In 2024, it’s even more important for Kim Hye-sung (Kiwoom Heroes).
This year, Kim set the record for the highest salary for an eight-year player in KBO history. Her salary rose from 420 million won in 2023 to 650 million won. The increase is 230 million won, or 54.8 percent. KIA Tigers outfielder Na Sung-bum became the highest-paid eighth-year player, surpassing his previous record of 550 million won in 2019 when he played for the NC Dinos. He also had the highest salary and highest raise in the KBO this season.
It’s clear that Kim Hye-sung has been a key player for Kiwoom this season. Kiwoom will have to go into the 2024 season without its two-hit ace. Ahn Woo-jin, who had been a regular starter, was diagnosed with a damaged medial collateral ligament in his right elbow after his first start against SSG Landers on August 31 last year. He traveled to the United States and underwent elbow ligament reconstruction surgery (Tommy John surgery) at the Kellan-Jobe Clinic. He then enlisted as a social worker on March 18. He will be demobilized on September 17, 2025.
Lee Jung-hoo, who played as a signature hitter, moved to the Major League Baseball (MLB) through the posting system (closed competitive bidding) after the end of last season. On March 15, he signed a six-year, $113 million contract with the San Francisco Giants. It also includes an opt-out clause after the 2027 season.
In the absence of Ahn Woo-jin and Lee Jung-hoo, Kim Hye-sung’s responsibility has increased. She needs to step up and lead the team. She needs to be on an upward curve this year, just as she has been in the past.
Kim Hye-sung joined the Hero Legion with the seventh pick of the second round in 2017 and has been a mainstay since 2018. He has improved each year, most notably last year, when he batted .335 (186-for-556) with seven home runs, 57 RBI, 104 runs scored, 25 doubles, a .396 on-base percentage, and a .446 slugging percentage in 137 games. He finished third in the league in batting average, second in hits, second in runs scored, fifth in slugging percentage, and tied for eighth in stolen bases. Defensively, he made 15 errors in 1067 innings at second base and two errors in 37⅓ innings at shortstop.
In seven seasons in the KBO, Kim’s career statistics include 826 games, a .300 batting average, 877 hits, 26 home runs, 311 RBIs, 501 runs scored, 181 stolen bases, a .360 on-base percentage, and a .393 slugging percentage. After winning his first Golden Glove as a shortstop in 2021, he won it as a second baseman in 2022 and last year. Last year, he was also honored as the inaugural winner of the new KBO Defensive Player of the Year Award for second basemen. This season, he should be the centerpiece of the offense as well.
Kim Hye-sung also served as Kiwoom’s captain this year. After becoming the youngest captain in KBO history when he was voted in by the players during the 2021 season, he once again wears the captain’s armband. He has also provided leadership for his national team at the Hangzhou Asian Games and the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) last year.
They need to do well this year, both for the team and for themselves. Kim Hye-sung plans to play in the major leagues after the 2024 season. After returning home from the APBC last year, he said, “I have a dream of going to the United States. Seeing (Kim) Ha-seong (San Diego Padres), his brother and (Lee) Jung-hoo, and other players I grew up with challenge themselves, it made me want to improve my skills and go to the United States,” he said.
Kim Hae-sung provided support. Kim, who became the first Korean and first Asian infielder to win a National League (NL) Gold Glove for utility last year, was quick to mention Kim Hye-sung when asked which Korean infielder he was watching. “Hye-sung (Kim) plays so differently from players her age. If she grows up well, I think she will become a better player than me.” “She is very sincere and has a lot of passion for baseball. “He’s very sincere and has a lot of passion for the game. I really want to see her play in the major leagues,” he said.
Kiwoom decided to accept Hye-sung’s request to play in the major leagues on April 16. Hye-sung officially announced her intentions in a meeting with Kiwoom president Ko Hyung-wook that morning, and the club accepted her request.
This year, Kim will need to live up to her salary, showcase her leadership, and improve her performance to earn a spot in the big leagues. The 2024 season will be more special than ever.