-jun) is more comfortable defending first base than third base,” said Kim Jong-kook. In his last game with the Sangmu Baseball Club, he played first base to get used to the position.” Competition in KIA’s infield and outfield is expected to heat up.

Choi seized the opportunity to increase his value. He can help AG win a gold medal as a starting outfielder and prove his “multi-position” ability by playing first base for his home team.

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