“I was really happy when I was first told I made the national team.”
Jang Hyun-seok (19-Masan Yongmago), the only amateur player on the Korean national baseball team, has vowed to do his best at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games.
Jang allowed two runs on two hits with one walk and three strikeouts in one inning against Daegu Sangwon High School in the second game of the 57th Presidential High School Baseball Tournament at Mokdong Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Thursday. Masan Yongmago came through with a big inning in the fifth to win 10-5 and advance to the round of 16.
Perhaps because it had been a long time since he had pitched, Jang Hyun-seok’s fastball reached 154 kilometers, but he had his ups and downs. In the bottom of the eighth inning, with Masan Yongmago leading 10-1, he had runners on first and second with nobody out after a wild pitch and a walk. He then gave up a wild pitch, a double to Ahn Jun-sang and a single to Nam Tae-woong in left field, giving up a whopping four runs (two earned) in the eighth inning alone. The honing sweeper drew hitters’ bats to the point where he was satisfied that he was “better than in the Blue Dragon period,” but his fastball was often missing and his pitch count was high, eventually reaching 32 pitches per inning.
But his pitches were still compelling. He threw a variety of pitches, including a fastball, slider, curve, changeup, and sweeper, and struck out all three batters he faced. After the game, Jang Hyun-seok said, “I didn’t expect to throw perfectly because I didn’t throw many pitches while resting after the Cheongryonggi. But I didn’t expect it to be this bad,” he said.
Jang was the only amateur to be named to the national baseball team for the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games in September. Recognizing that the Asian Games are an amateur competition, the committee wanted to select the most skilled athletes. In what was said to be the largest draft pool ever, the Korea Baseball Softball Association selected 19 amateur players, and Jang was one of them. “Jang Hyun-seok has been checked since March, and he received the most points from the power enhancement committee in the areas of pitching, speed, and game management,” explained Cho Gye-hyun, chairman of the power enhancement committee, when the team was announced in June.
The gap between high school baseball and the pros is significant, so you could argue that Jang is being brought in as a favor to baseball, to give him experience. However, there is a consensus in baseball circles that Jang is competitive in his own right. Jang Hyun-seok is a right-handed fireballer with a fastball that reaches a maximum speed of 157 kilometers per hour from his sturdy physique of 190 centimeters tall and 90 kilograms. It’s not uncommon to hear that his potential is better than that of recent draft picks like Moon Dong-ju (20), Kim Seo-hyun (19-over Hanwha Eagles), Yoon Young-chul (19-KIA Tigers), and Shim Jun-seok (19-Pittsburgh Pirates).
In particular, the same fastball is said to have a different quality, with a spin rate around 2400 RPM. His changeup is very good and his delivery is also very good. He mixes up his curveball and changeup with a big drop in the low 130 mph range, and his slider and sweeper in the low 140 mph range to confuse hitters. His fastball, which shares the same pitching tunnel as his fastball, is his go-to weapon for getting hitters to swing and miss. As a result, he has attracted the attention of many major league scouts, and he officially declared for the U.S. instead of declaring for the KBO draft on April 1. Because of his immense talent, there are predictions that he will receive a contract worth more than the $750,000 (about 960 million won) that Shim Jun-seok received last year.
At the Asian Games, he will likely be used as a pitcher in the 1+1 strategy. At the time of his selection, national team coach Ryu Jung-il said, “We will have to see how Jang Hyun-seok’s body is at that time, but he is a pitcher who can start. If not, he can pitch long innings as the second pitcher (after the starter is dropped),” Ryu explained.먹튀검증
In practice, Jang Hyun-seok has been a starter, but due to the nature of the high school tournament, he also has a lot of experience as a stopper who comes in when the team is in the most critical situation. In particular, his ability to strike out consecutive batters with the bases loaded is rarely seen in the current national team. In the quarterfinal game between Jang Chung-go and Cheongryonggi on March 24, he pitched a dominant 6⅔ innings in relief, striking out 14 batters.
Jang is determined to do his best at the Asian Games, which is likely to be his last high school competition. “I was really happy when I heard that I was selected to the national team for the first time because I hadn’t had much luck in the past,” he said. “I want to learn a lot from the seniors on the national team and show them that I am confident on the mound.”