Sixty potential Premier12 stars get the nodThe KBO announced the Korean national baseball team’s provisional roster for the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 on Monday.
Led by manager Kim Kyung-moon, the 60-man provisional roster includes: 28 pitchers, five catchers, 15 infielders and 12 outfielders. Only the players on the provisional roster will be considered for the final roster, a 28-man squad, which will be finalized on Oct. 3.
The Premier12 group stage, starting in November, will be Kim’s first international tournament as manager since he was re-appointed in January. The group stage of the Premier12 sees the top 12 baseball teams in the world ranking divided into three groups of four.
A good performance at the Premier12 is a must for Korea, as the tournament also serves as a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As Japan has already earned its spot as host, only two teams - the top finisher from the Americas and the top finisher from either Asia or Oceania - will qualify for the Games.
Korea is the defending champion in baseball at the Olympics, although it hasn’t been contested since 2008. Baseball was removed from the Olympics after the Beijing Games and is returning next year.
Korea will compete in Group C along with Cuba, Australia and Canada. Korea’s group stage games will be played at Gocheok Sky Dome in western Seoul.
The top two teams from each group will advance to the Super Round, which will be held in Japan.
Among the pitchers, the national team will be led by Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers and Kim Kwang-hyun of the SK Wyverns. The two pitchers have the most experience, as there are a lot of younger pitchers added to the roster.
This season, Yang and Kim are the top two domestic pitchers in the KBO. Yang has the lowest ERA among domestic pitchers at 2.40, while Kim has picked up the most wins among domestic pitchers, at 15, as of Tuesday 6 p.m.
Yang’s performance this season is impressive, especially considering that his ERA reached all the way up to 8.01 after the first six starts of the season. Despite the worst start of his career, Yang successfully made a comeback starting in May. Since then, his monthly ERA hasn’t exceeded 2.00, and in August he picked up three wins with a 0.51 ERA in five starts.
Kim is also having a great season. This is his second season back from elbow surgery. He’s already picked up 15 wins and five losses with a 2.54 ERA this season. Although he picked up two straight losses in his two most recent starts, he still kept up his stats for the month by picking up three wins with a 2.12 ERA in five starts in August.
In addition to Kim and Yang, Cha Woo-chan of the LG Twins was added to the provisional roster. Although Cha doesn’t have a low ERA like the two other pitchers, at 4.38 for the season, he is a veteran when it comes to playing for the national team and this season, Cha picked up his 100th career win in the KBO.
In addition to the veterans, the provisional roster includes a number of young pitchers, including Ha Jae-hoon of the Wyverns; Won Tae-in of the Samsung Lions; Jung Woo-young and Go Woo-suk of the Twins; Choi Won-tae of the Kiwoom Heroes and Lee Young-ha of the Doosan Bears.
Since major league players are not eligible to compete at the Premier12, none of the Korean major leaguers were added to the provisional roster.
Among the infielders, Team Korea is highly likely to be led by the Heroes’ Park Byung-ho, a former major leaguer. Park didn’t have the best start to the season, as he’s been struggling with wrist injuries and was even sent down to the Futures League in June. But he’s quickly picked up his pace in terms of home runs and performance.
By hitting four home runs during a game against the Hanwha Eagles on Aug. 27, Park is now the KBO leader in home runs, at 29. In addition to his achievement for the season, Park is also edging closer to tying the home run title record. If Park wins the home run title this season, it will be his fifth time, equaling the record of former Samsung Lions player Lee Seung-yuop.
As of Tuesday 6 p.m., Park has a 0.280 batting average with 29 home runs and 88 RBIs.
Along with Park, Wyverns’ third baseman Choi Jeong was also added to the provisional roster. Choi is another veteran slugger Korea can rely on. After the Wyverns’ 124th game of the season, Choi has a 0.304 batting average with 25 home runs and 91 RBIs as of Tuesday 6 p.m.
Surprisingly, national team regular Lee Dae-ho of the Lotte Giants was excluded from the provisional roster. Lee has been struggling this season with the new baseball and was recently excluded from the Giants’ entry for the first time since 2003.
Yang Eui-ji of the NC Dinos was shortlisted for catcher, along with Kang Min-ho of the Lions, Choi Jae-hoon of the Eagles and Lee Jae-won of the Wyverns.
Looking at the outfielders, 2018 Rookie of the Year Kang Baek-ho of the KT Wiz successfully made it onto the provisional roster. Kang had to miss the entire month of July due to a hand injury and surgery, but he is in better shape than ever. For this season, Kang has a 0.339 batting average with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs.
Along with Kang, 2017 Rookie of the Year Lee Jung-hoo of the Heroes was also one of 12 outfielders on the provisional roster. Having played in 125 games as of Sunday, Lee had a 0.326 batting average with six home runs, 68 RBIs and 168 hits. As Lee isn’t a slugger, his hits stands out as he is currently ranked second in hits, behind Jose Fernandez of the Bears.
Aside from the two young players, veteran outfielders - Min Byung-hun and Son Ah-seop of the Giants, as well as former major leaguer Kim Hyun-soo of the Twins - managed to get their names added to the provisional roster.
BY KANG YOO-RIM [email@example.com]