Second base has long been a problem for LG in the KBO. Signing national second baseman Jung Keun-woo (retired) and trading away Seo Gun-chang, the KBO’s first 200-hit player, didn’t solve the problem. Bringing in foreign batters who could play second base didn’t help either, so 텍사스홀덤 LG’s second base, which had been “unoccupied” for years, finally had an owner. Shin Min-jae (27, pictured) has risen from a pinch-hitter to a starting second baseman.
After graduating from Incheon High School in 2015 and joining Doosan as a developmental player, Shin began his professional career with LG in the second round of the 2018 draft while serving as a social service worker. It wasn’t until the 2019 season, after being released from the draft, that he made his first first-team appearance.
From the 2019 season to last year, Shin’s main duties were as a runner and a defender. He played 81 games in 2019, but his chances were dwindling, and last year he played only 14 games. The fate of a fast-footed specialist who flashes in and out of the first team seemed to await him.
Shin’s fortunes changed when Yeom Kyung-yup took over as LG’s manager. Under Yim’s emphasis on aggressive baserunning, Shin’s quick feet were once again in the spotlight, and his status was upgraded to first baseman. This was coupled with the sluggishness of Seo Geon-chang, the previous second baseman, and an injury to Kim Min-sung. Shin Min-jae showed off his batting prowess in a game where he started as a pinch hitter and finally shed the tag of a pinch runner and earned his spot in the lineup.
Looking at his stats this season, it’s hard to imagine why he was only used as a pinch-hitter. Through 21 games, he’s batting .327 (56-for-171) with 21 home runs and 29 stolen bases. While he hasn’t gotten a lot of regular at-bats, his batting average alone is the highest in the LG. His stolen bases, thanks to his trademark quick feet, are first in the league. His defense is also impeccable.
The second base position has finally found its owner after years of struggles, and LG is poised to advance directly to the Korean Series. It will be interesting to see if Shin Min-jae, arguably LG’s hottest commodity this season, can lead them to their first Korean Series title since 1994.