What only Park Kyung-wan, Kang Min-ho, and Yang Ji could do… This player challenges, 6.5 billion is cheap.
Still, it’s a big position, and catchers are often expected to be one-hit wonders. Combine that with good defense and a high batting average, and their salaries literally skyrocket. There has always been a thirst for catchers who can play both offense and defense.
However, because of the importance of defense, home run expectations aren’t as high, and there aren’t as many of them throughout history. Only three players in the history of the KBO have ever reached the 30-homer plateau in a single season.
In 2000, Hyundai’s current LG Battery coach Park Kyung-wan made league history when he hit 40 home runs. It is remembered as an event that changed the definition of a catcher in the KBO. Park would return to the 30-homer club in 2004 with a 34-homer season in an SK uniform스포츠토토. He remains the only catcher in KBO history to hit 30 home runs twice.
The offensive juniors followed suit. In 2015, Kang Min-ho of Lotte (now Samsung) hit 35 homers to become the first catcher to hit 30 homers since Park. Yang Ji (now Doosan) then became the third catcher to join the 30-homer club, hitting 33 in 2020 while playing for NC. Neither Kang Min-ho nor Yang has ever accomplished this feat.
However, a strong candidate for the feat has emerged in 2023. That would be LG’s starting catcher Park Dong-won, 33. Up until his early season home run surge, many thought it was a fluke. Park has yet to reach 30 home runs and has only had one season of 20+ home runs. That might have been because he was labeled a “catcher,” but now it’s a different story. He’s a serious contender.
Park Dong-won, who was leading the league in home runs with 10 through the 24th, hit his 11th and 12th home runs on the 25th against SSG at SSG Landers Field in Incheon. Park literally opened the door to victory and closed it with the game-winning blast. He also led off the game with a double off of starter Casey Kelly and the rest of the pitching staff.
Park is now on pace for 39 home runs this season ⓒKyung Hye-mi Byun
After hitting a game-setting three-run homer off Song Young-jin in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead, Park came back in the eighth inning with the score stuck at 6-3 and again off Moon Seung-won to drive a huge home run over the left field fence to seal the win. His second home run traveled over 181 kilometers per hour.
Park is a naturally powerful full hitter. He can generate the kind of bat speed that can lead to home runs at any time. However, in the past, his launch angle was low and often resulted in ground balls, so he worked hard to improve his launch angle three years ago and continues to train to maintain a proper launch angle.
According to Trackman, which provides tracking data for the nine KBO clubs, the average launch angle of all batted balls was 7.6 degrees in 2021, but it increased to 14.1 degrees last year and 17.6 degrees this year before the game. That’s a decent launch angle for a home run. Park is using his right wrist as little as possible to launch the ball.
Assuming he finishes the season healthy, Park is currently on pace for 39 home runs on the season. Even if he misses more games in the summer due to conditioning issues, he’s still on pace for 30 homers. His launch angle has been developed over three years of systematic training, so it’s unlikely that it will suddenly falter. That’s why you can expect a steady stream of home runs. The free agent investment (4 years, 6.5 billion won total) suddenly looks cheap.