The Hidden Treasure of KIA’s Mound…I was called as much as Lim Ki-young, the revival of 27-year-old Madang Soe, ‘Park Jong-geun is gone.’

If you were to ask which pitcher made the strongest impact in the KIA bullpen in the 2023 season, most people would say Submarine Lim Ki-young (31). His first season as a professional bullpen pitcher was a strong one. He changed his grip on his changeup to make it untouchable. His 82 innings are the most by a pure reliever.굿모닝토토 도메인

However, there is another bullpen pitcher who has made as much of a contribution as Lim Ki-young. It’s right-hander Jeon Sang-hyun (27). He has appeared in 64 games this season, the same as Lim, but in only 58⅔ innings, with a record of 8-3, 13 holds, and one save with a 2.15 ERA.

Jeon Sang-hyun was part of the “Park Jong-gwon” system under the previous manager. He threw a lot and performed well, but he also suffered from lingering injuries. In 2021, he returned to the field about a month into the season with shoulder pain and made only 15 appearances. In 2022, he also had elbow and shoulder issues that forced him to take some time off. In all, he played 50 games and pitched 46⅓ innings.

This is actually the most games he has played since his debut. He was called upon a lot in the second half of the season, especially as Lim Ki-young tired a bit at the end of the season and Choi Ji-min went to the Hangzhou Asian Games. Despite his injury history, he only played 12 games in two consecutive weeks and one game in three. He finished the season healthy and under control.

In fact, he admitted that his pace was not good at the end of the first half, so coming back from Hampyeong to recharge helped him a lot. He also talked about being realistic, saying that it is important to find the optimal balance and delivery in the current state, rather than returning to the way he was when he was a professional.

“Your body is not the same as it was two or three years ago, and every player’s form changes a little bit every year. It’s never the same. He said that his body isn’t as mobile as it used to be, but he’s found the best pitching balance with his current body, and it’s paid off.

Instead, he took advantage of his long extension. According to baseball statistics site Statiz, Jeon’s average fastball velocity this season is 142.6 kilometers. While this is down from last year’s 143.1 kilometers, hitters have experienced better control and power than last year. Catcher Kim Tae-gun even called him a “tough pitcher,” which is a compliment to his aggressive approach to the strike zone.  

Drafted 38th overall in the fourth round of the 2016 KBO Draft, Jeon played 246 games for the Tigers. He has four seasons under the free agent threshold. It’s a blessing for KIA that he still has time to qualify for free agency. This year’s salary of 135 million won was well worth it, and along with Im Ki-young and Choi Ji-min, he will be well compensated. It’s hard to imagine a bullpen without Jeon in 2024.