“Even if you come to Japan right now, you can hit 20-30 home runs, and up to 40-50″…a Japanese reporter’s ‘rave review’ of the KBO’s RBI+Homer King

“40-50 home runs are possible”

Ryu Jung-il’s South Korean team finished as runners-up in the 2023 Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) for the second consecutive time, falling 3-4 in extra innings against Japan in the final at the Tokyo Dome in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan on April 19 (KST).

There’s no such thing as a “win” in international competition. However, the APBC was designed to provide an ‘international’ experience for prospects under the age of 24 and in their third year of professional competition. For the purpose of the tournament, the results were clear. Most of the players from the Hangzhou Asian Games (AG) squad were in action, and it was great to see them perform well in back-to-back tournaments, giving us a good idea of who we can expect to see in the Premier12 and World Baseball Classic (WBC) in the future.

Moon Dong-joo (Hanwha), Kwak Bin (Doosan), Won Tae-in (Samsung), Choi Ji-min (KIA), Yoon Dong-hee (Lotte), Kim Joo-won, and Kim Hyung-joon (NC) were among the many players who stood out, but it was Noh Si-hwan who stood out the most. Noh, who really opened his eyes to batting this year, proved at the Hangzhou Asian Games and APBC that he is capable of taking on the role of a ‘No. 4’ batsman in future international tournaments.

This year, his potential has really blossomed. Noh has been performing well since turning professional in 2019. He lived up to the label of ‘super prospect’, but his only regret was that he couldn’t break through the final ‘barrier’ that would have made his talent explode. However, before this season, he modified his batting form to increase his ‘launch angle’, and it was a decisive factor in his potential explosion.

Noh’s stellar start to the year earned him a spot on the senior national team for the Hangzhou Asian Games, five years after his debut. In six games, he exploded for a .438 (7-for-16) batting average with seven doubles and an OPS of 1.140, leading the team to its fourth consecutive Asian Games title. He also won the RBI title and the home run title this year after a stellar regular season that saw him hit 31 home runs and 101 RBIs.

Having proven that he can play at the international level, Noh was naturally selected to represent the APBC, where he had one of the most spectacular performances. In the first game of the group stage, Noh smashed three hits, including the game-winning hit against Australia, and continued his good form with another hit against Japan. Against Chinese Taipei, the team she had to beat to advance to the final, she hit a single in the first inning that turned out to be the game-winning hit.

In the final game, he was just as dominant. Noh failed to produce a hit in his first at-bat, but with runners on first and second in scoring position due to an error, he stepped over the shortstop’s key against Japan ace Tatsuya Imai and blasted a two-run double to left-center field to give his team the lead. He continued his multi-hit performance in the top of the 10th inning of extra innings.

Although the team had to settle for a runner-up finish in the tournament due to a questionable call in the top of the 10th inning, Noh’s impact was undeniable. He batted .389 (7-for-18) in the tournament, including a four-game hitting streak, the only player on the national team to do so. Noh’s performance was so impressive that a Japanese journalist from Full Count, who requested anonymity, was impressed.

The reporter, who covered all four of Korea’s games at the APBC, said, “He was also the player who won the two top honors (RBI and home run) in Korea. He had the game-winning hit against Australia, the leadoff hit against Taiwan, and today (Nov. 19), he can hit in important situations. “Today, the ball hit the end of the bat, but he used his swing speed and power to get a double,” he said.

The Japanese reporter said he reminded him of Hideto Asamura (Rakuten Golden Eagles). Asamura, who was drafted by the Seibu Lions in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, has played in 1805 career games, hitting .280 with 1,845 hits, 283 doubles, 1072 RBIs, 963 runs scored and a .830 OPS. He has hit double-digit home runs in 11 straight years since 2013 and is a “superstar” for Japan, having represented the country at the 2019 Premier12 and 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A Japanese journalist, who requested anonymity, said, “He’s only 23 years old, and I don’t think it’s strange at all for him to hit 20-30 home runs if he plays in Japan right now, especially since he’s like Hideto Asamura in Japan. If he gets bigger, he could hit 40-50 home runs. I didn’t hit any home runs in this tournament, but I think I have enough power to hit them. And at the end, he hit a push hit, so I think he’s a great hitter,” he said, giving him a thumbs-up.

With his current form, it is very likely that Noh will push his ‘seniors’ and ‘older brothers’ out of the way and assume the role of No. 4 in the Premier 12 and WBC, thus solving the national team’s ‘No. 4’ problem at the same time. Noh said, “This is the most memorable season in my baseball career. I will build on this season and grow even more. Next year is even more important, and I will prepare well to achieve better results.” 캡틴토토

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