Jung-hoo Lee

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Jung-hoo Lee (이정후)
(Grandson of the Wind)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Jung-hoo Lee was a Korea Baseball Organization MVP and won Gold with the South Korean national team at the Asian Games before joining Major League Baseball.

Lee is Korean but was born in Japan when his father Jong-beom Lee was playing there; his father had been a MVP in the KBO. The Nexen Heroes took him in the first round of the 2017 KBO draft. He started right away and hit .324/.395/.417 with 8 triples and 111 runs as a rookie in 2017. He was third in the league in runs (behind Roger Bernadina and Ah-seop Son and tied five others for second in triples (two behind Ja-wook Koo). He was the first rookie out of high school to play in every game. He won KBO Rookie of the Year, one of the few awards his father had never won (he had finished second in voting in his rookie year).

In the 2018 Asian Games, he had a two-homer game against Hong Kong. In the Gold Medal Game, he led off with a walk from Ryoga Tomiyama then was driven in by Chi-hong An with what would be the winning run. Taking the Gold exempted him from South Korea's mandatory military service. Their youngest player, he was their starting center fielder and leadoff man. He hit .476/.480/.905 with five runs and seven RBI in five games in the main round. He was third in the main round in average (behind Sho Aoyagi and Jawad Ali), first in hits (10, two ahead of Aoyagi, Ali, Jin Yang, Zhenhong Lu and Byung-ho Park), tied for first in doubles (3, even with Sanyalak Pitpatpinyo and Wing-Sing Li), tied for third in homers (2, behind Jae-gyun Hwang and Park), tied Lu for 4th in RBI, tied Hwang for the most total bases and 3rd in slugging (after Hwang and Shohei Morishita). In the Gold Medal Game, he was 0 for 3 with the critical walk and run.

He had no sophomore slump, batting .355/.412/.477 with 34 doubles in the 2018 KBO. He joined Jun-ho Jeon and Jae-hwan Kim as winning KBO Gold Gloves as the league's top three overall outfielders. It had been 15 years since his father had won his sixth and final Gold Glove. He was third in average (behind Hyun-soo Kim and Eui-ji Yang) and sixth in OBP (between Hyoung-woo Choi and Han-joon Yoo). In 2019, he became the youngest KBO player to 500 career hits. He posted a batting line of .336/.386/.456 with 31 doubles, 10 triples and 91 runs for the team, now the Kiwoom Heroes. He made leaderboards in average (4th, between Min-woo Park and Baek-ho Kang), runs (4th, between Byung-ho Park and Min-woo Park), hits (193, 2nd, 4 behind José Miguel Fernandez), doubles (tied Choi for 7th) and triples (1st, one ahead of Sei-hyok Park). He won his second Gold Glove, the only Korean native chosen in the outfield that year as Jerry Sands and Mel Rojas Jr. were the other two honorees. He hit .400 in the 2019 Korean Series but Kiwoom fell to the Doosan Bears.

Representing South Korea again, he starred in the 2019 Premier 12. He hit third and played center for the defending champs. He batted .385/.484/.577 with five runs and five doubles in eight games, handling 19 putouts with no errors as South Korea finished second. He tied for 5th in runs, was 4th in hits (10), led in doubles (2 more than runners-up Seiya Suzuki, Alec Bohm, Efren Navarro, Hideto Asamura, C.J. Chatham and Yoshihiro Maru), 3rd in average for those with those with 20+ AB (after Suzuki and Jo Adell), 2nd in OBP in the same group (.045 behind Suzuki), 7th in slugging (between Adell and Hyun-soo Kim) and 7th in OPS (between Jon Jones and Hyun-soo Kim). He made the event's All-World outfield alongside Jones and Suzuki. Ha-seong Kim was the only South Korean selected as All-World in the event.

The Nagoya native kept on improving in 2020. He hit .333/.397/.524 with 49 doubles, 85 runs and 101 RBI. He broke Jared Hoying's KBO doubles record of 47. He was 6th in average (between Fernandez and Kyoung-min Heo), tied Hyun-soo Kim for 5th in hits (181), obviously led in doubles (6 more than Ah-seop Son), tied for 7th in triples (5), was 7th in total bases (between Hyun-soo Kim and Ha-seong Kim) and 10th in OPS (between Jeong Choi and Ha-seong Kim). He won his third Gold Glove, joining Rojas and Hyun-soo Kim as the outfielders picked.

