Day two of the KBO is in the books! The Kiwoom Heroes, NC Dinos and Lotte Giants have officially won their Opening Day series against there respective teams. Both the Doosan Bears and SK Wyverns had some timely defensive plays to force the rubber matches against the LG Twins and Hanwha Eagles respectively. Aaron Brooks made his stellar KBO debut while Aaron Altherr recorded his first combo meal!
Miss some of the action from last night? Click on the links below to watch!
Now let’s take a quick look at some of Opening Day’s top performers.
Dong-min Han (RF, SK Wyverns): 2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI. The lefty slugger hit 41 home runs and drove in 115 runners back in 2018, but had a fairly disappointing 2019. Han exploded out of the scene back in 2017, going from a bland reserve outfielder to a premier power threat after huge adjustments to his plate discipline and an extreme pull-heavy approach (teams don’t shift as often in the KBO, so you can maintain a high batting average as a lefty pull hitter easier there than you can state-side). He seems to have found his power stroke early here in 2020, which bodes well for the Wyverns, who would love to see a return to his 2017-2018 form when he slugged over .600 in back to back seasons.
Chang-pyung Kim (2B, SK Wyverns): 1-3, 3 SB. The 19-year-old made his debut in 2019 and did not exactly hit the ground running, hitting just .178/.260/.222 in 53 plate appearances while logging just three extra base hits (all doubles). While the #8 hitter didn’t display much power, his wheels were on full display as he swiped bags in the 2nd, 4th, and 8th innings, making him the only player in the KBO with multiple steals through the first two games
Kwang-min Song (3B, Hanwha Eagles): 2-3, 2 R, 2 2B. It has taken 37 years, but age may finally be catching up Song. After posting three-straight .800+ OPS seasons and being an above-average player for Hanwha since becoming a starter in 2009 at age 26, the power wheels fell off in 2019 as he slugged just .357 and hit only seven home runs despite playing a full season. He still managed to slap a fair number of doubles and stole a career-high eight bases last year, but the Eagles will need to hope that he can find another renaissance if they want to avoid last place. These two doubles should at least provide a glimmer of hope.
Byung-hun Min (CF, Lotte Giants): 4-5, 3 R, 2B. The Giants added the former Doosan Bearsall-star outfielder via free agency back prior to the 2018 season and have to be happy with the move so far. He has seven consecutive seasons with a batting average north of .300 and displayed perhaps his best plate discipline yet in 2019, posting a 13.1% strikeout rate and a 10.0% walk rate in 420 trips to the plate. He has plenty of gap power to go along with decent home run totals and enough speed to threaten 10 stolen bases, making him an ideal lead-off man for the Giants.
Kyung-soo Park (2B, KT Wiz): 2-4, HR. While he’s not quite the threat he was back in his early thirties, there’s still a little pop and a .700+ OPS left in his bat, which makes him more than suitable in the back half of the batting order for the Wiz.
Aaron Altherr (OF, NC Dinos): 2-3, HR, SB. The former Phillie took just two games to record his first combo meal in the KBO! After flashing some serious potential by slashing .272/.340/.516 in 107 plate appearances in 2017, he fizzled out in 2018 and bounced between the Phillies, Mets, and Giants before finally crossing the Pacific and signing in the KBO for the 2020 season. Strikeouts were a major issue for Altherr in the majors (35.9 K% since the start of 2017), and he’s hoping he can solve that issue and help the Dinos make it back to the playoffs.
Dong-yeop Kim (DH, Samsung Lions): 2-4, 2B, HR. He actually went from his high school in Korea right to pro baseball, signing with the Chicago Cubs, but injuries and required military service brought him back to Korea and the KBO in 2016. He had very little fanfare upon his return but has been a solid hitter for the past several seasons and was traded to the Lions form the Wyverns. Injuries held him back in 2019 but he’s off to a strong start in 2020. He’s an aggressive hitter who rarely walks, but his pop and contact ability makes him a good DH in the KBO.
