Big league interest in Kiwoom Heroes’ Lee Jung-hoo (25) is heating up. As local media in the U.S. continue to report on Lee Jeong-hoo, even MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, is praising him.
MLB.com introduced the top 10 hitters in the Major League Baseball free agency market this winter on Jan. 17 (KST) and included Lee. Lee was the eighth player listed, with a detailed explanation.
“Lee is the most obscure of the 10 hitters, but he’s expected to arrive in the U.S. this winter,” MLB.com said, adding, “At just 25 years old, he’s a young slugger with an appealing array of skills.”토토사이트
Lee began his professional career in 2017 when he joined the Kiwoom Heroes as a first-round pick out of Hwimun High School. In his rookie year, he earned the team’s starting outfield spot and was named Rookie of the Year after batting .324 (179-for-552) with two home runs, 47 RBIs, 12 doubles, and an OSP of 0.812 in 144 games.
There was no Sophomore jinx for Lee. He continued his growth in 2018, batting .355 (163-for-459) with six homers, 57 RBIs, 11 doubles and an OPS of 0.889. His year was capped off with a gold medal at the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, where he was granted a special exemption from military service and won the Golden Glove for Outfielder.
The sky was the limit for Lee. In 2019, he batted .336 (574-for-193) with six home runs, 68 RBI, 13 doubles and an OPS of .842, and in 2020, he batted .333 (544-for-181) with 15 home runs, 101 RBI, 12 doubles and an OPS of .921.
In 2021, he hit .360 (167-for-464) with seven home runs, 84 RBI, 10 doubles, and a .959 OPS, setting career highs in every major metric except home runs and stolen bases. In winning the batting title, Lee made history by becoming the first father-son batting champion in Korean-American baseball alongside his father, Lee Jong-beom (1994 Hae-tae, batting .393).
Lee dominated the KBO in the 2022 season. He batted .349 (193-for-553) with 23 home runs, 113 RBIs, five doubles, and a 0.996 OPS, winning the batting title for the second straight year and earning regular season MVP honors.
After the 2022 season, Lee announced his intention to join his club Kiwoom for the 2023 season and enter the major leagues through the posting system. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of teammates Kim Ha-seong, who signed with the San Diego Padres in 2020, Park Byung-ho, who signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2015, and Kang Jung-ho, who signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014.
Kiwoom accepted Lee’s offer. Recently, the KBO requested a background check on Lee from the Major League Baseball office, which is expected to be the first step in Lee’s quest to reach the big leagues.
MLB.com had high praise for Lee, saying, “I don’t know how Lee will use his talents (in the majors), but his potential could be higher than any other hitter except for Shohei Ohtani.” They also said, “Lee is a legendary Korean hitter.
“Lee Jung-hoo is the son of legendary Korean shortstop coach Lee Jong-beom. His father was nicknamed ‘Son of the Wind’ during his playing days, and Lee is known as ‘Son of the Wind’s grandson’,” the article elaborated.
ESPN, another American sports media outlet, called Lee “the most talented Korean beast since Shin-Soo Choo,” and MLB.com also has a high opinion of Lee’s current market value.
Lee has also proven himself on the international stage. In his first 28 games as a professional, he hit .330 (35-for-106) with three home runs and 22 RBIs for the South Korean National Team.
At the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March, which is considered a showcase for major leaguers, he also showed off his hitting prowess, going 6-for-14 with a .429 batting average.
Lee was in attendance for Game 5 of the Korean Series between the LG Twins and KT Wiz at Jamsil Baseball Stadium on April 13, but he politely declined to speak with the media. It is understood that he wanted to keep his mouth shut until the publication process was complete.
In order for Lee to enter the major leagues, the KBO must officially apply to the Major League Baseball office for posting. Once Major League Baseball announces a player’s designation, he is free to negotiate with all 30 major league clubs for 30 days.
This is how this year’s National League Gold Glove winner at utility, Ha-Sung Kim (San Diego Padres), became a big leaguer ahead of the 2021 season. He chose San Diego because they included a minor league veto in his contract. At the time, the Toronto Blue Jays and other teams in need of infield reinforcements were bidding for Kim, but San Diego was the winner.
The Dodgers are reaping the benefits of their four-year, $28 million investment in Kim, as he has become a key part of the team’s outfield.
Meanwhile, MLB.com ranked Shohei Ohtani as the No. 1 free agent outfielder this winter. “Ohtani is the hottest free agent this offseason,” MLB.com said, emphasizing that “it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sign a record deal (as a hitter) even if he doesn’t pitch until 2025.”
The U.S. media has taken it as a given that Ohtani will leave his original team, the Los Angeles Angels. He is expected to sign the biggest contract in history, worth more than $500 million, regardless of which team he plays for.
In second place is 2019 National League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Cody Bellinger, who resurfaced this season. Bellinger returned to his big-league form in 2022, hitting .307 with 153 hits, 26 home runs, and 97 RBIs. His youth (he was born in 1995) is also a factor in his value.
In third place is J.D. Martinez, who has 33 home runs and 103 RBIs this year, followed by Jorge Soler, Matt Chapman, Teoscar Hernandez, and Rhys Hoskins.
Justin Turner, known to Korean fans as the “Ryu Hyun-jin helper” during his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was introduced after Lee at No. 9. Turner showed off his rusty skills this season with the Boston Red Sox, batting .276 with 23 home runs and 96 RBIs, but his age – he was born in 1984 – is a barrier to a long-term deal.