Lee raised his OPS once again in 2021, batting .357/.436/.514 with 42 doubles. He won the batting title (.012 ahead of Jun-woo Jeon), was 8th in hits (164), placed second in doubles (4 behind Jun-woo Jeon), tied Won-jun Choi and Ji-hoon Choi for third in triples (6), was third in OBP (trailing Chang-ki Hong and Baek-ho Kang), ranked 4th in OBP (between Yoo-seom Han and Baek-ho Kang) and was third in OPS (after Hong and Baek-ho Kang). He hit for the 29th cycle in KBO history. He won his fourth Gold Glove, this time joining Ja-wook Koo and Hong in the outfield. He also represented South Korea in the 2020 Olympics (held in 2021 due to delays from the COVID-19 pandemic). In the first game, his homer off Zack Weiss of Israel began a Korean comeback. His double against Luis Castillo drove in Hae-min Park in the 9th to tie it in a comeback win over the Dominicans. He hit .241/.281/.448 in the Olympics and had nine putouts error-free as a corner outfielder. He tied for second in the Games in two-baggers with three, one behind Hyun-soo Kim.

In the 2022 KBO, he hit .349/.421/.575 with 36 doubles, 10 triples, 23 homers, 113 RBI and 66 walks (to 32 Ks). He fielded .994 in center. He became the fastest KBO player to 1,000 hits. He won the batting title again (.007 ahead of José Pirela), was 6th in runs (85, between Mike Tauchman and Socrates Brito), led in hits (193, one ahead of Pirela), was 4th in doubles (between Tauchman and Nick Martini), led in triples (two ahead of Hae-min Park), tied for 5th in homers (with Jae-hwan Kim, Hyun-soo Kim and Dae-ho Lee), led in total bases (318, one ahead of Pirela), led in RBI (4 more than Pirela), tied for 5th in walks (with Han and Jeong Choi), led in OBP (.010 ahead of Pirela), led in slugging (.010 ahead of Pirela) and obviously led in OPS. The Heroes made it to the 2022 Korean Series but fell to the SSG Landers. He won the KBO MVP, winning 104 of 107 votes. He and his father became the first father-son combo to have both won MVP. He joined Pirela and Seong-beom Na as the Gold Glove outfielders.

Early in 2023, the Kiwoom Heroes announced that they would be posting Lee following that season, at Lee's request. Prior to the season, he played for South Korea in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, batting .429/.500/.571 with 2 doubles and 5 RBIs. His season in the KBO was shortened by injuries, however, but he still hit .318 in 86 games, but with just 6 homers and 45 RBIs. He was posted as expected, and on December 12, 2023, it was announced that the San Francisco Giants had signed him to a seven-year contract estimated at $113 million, on top of a posting fee of $18.825 million. This came one day after the record-breaking $700 million contract awarded by the Los Angeles Dodgers to Shohei Ohtani had been made official and was seen as the Giants' reply to their enemy's move. He made his MLB debut on Opening Day, March 28, 2024, leading off and starting in center field for the Giants against the San Diego Padres. He went 1 for 3 with an RBI in a 6-4 loss.

His cousin Dae-young Yoon has played in the Korean minors and his brother-in-law Woo-suk Go has pitched professionally.


Further Reading[edit]

  • Michael Clair: "This KBO star could shake up next winter's free-agent class", mlb.com, December 19, 2022. [1]
  • Michael Clair: "KBO star gets green light to be posted after next season", mlb.com, January 2, 2023. [2]
  • Michael Clair: "Jung-Hoo Lee wants to make baseball history", mlb.com, March 7, 2023. [3]
  • Michael Clair: "Get to know new Giants outfielder Jung Hoo Lee", mlb.com, December 12, 2023. [4]
  • Maria Guardado: "Giants land KBO star Jung Hoo Lee on 6-year deal", mlb.com, December 12, 2023. [5]
  • Maria Guardado: "'An absolutely perfect fit': Giants officially introduce Lee", mlb.com, December 15, 2023. [6]
  • Maria Guardado: "Lee 'really happy' to finally meet childhood idol Ichiro", mlb.com, March 10, 2024. [7]
  • Do-Hyoung Park: "'You're dating my sister? Why?' Newly minted NL West rivals are family first", mlb.com, January 16, 2024. [8]

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