Hwang Dae-in (27-KIA Tigers), who has been struggling all season, is finally heading to the Futures League.

On the 29th, KIA announced via the KBO that Hwang Dae-in, Jung Hae-young, Sean Anderson, Kim Dae-yu, and Yoon Do-hyun have been removed from the first team roster. According to KIA officials, the players were sent to the second team to regain confidence, not because of injuries or other issues.

It was expected. Hwang was having his worst season this year, batting .212 (25-for-118) with three home runs and 18 RBIs in 36 games, with a .269 on-base percentage, .314 slugging percentage and .583 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). It’s hard to avoid criticism, especially given that the position he was occupying was first base, where batting productivity is crucial. Sharing playing time primarily with Byun Woo-hyuk (23), Hwang Dae-in finished eighth in the league in batting average (0.201) and ninth in OPS (0.583), making KIA’s first base look like a weakness.

He was a highly touted right-handed hitting prospect when he was drafted. He was KIA’s first first-round pick in six years after Ahn Chi-hong, the second overall pick in the 2015 rookie draft. He showed promise as a mid-to-long range hitter with decent contact ability and power. However, his talent was never fully realised and he had to settle his military affairs through the Korean Armed Forces Athletic Corps (Sangsang).

Upon his return in 2019, he was a member of the Platoon. In 2020, he had a career-high season with a .276 batting average and .798 OPS, but the following year he was still on the Platoon. Up until then, there was an excuse. Right-handed hitters need more patience than left-handed hitters to develop, and Hwang was not given a full-time opportunity.메이저사이트

Then, last year, under new manager Kim Jong-kook, he played more than 100 games and 400 at-bats in a season for the first time. He set single-season records for most home runs (14) and most RBIs (91), helping KIA reach the postseason. With a .256 batting average and .716 OPS in 129 games, he was the least productive first baseman in the KBO last year, but he couldn’t deliver from day one.

Hwang’s problem was always the same. Even though he had his own batting plan, he was always thinking too much. Whenever he overthinks, he ends up in unfavourable ball counts and is forced to swing the bat while being psychologically chased, resulting in ups and downs in his batting performance where he would have a good streak and then slump for some reason.

In mid-May, when he was in a slump, KIA power analytics coach Cho Seung-beom said, “(Hwang) Dae-in bats with his timing off, so he often gets killed by bad pitches or pitches he doesn’t think about. So I always tell him to do what he’s good at. I tell him to focus on the course where he can hit his strongest shots, and that’s not easy.”

In fact, Hwang isn’t the only one who can’t find a target. It takes time to establish your own strike zone and batting style, and even once you do, it’s easy to fall into a slump when you start thinking too much.

“Right-handed batters have a harder time adjusting than left-handed batters because of the (relatively) high number of pitches that go outside the zone. Anyway, there are very few hitters in the KBO who can hit both the inside and outside of the strike zone. So it’s important to know which pitches you’re good at and what type of pitches you can hit,” he said. “Dae-in (Hwang) and Woo-hyuk (Byun) are hitters who need to be in front of the strike zone. They are hitters who need to make long hits, so they need to hit the ball on a solid course with the correct strike point in front of them.”

Now in his seventh year in the professional first team, Hwang has already played 352 games and made 1179 at-bats in his career. He was the starting first baseman last year and this year, so you could say he’s already had over 1,000 at-bats. Compared to other right-handed hitters like Chae Eun-sung (33-Hanwha Eagles) and Yang Seok-hwan (32-Dusan Bears), who exploded their batting potential late in their 30s, Hwang Dae-in was unable to get on base consistently for most of his seven seasons in the first team.

However, he is running out of excuses. The league’s wait-and-see right-handed batsmen have gradually established their own batting styles around Hwang’s age and are starting to show results in the first team. It’s possible that he could fulfil his potential a little later, like fellow Futures League batting champion Moon Sang-cheol (32-KT Wiz), but KIA doesn’t have the luxury of having younger competitors already developing.

For the time being, Hwang Dae-in will have time to regroup in the Futures League. Whether that’s 10 days or a month is up to him. Can KIA’s fading right-handed big man turn things around for the rest of the season?

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