It happened on the 4th at the place where the final roster for the Korean national team was announced for the World Baseball Classic (WBC). When one of the reporters in attendance asked why no Hanwha players were selected, coach Lee Kang-cheol smiled somewhat puzzled and turned the microphone to Technical Committee Chairman Cho Beom-hyun. Chairman Cho replied, “I am sorry that I was unintentionally left out because I was selecting (the national team’s power) as the best.”
Regarding the laughter flowing from all over the place during the questions and answers, there was a question among baseball fans, ‘Isn’t it mocking a specific team?’, but it did not spread to a bigger controversy. Maybe it’s because Hanwha fans, who are called ‘bodhisattva’, generously cheered for the team’s poor performance and passed it over with self-deprecation.
Among the Korean fielders who played for Hanwha last year, it was second baseman Jeong Eun-won who recorded the most outstanding performance. He showed tremendous ‘eye baseball’ by picking up 85 walks, the most in the league, and thanks to that, he also ranked 11th in the league in on-base percentage (0.379). But the problem was that the players who could be called ‘center line infielder’ competitors were stronger. Aside from Tommy Edman (St. Louis) and Ha-seong Kim (San Diego), who play in the upper leagues, Oh Ji-hwan, who is 4th in league home runs (25), and Kim Hye-seong, who is fast with a similar on-base percentage (0.373) (34 stolen bases, 2nd in the league) It was difficult to say that he was definitely better than Park Seong-han, who was eliminated from the final list.
The pitcher side is a bit more obvious. The pitcher who stood out the most for Hanwha last year was Jang Min-jae. He started 25 out of 32 games and recorded an ERA of 7-8 with an ERA of 3.55, serving as the light and salt of the Hanwha mound. However, Jang Min-jae’s performance was only 15th in terms of WAR and 26th in terms of ERA in the league as a whole. In the end, he said, among fielders and pitchers, there was no player who could definitely get on the WBC team.
Then, the important thing is ‘why’ Hanwha has not been able to develop and retain better players in the meantime. The answer is actually hidden in the final list of the WBC Korean national team.
There are a couple of ways to get a player on a particular team. How to pick in the draft, sign a contract for a player to develop separately, sign a free agent contract, or acquire by trade. Some teams have acquired players through free agency, while others have had some success with trades, but in most cases, you can find that they have secured national team-level players through drafts.
Since 2014, 98 players selected through draft by Hanwha have a total WAR of 23.59 over the past 9 years. This is 20% of the 115.76 that Kiwoom, the most successful drafter, drew from 95 players. However, there was only a difference of 300 million won between Kiwoom and Hanwha’s investment in the rookies. Hanwha’s draft efficiency was not very good.
Then, is Hanwha’s sluggishness to blame for the club that made the draft wrong? Not so. It is likely that Hanwha’s draft cruelty stemmed from the fact that the situation of prospects related to Hanwha was worse than anywhere else over the past few years.
From 2014 to 2022, the total WAR posted by high school players from Chungcheong Province (including parts of Gangwon Province), Hanwha’s farm, was 13.8. Its share in WAR recorded by all drafters was less than 3%. It is said that the total amount of talent of players from Hanwha’s hometown was generally lower than that of other regions.
In this situation, Hanwha was forced to be nominated for the first round of 7 related places until the full draft was implemented in 2023 (secondary national nominations are possible in the 2021 and 2022 drafts), and in 2014, who were prospects in the related area, Ryu Hee-woon (Bukil High School) and In 2015, the situation overlapped with the need to yield the 2nd pick sovereignty (Cheongju High School) to KT, who benefited from the new team. It was a real blow to Hanwha.
Strategy failure also played a role.
Of course, I don’t think we can give Hanwha an indulgence just because the farm situation was so bad. This is because the club cannot rule out the possibility of producing better results through appropriate strategies. In fact, Kiwoom, which has a reputation for bold draft strategies, harvested much more WAR than LG and Doosan, which share farms in Seoul. (Kiwoom 115.76 > LG 65.66 > Doosan 30.47)
메이저놀이터 The best draft strategy will vary from year to year and from situation to situation, but considering the recent farm situation by region introduced in the table above, it is best to focus on the Seoul area, which can be said to be the largest farm in the country. We can guess that this will be effective. In fact, 10 clubs invested intensively in high school prospects in Seoul.
But there was one thing that stood out. While Hanwha invested 19.4% of the total down payment in prospects in the Seoul region, it also poured 18.9%, a similar amount, into prospects in the Chungcheongnam-do region. Among the 10 clubs, it was the team that invested the least in Seoul and the most in Chungnam, the hometown. Except for Hanwha, no team has invested more than 5% of the total down payment on a high school prospect in Chungcheongnam-do, and even LG has not spent a single penny.
Most of Hanwha’s intensive investment in the Chungnam area was focused on Bukil High School in Cheonan, Chungcheongnam-do, which is called ‘Hanwha District 3’ (13 Bukil High School, 1 Gongju High School). And it seems difficult to say that the investment was successful. That’s because 13 players have a combined WAR total of -3.24 over nine seasons. Given that the contribution to victory that a player can make between the 1st and 2nd teams is counted as 0, these 13 players did not contribute to the win, but rather contributed to the defeat overall.
Of course, other local clubs, except for Hanwha, tended to prefer students from certain schools. However, no club has picked as many players from one school as Hanwha, and no other club has suffered as painful losses as Hanwha.
Can Hanwha make a difference after overcoming the time of fetters hardened by unfavorable circumstances and strategy failure?
Some positive signs are emerging. As the full-scale draft was reintroduced sequentially, Hanwha selected Dong-Ju Moon and Seo-Hyun Kim successively in 2022 and 2023, promising fastball pitchers from other regions, and in the 2024 draft, the overall first pick was exercised. In other words, the foundation for filling the empty farm has been created.