Choi Ji-min (20) of the KIA Tigers has rapidly improved his speed, pitch, and confidence in just one year.
Choi Ji-min played the most innings in a game after joining the pro in the match against the leading SSG Landers held at home in Gwangju on the 10th. In the beginning of the 4th inning, when he was turned 3-4, he got on the mound with 1 out, 2nd and 3rd base Kim Min-sik, 1 ball at bat, and scored 2 hits and no runs in 2 and 2/3 innings. On the 14th, against the Doosan Bears in Jamsil, he took over the mound from Yang Hyeon-jong at the end of the 6th inning, where he was behind 0-3, with 1 out, 1st and 2nd base, and gave up a runner’s run with a surprise bunt hit by the opponent, but hit key hitters such as Jeong Su-bin and Yang Eui-ji. It was dealt with and the inning ended.
It is very different from a year ago.
Choi Ji-min, from Gangneung High School, was nominated by the KIA in the 5th overall in the first round last year and joined the team. He was sluggish with an earned run average of 13.50 in a total of six games. In 6 innings, he allowed 12 hits and 6 walks on 4 balls, realizing the high wall of a professional. His four-seam fastball had a top speed of 143 km/h and an average speed of 141.1 km/h (based on Sports To Eye). His speed, pitch, and grades did not live up to expectations.
Choi Ji-min became a ‘Fireballer’ this year.
On April 30, against the LG Twins, he took the 150 km for the first time in his life and also raised his first hold in his debut. The average velocity of a four-seam fastball this season was 144.8 km, up about 4 km from last year. He has the fastest ball among the left-handed bullpens on the team.
Choi Ji-min said, “I worked hard on the program given by the 2nd team, and gained confidence in the Australian professional baseball league Geelong Korea (17 games, 2 saves, 3 holds, average ERA of 1.47).”
Grades also improved significantly. He has a 1.53 earned run average with 1 hold in 14 games this season. He is increasingly used in critical situations. He’s stable and powerful, as shown by his batting average (0.228) and on-base percentage (1.08) per inning.
Choi Ji-min said, “Last year, I had to play the course well to play against the batters. However, as my speed increased, there were times this season when I couldn’t hit even if I threw it into the middle.” I feel that I have improved from last year,” he said proudly.
KIA coach Kim Jong-guk praised him, saying, “The pitch is good (the range of use) is not limited to left-handed batters. (In the future) it is possible to start and finish.” 메이저놀이터
Choi Ji-min is often mentioned along with Kim Jin-wook, a one-year senior at Gangneung High School. Kim Jin-wook joined Lotte after receiving the first overall nomination in the first round of 2021, and is bursting with potential this year. Both are left-handed pitchers. Choi Ji-min said, “If we throw each other well, we send and receive the message ‘Nice ball’. We usually contact each other often.” This season, Choi Ji-min and Kim Jin-wook competed for pride as bullpen pitchers three times in one game.
Choi Ji-min said, “It was fun when we pitched together. I wanted to throw better and longer than my brother,” and “I hope both of them will have good results.” Choi Ji-min scored 4 scoreless innings in 3 games against Lotte, and Kim Jin-wook took the mound 4 times against KIA, recording 2 wins and an average ERA of 3.18 (2 runs in 5 and 2/3 innings).
On the 9th, Choi Ji-min personally watched the 7th starting matchup between left-hander Yang Hyeon-jong (KIA, 8 innings, no runs) and Kim Gwang-hyun (6 innings, 3 runs), representing the KBO League. He said, “The two seniors formed a rivalry since they were rookies, and it was really cool, and (looking at it up close) it was amazing.