Jae-il Oh (1B, Doosan Bears): 3-4, R, 2B, 2 RBI. Oh is the premier power threat for the Bears and has flipped his bat for at least 20 bombs in each of his four seasons as a starter. He has hits in each of his first two contests so far, and his willingness to take a walk combined with his big bat gives him a chance to do a lot of damage to opposing pitchers day-in and day-out as the #3 hitter.
Hyun-soo Kim (OF, LG Twins): 2-4, R. He’s been a starter for 10 straight seasons, and has hit at least .290 in each of those 10 seasons. His career .321/.409/.493 line should explain why the Twins bat him third and he has two hits in each of his first two games to start the season.
Hyung-woo Choi (OF/DH, Kia Tigers): 2-4, 2B, HR. He has been a top slugger in the KBO for many years, though at 36, he’s showed some signs of slowing down in terms of home run totals. It’s not uncommon for Choi to walk more than he strikes out and with .400+ OBP in six consecutive years, he feels a lot like a Korean Joey Votto when it comes to getting on base.
Jung-hoo Lee (OF, Kiwoom Heroes): 2-3, RBI. After getting on base three times in the opener, he managed to slap a pair of singles and drive in a runner. The 21-year-old is already in his fourth season for the Heroes and should be a really useful young player for the Heroes in the heart of their batting order. His power doesn’t blow anyone way, but he has a bit of speed and terrific plate skills that will often give teammate and KBO superstar Byung-ho Park someone to drive in.
The second day of the KBO season saw several solid efforts on the mound. While some of the relief work we saw was commendable, today’s best pitching performances all came from the starters.
Gold: Ricardo Pinto – SK Wyverns
Pinto opened up his Korean career with an impressive start, giving up a run, three walks and three hits along with three strikeouts over 6⅔ innings on just 94 pitches in the winning effort. Pinto last played in the majors with Tampa Bay in 2019, only throwing 2.1 innings in two appearances while giving up four earned runs without a strikeout.
Ricardo Pinto, 95mph Fastball and 85mph Changeup, Overlay (synced at release) pic.twitter.com/lBt7nNVBZ8
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 6, 2020
Silver: Aaron Brooks – Kia Tigers
Brooks also began his career overseas with a bang, going 5⅔ innings giving up just one earned run on five hits with no walks while striking out six in the no-decision effort. The MLB veteran last played with Baltimore this past season, where he sported a 6.18 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP with 39 strikeouts in 59.2 innings.
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 6, 2020
Bronze: Seo Jun-won – Lotte Giants
Lotte’s starter Seo got the win against the KT Wiz behind a six-inning effort in which he gave up five hits, a walk and an unearned run while striking out two on just 83 pitches. The right-handed 19-year-old started his sophomore season strong after going 4-11 with a 5.47 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP his rookie year in 2019.
Lotte Giants SP Jun-won Seo gets the three-pitch K peppering the top of the zone w/ 89 mph sinkers (with some nice movement to em). pic.twitter.com/yjYobs9v0m
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 6, 2020
Honorable Mention: Lee Young-ha – Doosan Bears
Lee got the win for the Doosan Bears with a 6⅓ inning effort in which he gave up five hits, two unearned runs, two walks and a hit batter while striking out three over 96 pitches. The 22-year-old is coming off a subpar third season that saw his ERA balloon to 5.55 with a 1.65 WHIP in only 35⅔ innings pitched with 26 strikeouts, resulting in a 3-3 record.
— Adam Dubbin
Tonight’s Key Matchups:
Chris Flexen (Doosan Bears) vs. Chan-heon Jung (LG Twins): Former NY Met Chris Flexen will make his KBO debut against the LG Twins. Flexen features a mid 90’s FB that can touch 98 which, if Odrisamer Despaigne’s debut is any indication – should be able to have some success overseas. Look to see if his slider can have more success overseas than it did in the MLB (career .433 wOBA).
Won-tae Choi (Kiwoom Heroes) vs Min-woo Lee (KIA Tigers): Choi will look to continue to have success after two consecutive years of a sub-4 ERA. While Choi won’t impress much with his strikeout numbers, he very rarely gives up free passes.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)