’42-year-old outfielder’ goes to Hanwha…will he smile again?

If it weren’t for the Korean baseball organization Hanwha, none of this might have happened.

Hanwha used its fourth-round pick, which goes to the bottom three teams in the second round of the draft, to acquire SSG veteran outfielder Kim Kang-min.

While SSG’s removal of one-time clubman Kim from the 35-man protected list without any unusual action was controversial, Hanwha’s selection of the 1982-born outfielder, who will turn 42 next year, was also a surprise.

Kim Kang-min has been a real outfielder for a long time, not just a patterned outfielder, so it was possible. It was also a logical choice for Hanwha, which does not have a single domestic outfielder who can be categorized as a regular starter based on his performance in recent years.

It’s very rare for an outfielder in his 40s to actually play regularly in the outfield. In the 2021 season alone, when Kim was 39 years old, he played 567 outfield innings, but this year, he played just 216 outfield innings.

In fact, his 216 innings in the outfield in his age-41 season alone is impressive. There are few veteran outfielders in their 40s who are as valued in the outfield as Kim, and who have been able to play the outfield as a matter of course.

For example, Lee Byung-kyu, nicknamed “Red Tomah,” played 176 innings in the outfield for LG in 2014, his age-40 season, and then all but disappeared from the outfield. And Choi Hyung-woo (KIA), born in 1983, played only 107 innings in the outfield this year in his 40th season, despite still being a competitive hitter.

It will be interesting to see how much of a presence Kim Kang-min will have in the outfield next season.

Hanwha manager Choi Won-ho spoke to reporters after returning from the team’s final camp in Miyazaki, Japan, on the 26th and said that he intends to “utilize” Kim Kang-min in a variety of ways.

Hanwha has the most outfield defensive innings this year with rookie Moon Hyun-bin at 926, followed by Lee Jin-young (845) and Nick Williams (462). With the addition of new foreign outfielder Yonatan Peraza, Hanwha is still building its outfield.

Choi will keep Kim as a trump card in the outfield, where variables are inevitable over a long season. “I know his throwing ability is still good,” Choi said. In some cases, we think we can use him in right field as well as in center field,” Choi said.

The move also means more right-handed hitting options. Hanwha ranked ninth in the league in pinch-hitting success rate at .178 last season while most of its offensive metrics were down. The right-handed hitting options were particularly lacking, and the team is hoping that Kim Kang-min, who has a good batting average, can fill that void.

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