KIA Tigers infielder Byun Woo-hyuk, 23, had his most valuable season since making his professional debut in 2023. He was the first-round pick of the 2019 Hanwha Eagles. KIA acquired him in a trade for two pitchers, Han Seung-hyuk and Jang Ji-soo. He is expected to be the center fielder of the future. In his four years with Hanwha, he played 50 games and 122 at-bats, all in the first team.
This year, he played 83 games and had 226 at-bats. He batted .222 with seven home runs, 24 RBIs, a .664 OPS, and a 2-for-6 slugging percentage with runners in scoring position. It wasn’t an honorable mention. He also struck out 74 times. But he was on the first team roster for 157 days. That’s a lot of experience. Of course, there were challenges.
He started off with a bang. On April 2, he hit a home run in the second game of the opening series against SSG. On April 22, he hit a grand slam against Samsung Electronics in Gwangju. Transfer student Shin Hyung-hwa seemed to be on the rise. He started as a first baseman and third baseman, but his bat kept getting hit by opponents’ infielders. In June, he had a good feeling, but he missed nearly a month due to injury and stalled.
At the Okinawa fall wrap-up camp, Byun Woo-hyuk said, “I felt that I still had a long way to go, but that didn’t stop me. I got a lot of chances for the first time. I had an early impact, but in the second half, I was injured when things were going well, so the flow was interrupted. I couldn’t get up when I needed to. I saw some good hitters and their slumps weren’t as long as mine. I knew I had to pick up the pace when things were bad,” he said.
In the offseason camp, he has been working on his seasonal tasks. He’s been sweating it out in sunny, warm weather, working on his homework, and he’s gotten some clues. I’m switching to a leaner, faster swing. He’s gained confidence that he can increase his contact rate without being fooled by pitches and produce long balls naturally with his natural power.토토사이트
“I’m changing to a simpler swing. I’m trying to increase my swing speed. It’s working well. The simpler and faster you swing, the less greedy you are and the better you can face the pitcher. I felt it in live batting, I got hit at the end and the ball was farther than I thought. That’s what I’m focusing on,” he explained.
He’s also working on his defense. “I’m working on my defense, half and half at third and first base. I’m still young. It’s better for me to practice third base than just first base. I’m also working hard at third base. I have to work harder because Do-young is injured. On defense, I’m working on my leg movements to hit the bounds, and I’m confident that I’ll be fine in spring training if I keep practicing all the time.”
He expressed his desire to reach 400 at-bats and double-digit home runs under the advice of seniors Choi Hyung-woo and Na Sung-beom. “Hyung-woo told me how to keep my defense simple, and Sung-beom told me a lot about my mentality. Next year, I’ll challenge for more than 400 at-bats. I also need to hit 15 home runs. The first thing is to pick the right pitches. Otherwise, I have to hit it and make it count. I also need to reduce my strikeouts to improve my average,” he said.
He also has an off-season training plan. “Now I realize how to use my power. I train separately during the off-season. It’s strength and speed, agility and quickness. I’ve been planning it since last month. When I get back, I’ll take a few days off and start. I trained more in the final camp than I have since I turned pro. It’s a shame that I worked so hard. I will keep that feeling.”
KIA already has a hole in its infield. First baseman Hwang Dae-in underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. Third baseman Kim Do-young suffered both a ligament tear and a fracture near the thumb of his left hand while making a head-first slide to first base in the APBC tournament. He was given a four-month diagnosis. Opening day could be difficult for both players. The presence of Byun Woo-hyuk, who can cover first and third base at the same time, is even more important. With the final camp, expectations for next year are growing.