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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Lee Jung-hoo named to MLB roster of players to watch at WBC

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Lee Jung-hoo [YONHAP]

Kiwoom Heroes outfielder Lee Jung-hoo was the only non-Major Leaguer included on an MLB.com article analyzing the most interesting players to watch at the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

Lee, the reigning KBO MVP who is expecting to be posted to the majors at the end of this season, was named alongside Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the outfield spot on MLB.com’s “The best player at each position in the Classic.”

“Lee may not be the best of the remaining outfielders in the WBC this year,” the article said, “but he’s one of the most intriguing players to watch in this year’s tournament. The 24-year-old outfielder is the reigning MVP of the Korean Baseball Organization after he hit .349/.421/.575 with 23 homers in 142 games for the Kiwoom Heroes.

“The Heroes have said they will honor Lee’s request to be posted so he can play in MLB following the 2023 season. The WBC will be an international stage on which Lee can introduce himself to the wider baseball world, and that’s an exciting prospect.”

Lee, the 2017 KBO Rookie of the Year, is a prolific hitter with a KBO-leading career .342 batting average. No player has recorded more hits than Lee over the six seasons since he entered the league, at 1,076, and he is also first in doubles over the same period, at 221, third in total bases, at 1,556, and in runs, at 531.

Lee is affectionately known as Grandson of the Wind, a reference to his father Lee Jong-beom, a Kia Tigers legend nicknamed Son of the Wind for his base-running speed. The elder Lee — generally considered one of the greatest KBO players of the 1990s — is a household name in Korea, but Lee Jung-hoo has already seen more than enough success to escape from his father’s shadow.

Elsewhere on the MLB.com roundup, J.T. Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies was named to the catcher spot, with Freddie Freeman of the Dodgers at first base, Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros at second base, Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres at third, Xander Bogaerts, also of the Padres, at shortstop and Vladimir Guerrero Jr of the Toronto Blue Jays as designated hitter.

Pitching spots went to Sandy Alcantara of the Miami Marlins, Julio Urías of the Dodgers and Edwin Díaz of the New York Mets. Shohei Ohtani of the Angels was the final name of the list, although MLB.com refrained from sticking him in either the pitcher or batter box.

BY JIM BULLEY [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]