‘I am a candidate for Rookie of the Year!’ A 3-year rookie facing Woo-jin Ahn, ERA 1.53 very active

NC Dinos Lee Yong-jun (21) unfortunately failed to achieve a quality start (6 innings or less), but proved his competitiveness as a starting pitcher once again. 

Lee Yong-jun started the match against Kiwoom Heroes in the ‘2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League’ held at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on the 12th and recorded 5 ⅔ innings, 8 hits, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts and 2 runs.

Lee Yong-joon,먹튀검증 who was hit by lead batter Lee Jung-hoo in the first inning, induced Park Chan-hyeok to ground the second baseman to catch the lead runner, but Kim Hye-seong hit a double and was put in a crisis with 1 out 2nd and 3rd base. gave up In the second inning, Lim Ji-yeol hit a single, and Park Joon-tae allowed an RBI and a timely hit, giving one more run. 

Lee Yong-jun, who was hit by Russell in the third inning with two outs, ended the inning by catching Lee Won-seok with a ground ball to second baseman. The 4th episode was neatly organized with Samjibeomtoe. In the 5th inning, Park Chan-Hyuk hit, Kim Hye-Sung hit, and Russell walked, leading to a two-out crisis, but he managed to overcome the crisis by inducing Lee Won-Seok to ground the shortstop. 

In the 6th inning, Lee Yong-Jun, who was on the mound, caught Kim Hui-Jip and Lim Ji-Yeol well, but Park Jun-Tae was hit. In the end, Lee Yong-jun was replaced by Kim Yeong-gyu in the 6th inning, where NC was losing 1-2, with 2 outs, 1st and 2nd base, and finished the mound that day. Kim Yeong-kyu gave Lee Jung-hoo a walk and put the bases full, but Park Chan-hyeok struck out and blocked Lee Yong-jun’s runner well. In the 7th, NC avoided defeat by making a 2-2 tie.

On this day, Lee Yong-jun, who had a head-to-head match against Kiwoom ace Ahn Woo-jin, pitched well against the best ace in the league. He recorded 103 pitches and threw a fastball (47 pitches), slider (31 pitches), changeup (16 pitches), curveball (7 pitches), and fork (2 pitches). His highest fastball velocity was 149 km/h. 

Lee Yong-jun, who was nominated in the 2nd round (16th place) of the 2021 rookie draft, succeeded in debuting in the first team in the first year of joining, but only threw 23⅔ innings in 12 games until last season. He did not plan to enter the starting rotation this season either, but he unexpectedly got an opportunity when foreign pitcher Taylor Widener was injured. 

Lee Yong-jun, a rookie who seized the opportunity to become a starting pitcher, finally reached full potential. He is behind the likes of Dong-Ju Moon, Seo-Hyun Kim (Hanwha Lee), Myung-Geun Park (LG), and Young-Jin Song (SSG), but he is showing good results to challenge for the Rookie of the Year title. He is recording an average ERA of 1.53 with 2 wins in 6 games (29⅓ innings) including this day’s game. 

Regarding the Rookie of the Year race this season, coach Kang In-kwon said, “Among the rookie starting pitchers, I think Lee Yong-jun has the most potential. He still has a lot of season left, but if he shows good form like now, he is a player with enough qualities to become the rookie king. He hopes to throw it with his heart until the end of the season. I will support and help from the side,” he said, looking forward to Lee Yong-jun’s performance for the rest of the season.