Choi Jeong (SSG) and Park Byung-ho (KT).
The KBO’s last homegrown home run king in his 20s was Choi Jeong (SK) in 2016. At the age of 29, he hit 40 home runs to tie Eric Thames (NC) for the league lead. Prior to that, Park Byung-ho (Nexen) was the top home run hitter in his 20s from 2013-2015 with 37 homers and 52-53 homers.
Kim Jae-hwan (Doosan), born in 1988, became the newest home run king with 44 homers in the 2018 season when he was 30 years old. Since then, however, the home run title has been shared by Park Byung-ho and Choi Jung. Otherwise, it’s been foreign batters. Over the past five years, no 20-somethings have even cracked the top five in home runs.
The KBO has dried up in terms of developing big hitters, so this season’s home run race is refreshing. Noh Si-hwan (Hanwha) is on fire. Noh smashed three home runs against KT in Suwon on the 9th to reach 26 for the season. He is now five behind second-place Choi Jung (SSG, 21).
Noh has played in all 94 games for Hanwha this season, hitting a home run every 14.3 at-bats. Assuming he adds another four in each of the remaining 50 games, that’s about 14 more homers, meaning he could break the 40-homer mark this year. If he has a late-season health scare, that number could drop a bit. With the league becoming a two-hitter, there are very few hitters who threaten to be the best at this point.
If Noh wins the home run title this season, it will be the first time in seven years that the KBO has had a homegrown home run king in his 20s. Born in 2000, Noh is a prospect that Hanwha has determined and pushed. Now it’s time for him to become more than just a prospect, but an offensive and defensive third baseman representing Hanwha. At the end of September, he was booked as the No. 4 hitter for the Hangzhou Asian Games. His three home runs, especially in front of Park Byung-ho, signalled a new generation of home run hitters. He wandered last year, but this year, he has adapted perfectly to the change of moving his hitting point forward again without being conscious of striking out, maximising his advantages. Potential has exploded.
Every team is desperate to develop a big gun. But it hasn’t worked out so well. With the development of physique and technique, fastball pitching prospects are becoming more common, but big guns are hard to come by. The most athletic prospect in recent years is Kim Do-young (KIA), who is said to be capable of 30-30, but he is far from a typical home run hitter.먹튀검증
This season alone, he is the only player in his 20s in the top 10 in home runs. No other player in his 20s has more than 10 home runs. Only Lee Jae-hyun (Samsung), born in 2003, has nine. At this point, it is clear that there is a serious thirst for young sluggers in the KBO.
That’s why Noh’s arrival is so welcome. There’s a lot of talk in and around baseball circles that Hanwha has done a great job with the rebuild. We’ll have to wait and see over the next few years. Like Choi Jeong-jeong and Park Byung-ho, he’ll need to be a dominant hitter for years, hitting around 30 home runs, before he can be considered a true giant. Neither Hanwha nor the KBO wants Noh’s home run parade to be a one-year blip.