(LEAD) Teen left-hander goes 1st overall at KBO draft

Jangchung High School left-hander Hwang Jun-seo went first overall at the annual amateur draft for the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) on Thursday.

With their No. 1 pick, the Hanwha Eagles selected the 18-year-old pitcher out of the Seoul-based school.

In 15 appearances this year, Hwang went 6-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 49 2/3 innings. He struck out 58 and walked 16.

Over his three years in high school, Hwang has compiled a 9-4 record with a 1.93 ERA in 112 1/3 innings. He recorded 132 strikeouts against 34 walks.

"Our scouts have been really high on Hwang Jun-seo throughout the year," Eagles general manager Son Hyuk said. "He is the type of pitcher that every team wants."

The competition for the first overall pick became wide open last month after Masan Yongma High School right-hander Jang Hyun-seok, considered the consensus No. 1 pick, decided to skip the KBO draft so he could sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Hanwha Eagles had the first overall pick after finishing in last place in 2022. The draft order was determined by the reverse order of finish last season.

"I can't believe I've been picked first. My hands are shaking right now," Hwang said after putting on the orange Eagles jersey on the stage. "I want to develop into a player that the team will turn to in tough situations. But more so than any personal goals, I want to help the team win a championship."

Hwang said he'd like to start in the KBO but added, "No matter what the team asks me to do, I will pitch the best I can."

Hwang, who can touch 150 kilometers per hour (93.2 miles per hour) with his fastball, said San Diego Padres closer Josh Hader, famous for his hard fastball and devastating slider, is his role model.

The Doosan Bears, picking second, chose Incheon High School right-hander Kim Taek-yeon.

In 13 appearances this year, Kim pitched to a 7-1 record and a 1.13 ERA in 64 1/3 innings. He struck out 97 and walked nine batters.

Over his three years in high school, Kim went 11-2 with a 1.34 ERA in 120 2/3 innings. He recorded 173 strikeouts against 26 walks.

Both Hwang and Kim helped South Korea win bronze at the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup in Chinese Taipei earlier this month.

Kim pitched a complete game shutout against the United States in the bronze medal game Sunday.

It was Kim's sixth appearance of the tournament. He allowed only two earned runs in 16 innings for a 0.88 ERA, while striking out 29 and walking only four. Kim was a perfect 2-0.

Hwang went 1-2 with a 3.97 ERA in 12 1/3 innings over three outings. He struck out 15 and walked three.

Bears general manager Kim Tae-ryong spoke highly of Kim Taek-yeon's consistency.

"He can command all of his pitches well without compromising his velocity," the executive said. "Within two or three years, we expect him to become our closer."

With a slew of hard-throwing young fireballers, nine of the first 10 selections were high school pitchers. Defending champions SSG Landers selected infielder Park Ji-hwan with the 10th pick.

Among others players of note, pitcher Jin Yoo-young, one-time prospect in the Kansas City Royals system, went No. 38 overall to the LG Twins.

In all, 110 out of 1,083 players who entered the draft were selected. Of those 110, 27 were college players, up from 18 in 2022.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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