For the second year in a row, the NC Dinos have selected a right-handed “wild thing” (a pitcher with a fastball that needs work on his breaking ball) in the KBO rookie draft. Except for the physical condition, their strengths and weaknesses are similar.
In the 2024 KBO Rookie Draft, which took place at 2 p.m. on Thursday at the Westin Chosun Hotel Grand Ballroom in Jung-gu, Seoul, NC selected Whimun Go pitcher Kim Hwi-gun in the first round and Daegu Sangwon High pitcher Kim Sang-hyun in the second round, for a total of 11 players (eight pitchers, two infielders, and one catcher/outfielder each).
The most prominent name is Kim Hwi-geon. A right-handed fireballer with a sturdy build at 6-foot-2 and 105 pounds, Kim has a fastball that tops out at 152 mph. His fastball is the third fastest among high school pitchers this year, behind only Jang Hyun-seok (Masan Yongmago, LA Dodgers) and Lee Chan-sol (Seoul High, Boston), who both made it to the United States.
After being selected, Kim said, “I will return the love NC gave me a thousand times. I will give my right arm for NC.” He also mentioned his connection to NC, saying, “I was born in Changwon and played baseball while watching NC.”
Min Dong-geun, head of NC’s scouting team, said, “Kim Hui-gun is a special starting resource with excellent physicality and explosive pitches. We were convinced that he is a special fastball starter that fits the recent trend of the KBO league,” explained the reason for the selection. “We decided to nominate him by noting that he has the highest peak potential.” The NC club said, “Based on his pitching flexibility, there is a possibility of increasing his velocity in the future,” and evaluated that “his fastball is difficult for hitters to target.”
After the selection, NC head coach Lim Sun-nam said, “(Kim) is an exceptional starting resource with excellent physical condition, athleticism, and explosive delivery. I think he has unlimited potential. I did not hesitate to nominate him because I am confident that we can turn that potential into reality through the club’s development system.” “We look forward to seeing him on the mound at Changwon NC Park in the near future.”
Expectations are also high on the field. “He is a pitcher who throws a hard fastball that reaches over 150 kilometers per hour, and he has the DNA of an athlete from his parents, so he definitely won’t have any problems in life,” said NC manager Kang In-hwa after the draft. Both of Kim’s parents are basketball players, especially his mother, Jung Yoon-sook, who played for the WKBL’s Hyundai E&C (now Shinhan Bank), Kumho Life Insurance, and KB Stars.
The only concern is his pitching. In nine games and 34 innings pitched this year, Kim has a 2.12 ERA and 48 strikeouts, but she has 21 four-pitchers. “He seems to have issues with his pitches,” Kang said. However, he also expressed his support, saying, “I think it would be good if you evaluate good talent more highly than pitches.”안전놀이터
NC also invested a first-round pick in a fireballer last year. It was Gyeongnam High pitcher Shin Young-woo. Cooking hitters with a fastball that tops out at 154 kilometers per hour and a knuckleball, he showed great strikeout ability last year as a high school senior, recording 85 strikeouts in 50⅔ innings. However, he also struggled with his command, walking 43 batters on four pitches.
After making his professional debut this year, Shin is still adjusting to life in the Futures League, where he went 3-7 with a 6.14 ERA in 17 games. Although he is still working on his command, giving up 97 four-pitch strikes in 66 innings, he has proven to be a solid pitcher, striking out 83 batters and holding batters to a .197 batting average.
Kim isn’t the type of pitcher who can be expected to jump straight into the first team. However, once he’s adjusted to the pros and has some control over his pitches, he has a high ceiling that clubs are hoping to capitalize on. We can see the direction of NC through the drafts of the last two years.
“This year’s draft, like last year’s and the year before that, we tried to pick the best players left in the order in which we picked them, and we prioritized their potential rather than their current skills,” Lim said of the draft. “We actually stuck to our guns rather than pulling or shuffling positions because we had an immediate need. We didn’t stray too far from our expectations, and we’re pretty happy with the results.”