NC ‘wildcard’ first-round pick for second straight year, chooses “high ceiling potential” over immediacy

For the second year in a row, the NC Dinos drafted a right-handed “wild thing” (a pitcher with a fastball that needs work on his breaking ball) in the KBO rookie draft. Except for the physical condition, their strengths and weaknesses are similar.

In the 2024 KBO Rookie Draft, which took place at 2 p.m. on Thursday at the Westin Chosun Hotel Grand Ballroom in Jung-gu, Seoul, NC selected Whimun Go pitcher Kim Hwi-gun in the first round and Daegu Sangwon High pitcher Kim Sang-hyun in the second round, for a total of 11 players (eight pitchers, two infielders, and one catcher/outfielder each).먹튀검증

The most prominent name is Kim Hwi-geon. A right-handed fireballer with a sturdy build at 6-foot-2 and 105 pounds, Kim has a fastball that tops out at 152 mph. His fastball is the third fastest among high school pitchers this year, behind only Jang Hyun-seok (Masan Yongmago, LA Dodgers) and Lee Chan-sol (Seoul High, Boston), who both made it to the United States.

After being selected, Kim said, “I will return the love NC gave me a thousand times. I will give my right arm for NC.” He also mentioned his connection with NC, saying, “I was born in Changwon and played baseball while watching NC.”

Whimungo pitcher Kim Hwi-geon (right), who was drafted in the first round by the NC Dinos in the 2024 KBO Rookie Draft on Thursday, takes a photo with NC President Lim Sun-nam. /Photo=News1
Min Dong-geun, head of NC’s scouting team, said, “Kim is an exceptional starting pitcher with excellent physicality and explosive delivery. We were convinced that he is a special fastball starter that fits the recent trend of the KBO league,” explained the reason for the nomination. “We decided to nominate him by noting that he has the highest peak potential.” The NC club said, “Based on his pitching flexibility, there is a possibility of increasing his velocity in the future,” and evaluated that “his fastball is difficult for hitters to target.”

After the selection, NC head coach Lim Sun-nam said, “(Kim) is an extraordinary starting resource with excellent physical condition, athleticism, and explosive delivery. I think he has unlimited potential. I did not hesitate to nominate him because I am confident that we can turn that potential into reality through the club’s development system.” He added, “I think we will be able to see Kim Hwi-gun pitching on the mound at Changwon NC Park in the near future.”

Whimungo pitcher Kim Hee-geon (right), who was selected by the NC Dinos in the first round of the 2024 KBO rookie draft on Thursday, takes a photo with NC president Lim Sun-nam. /Photo=News1
Expectations are high on the field. “He’s a pitcher who throws a hard fastball over 150 kilometers per hour, and his parents’ DNA is athletic, so he’ll definitely have no problem making a living,” NC coach Kang Myung-ho said after the draft. Both of Kim’s parents are basketball players, especially his mother, Jung Yoon-sook, who played for the WKBL’s Hyundai E&C (now Shinhan Bank), Kumho Life Insurance, and KB Stars.

The only concern is his pitching. In nine games and 34 innings pitched this year, Kim has a 2.12 ERA and 48 strikeouts, but she has 21 four-pitchers. “He seems to have issues with his pitches,” Kang said. However, he also expressed his support, saying, “I think it would be good if the team valued his talent more than his pitches.”

NC also invested its first-round pick in a fireballer last year. It was Gyeongnam High pitcher Shin Young-woo. Shin, who cooks hitters with a fastball that reaches up to 154 kilometers per hour and a knuckleball curveball, showed excellent strikeout ability last year as a high school senior, recording 85 strikeouts in 50⅔ innings. However, he also struggled with his command, walking 43 batters on four pitches.

After making his professional debut this year, Shin is still adjusting to life in the Futures League, where he went 3-7 with a 6.14 ERA in 17 games. Although he’s still working on his command, having given up 97 four-seamers in 66 innings, he’s proven to be reliable with his pitches, striking out 83 batters and holding batters to a .197 batting average.

Kim Hwi-gun is also the type of pitcher who doesn’t always make it to the first team right away. However, once he’s adjusted to the pros and has some control of his pitches, he has the potential to be a high ceiling pitcher. We can see the direction of NC through the drafts of the last two years.

“This year’s draft, like last year’s and the year before that, we tried to pick the best players left in the order in which we picked them, and we prioritized their potential rather than their current skills,” Lim said of the draft. “We actually stuck to our guns rather than pulling or shuffling positions because we had an immediate need. We didn’t stray too far from our expectations, and we’re pretty happy with the results.”

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