KIA Tigers’ Kim Do-young, 20, who was projected as a starter in the opening game of the 2023 season, will start the season again as a backup utility.
Going into this season, Kim’s outlook was pink. Unlike last year, he went through a full spring training without any injuries and with a lot of his shortcomings ironed out, he put up a respectable .295 batting average and .831 OPS in 12 exhibition games, earning him the starting third base job. However, things changed in the opening series against the SSG Landers when he was unexpectedly sidelined for two months with a metatarsal bone fracture in his left foot.
At third base, Ryu Ji-hyuk was performing well with a 0.284 batting average and 0.367 on-base percentage, and shortstop Park Chan-ho’s spot was solid. Suddenly, second baseman Kim Sun-bin (34) was diagnosed with a four-week rehabilitation for a fractured right thumb. Upon his return, it became clear where Kim would play. In the recent three-game series against the Lotte Giants Future Team, Kim started playing second base instead of shortstop.
Before the game on the 21st, manager Kim Jong-kook said, “Kim Do-young has never played second base before, so I can see that she is clumsy and awkward. I thought Kim Do-young was a starter at the beginning of the season, but now he’s a backup. If there’s an opening in another position, he has to fill it. So I told him to prepare for second base (without Kim Sun-bin),” he explained.
He wasn’t worried about his batting. In three games, Kim bombed the Lotte Future Team mound with a .600 batting average, a 1.500 on-base percentage and a 2.192 OPS, including two home runs in 22 at-bats. The key is defense. Unlike Na Sung-bum, who accompanied the first team on the 23rd, the reason for his delayed return was defense. Manager Kim Jong-kook said before the game on the 22nd, “Kim Do-young looked awkward at second base defense again today. I think there are still some awkward parts such as batting judgment and replay. I think we need to train more and call him up.”
As such, Kim Do-young, who played third base last year and is preparing to switch to second base this year, has taken a different path from Oh Ji-hwan (33-LG Twins) and Kim Joo-won (21-NC Dinos), who have been called the best shortstop prospects of all time.
In high school, Kim, Oh, and Joo were all touted as five-tool players who could hit, run, and catch, as well as shortstop resources with tremendous athleticism. Not surprisingly, Oh was drafted in the first round by LG in 2009 and Kim was selected by NC in the second round in 2021. Kim Do-young was also selected by KIA in the first round in 2022. At the time of their selection, all three were seen as resources who could lead their teams as starting shortstops for the next decade.
However, no matter how good their defense was in high school, the professional stage is a different ballgame, and their start was a series of ups and downs. Oh Ji-hwan has been the starting shortstop since the 2010 season and has been making a lot of errors for a while, while Kim Joo-won has made more than 10 errors in three consecutive years since his debut in 2021. Kim Do-young also showed signs of needing time with his shaky shortstop defense in last year’s exhibition games. Their paths have been different since then. Oh Ji-hwan and Kim Joo-won made a lot of mistakes, but they persevered and earned their chances as starting shortstops in the first team. Kim, on the other hand, was given a chance at third base, a position that was relatively unstable due to the established Park Chan-ho-Kim Sun-bin keystone combination. This time around, he’s trying to make the transition to second base as the third base spot has been solidified.
However, it’s questionable whether Kim should be asked to play another unfamiliar position to fill Sun-bin’s four-week absence. Shortstop is one thing, but second base is another. Last year, Kim made more errors at third base (11 in 69 games and 407 innings) than he did at shortstop (2 in 28 games and 160⅔ innings), a position he was criticized for being unreliable at. Right now, even in the recent Futures League, Kim is feeling awkward in an unfamiliar dynamic at second base. It may take longer than Kim’s return to the lineup for this awkwardness to disappear to the point where he can be used in the first team. Kia realizes this, which is why they’re giving Kim a little more time and making a cautious call-up decision.
Kia clearly recognizes Kim’s potential. He has proven in spring training and exhibition games this year that he has the batting speed and physical ability to play on the first team, so they’re trying to slot him into a vacant position in order to utilize him immediately.
However, KIA also needs to look a little more broadly. Kim was drafted to be the next shortstop, not a second or third baseman. KIA gave up on Moon Dong-joo (20-Hanwha Eagles), who throws over 150 kilometers per hour, to take a second baseman in Lee Jong-beom. Kim’s good shoulders and wide defensive range are not enough for second base, and unlike shortstop, who has to look left and right, third base focuses on forward defense and direct hits, so his field of vision will naturally narrow over time. If you have a player you want to develop into a shortstop, it may be better for the long term to have him play full-time in the Futures League rather than rush him to second base and use him as a utility player with limited first-team opportunities.안전놀이터
It’s understandable that the team would be hesitant to break up the stable system of Park Chan-ho at shortstop and Kim Sun-bin at second base. It is certainly necessary for Kim Do-young to prove his talent upon his return, as he has yet to make a significant impact in the first team. However, shortstops who are responsible for the team’s 10-year future don’t come along every day. LG got national shortstop Oh Ji-hwan after years of investment, and NC was rewarded for its bold choice by sending Kim Joo-won to the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games in his third year. The time for KIA to make a choice is fast approaching.