‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’: Why Ahn Chi-hong’s 7.2 billion signing, 160km rookie king was so happy

December 7, 2023 | by

Hanwha Eagles’ next ace, Moon Dong-joo (20), has welcomed veteran hitter Ahn Chi-hong (33) to the team.

Moon took home the Rookie of the Year award at the 2023 Professional Baseball Sports Seoul Awards held at the Elena Hotel in Nonhyeon-dong, Seoul, on March 30.

Moon, who joined Hanwha as the first overall pick in the 2022 rookie draft, was a highly touted prospect who attracted the attention of many fans even before he entered the professional ranks. However, his first stint in the first team was not easy. Despite having strong pitches, Moon struggled with hitters and finished his rookie season with a record of 1-3 with a 5.65 ERA in 13 games (28⅔ innings). However, he showed promise in the second half, going 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three games (15 innings).

In his second season, Moon finally began to fulfill his potential. He made a splash with his 160 kilometers per hour fastball and successfully established himself in the first-team starting rotation, going 8-8 with a 3.72 ERA in 23 games (118⅔ innings). He performed so well that it’s a shame his innings were limited due to international commitments. At the end of the season, he was recognized for his performance with the Rookie of the Year award.

After impressing in the first team, Moon has shown promise as a national ace. At the Hangzhou Asian Games, he went 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA in two games (10 innings), and at the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC), he pitched 5⅔ innings against Australia, giving up two runs on five hits (one home run) with four walks and five strikeouts. The Korean National Team won the Asian Games and finished as runners-up in the APBC behind Moon’s strong performance.

“I don’t think I’m a national ace yet,” said Moon, who is expected to be the next national ace. It’s true that I have to do well among the younger players, but I haven’t played on the big stage like the Premier12 or the WBC (World Baseball Classic) yet. I think the experience of playing in the Asian Games and APBC will help us in the bigger tournaments. In international tournaments, the pitcher has the advantage, so I try to throw with confidence,” he said.

With top prospects like Moon Dong-joo and Noh Si-hwan starting to establish themselves, Hanwha embarked on a major reinforcement this winter. Ahn Chi-hong, who signed a 4+2 year contract totaling 7.2 billion won in free agency, was the centerpiece of the reinforcements. A veteran of 1,620 KBO games (5677 hits, 1687 runs) with 140 homers, 843 RBIs, and an OPS of .800, Ahn is batting 2-for-9 with 2 doubles (425 hits, 124 runs), 8 homers, 63 RBIs, and an OPS of .774 in 121 games this year.

The addition of a veteran player can be a huge boost for a young player like Moon. Furthermore, Ahn Chi-hong has been very tough on Moon. In the four times they faced each other this year, Ahn went 3-for-3 with a double, a home run, one RBI, and one walk. That’s why Moon is even more excited to have Ahn join the team.

“I was too weak against him this year,” Moon said. I heard the news as soon as I got back from the APBC in Japan, and it was great. I’m really grateful to the club for signing him. I think I was too weak this season, but I will prepare well in the offseason and show a much better performance, and I will try to help the team move up to a better position,” he said, sharing his dreams for his first fall baseball 캡틴토토.


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