The first-round picks who didn’t take Kim Hye-sung, passed on Noh Si-hwan…and fell flat on their faces

The KBO’s first round rookie draft, which was abolished last year, was reserved for the top talents in each region. The first-round picks were prized by teams and treated with special care. However, this year alone, two first-round picks were released due to off-field issues. Seo Jun-won (23) and Lee Won-jun (25) fell into a downward spiral.

SSG announced on Wednesday that it held its own disciplinary committee and decided to release Lee Won-jun, who recently came under fire for corporal punishment using a bat. SSG, which ended its relationship with Lee by requesting a waiver from the KBO, will abide by the outcome of the KBO’s punishment committee for the two other players who ordered the punishment.

Lee Won-jun was at the center of a corporal punishment controversy within the SSG Futures squad that took place at Ganghwa Futures Field on June 6. Infielder A took issue with rookie infielder B’s attitude and called the juniors together for a group icebreaker during lunch. Angered, pitcher C assaulted B, hitting him on the buttocks with a bat. C was Lee Won-jun.

The SSG team said, “We judged this incident to be a serious matter that hinders the development of professional baseball, and decided to take the strongest sanction that the club can take, which is expulsion. Since tools were used, the crime of special assault could be established. In a situation where double punishment is prohibited at the KBO level, the SSG team weighed its options and decided to expel the player, which is the highest level of discipline.

SSG had also been in controversy in May 2020, when its predecessor, SK, imposed corporal punishment on the Futures’ younger players after they deviated by drinking and driving without a license. At the time, SK announced that it would revise its team management rules to apply a one-strike rule to players who caused social controversy, and Lee Won-jun became the first case. He had been the victim of corporal punishment three years earlier, but this time he was the perpetrator.

Lee, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-handed pitcher from Yatapgo, was drafted by SK in 2017. Among SK’s first round picks at the time was Dongsango infielder Kim Hye-sung (Kiwoom), but SK chose Lee as the most promising pitcher from the region. While Kim became a two-time Golden Glove winner, stolen base champion, and national team member, Lee went winless in 22 first-team games (25⅓ innings) over a three-year span from 2018-2020, with three losses and an 11.72 ERA.

His development was slow, but he turned things around in 2021 when he joined the Sangmu. Last year, he showed promise in the Futures League, going 10-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 19 games (93 innings) and tying for the most wins in the Southern League. This year, he returned to SSG and continued his good form, going 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in three Futures League games (13 innings). However, he lost his cool and committed an assault, which threatened to end his career at age 25.

The last first-round pick to fall victim to non-baseball issues was just four months ago. On March 23, side-arm pitcher Seo Jun-won was released from the Lotte team. After being charged with violating the Sexual Protection of Children and Adolescents Act (including production and distribution of sexually explicit material), the Lotte team immediately held a disciplinary committee and released him. According to prosecutors, Seo Jun-won was accused of producing sexually explicit material in August of last year after forcing a minor he met through an open chat on social media to take and send photos of her body. He was also accused of deceiving the club, as he kept the matter under wraps throughout the investigation process.

Seo was Lotte’s first-round pick in 2019. At the time, Lotte’s prospect pool was full of talent, including Gyeongnam High infielder Noh Si-hwan and Busan High left-hander Lee Sang-young. But Lotte couldn’t resist Seo Jun-won, a Gyeongnam High sidearm pitcher who throws 150 kilometers. At the time, it was the obvious choice and no big deal. He was a special talent who had been selected for the youth national team since second grade, and his contract was worth 350 million won, the most for a rookie at the time.먹튀검증

However, it turned out to be a disastrous choice. In four years in the first team, Seo failed to live up to expectations, going 15-23 with a 5.56 ERA in 123 games (318⅔ innings). He also failed to manage his weight. For a sidearm pitcher who needs to be flexible, being overweight is a major flaw. He tried to lose weight before the season, but a scandalous sex crime was revealed and he was kicked off the baseball field.

Meanwhile, Noh Si-hwan, whose first-round selection was thwarted by teammate Seo Jun-won, was selected by Hanwha with the second overall pick in the second round and has steadily developed into the team’s centerpiece hitter, leading the league with 19 home runs in the first half of the year and earning a spot on the Hangzhou Asian Games team. They say life is unpredictable, but no one could have predicted such a mixed bag.

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