Jun-seo Hwang, 19, was selected by the Hanwha Eagles with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 Rookie Draft last September.
At the time of his selection, he was not a highly anticipated No. 1 pick. In the two years prior to Hwang, Hanwha had selected Moon Dong-ju and Kim Seo-hyun with the first and second overall picks. Both pitchers topped out at 155 mph in high school, and this year, they’ve both touched 160 mph on the professional mound.굿모닝토토 도메인
Unlike Moon and Kim, Hwang Jun-seo’s fastball sits in the low 140s. His velocity dropped to the low 140km/h before his nomination. His physique is also smaller than his seniors. Furthermore, his “rival” for the top spot, Jang Hyun-seok (Masan Yongmago), was a typical high-end fastball pitcher who touched 158 km/h. This is why Hwang’s potential was undervalued.
While his velocity is a bit off right now, Hwang’s potential is just as good. The most notable part is his splitter. Typically, left-handed pitchers use a slider that travels away from the body of a left-handed hitter, as opposed to a splitter.
Familiarity is a weapon. Since 2014, only Andy Van Hecken (then Nexen Heroes), Ariel Miranda (then Doosan Bears), Kim Kwang-hyun (SSG Landers), Chau Chan (then Samsung Lions-LG Twins), Koo Chang-mo, Kim Young-gyu (now NC Dinos), Kim Taek-hyung (then SSG), and Choi Seung-yong (Doosan) have used the splitter more than 10 percent of the time among left-handed pitchers who have pitched more than 30 percent of their regulation innings, according to Statiz. With the exception of Choi Seung-yong, who was not yet in full bloom, they were the ace of the KBO. Hwang’s uniqueness could be a weapon.
“He has the pitching feel to divide his splitter into pitches for strikes and pitches for strikes,” said Jeong Min-hyuk, head of Hanwha’s scouting team. “The drop and movement of his splitter are good enough to be used in the first team.”
The splitter is a pitch that requires a combination of fastball and breaking ball, and must be backed up by restraint. “Jun-seo Hwang had a good fastball at the beginning of the year, and his physicality was better than it is now,” said Jung Min-hyuk. “I talked with manager Son Hyuk and coach Choi Won-ho before the selection. Hwang’s velocity is down now, but that’s due to weight loss. They told me that if the club manages it, his batting average will go up.” Hanwha is currently focusing on regaining Hwang’s weight, which has dropped about 8 kilograms. If he can regain his weight and throw a 150km/h fastball, he could easily follow in the footsteps of his predecessors as a left-handed splitter.
In addition to his solid delivery and potential to recover his fastball, his mental game is also well-received. Team manager Jung Min-hyuk said, “His mental game is good. He was passive on the mound in his first and second years, but in his third year, his behavior on the mound changed (like an ace). He is a good player, but he knows how to change when he enters the game.” “He’s a very different type of pitcher from Moon Dong-ju and Kim Seo-hyun. But they have the most important thing in common. “Not to mention Moon Dong-joo, Kim Seo-hyun is a player who can’t let go of the baseball even when he’s resting. Hwang Jun-seo is the same way. I hope the synergy between the three of them will come out and help Hanwha climb back up.”