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Kim Jae-yoon may become the Wiz’s first All-Star 12 pick

June 21,2017
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Kim Jae-yoon, closer for the KT Wiz, pitches during a pre-season exhibition game. [JOONGANG PHOTO]
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) showed the results of the second 2017 All-Star fan vote on Monday and Kim Jae-yoon, closer for the KT Wiz, may become the Wiz’s first All-Star 12 pick in history.

Looking at the votes received by fans, it is very likely Kim will do so, as his is a dominant first among the Dream All-Star closers, exceeding 580,000 votes, more than double the number of votes for Lee Yong-chan, closer for the Doosan Bears, who is ranked second. The fan votes will be accepted until June 30th and the team will be selected based on 70 percent fan votes and 30 percent player votes.

The final team will be announced on July 3.

Over the past two years, the Wiz failed to have any of its players in the All-Star best 12. They’ve had a total of seven players, since the team first made their way to the KBO, to play in the All-Star game, but they were all on the team as manager’s picks.

And the same is happening this year. Based on the votes made until Monday, there aren’t any Wiz players ranked among the top two in their positions other than Kim. Since this is only the Wiz’s third year, they are at a significant disadvantage compared to teams like the Bears, SK Wyverns, Lotte Giants and the Samsung Lions, when it comes to All-Star picks.

“I had no idea that I was ranked first,” Kim said. “Since there were many closers more familiar to the fans, I wasn’t expecting to be among the top.”

The ranking has a lot more meaning to Kim, as he went through a rough career to get to where he’s at now. After graduating from Whimoon High School in 2008, Kim made his first attempt in joining the KBO but didn’t get drafted by any teams. He left to the United States to play for the Arizona Diamondback’s minor league team. But that didn’t last long, as he got released from the team and went to the military in 2012.

It took Kim until the 2015 season to make his KBO debut, changing his position from catcher to batter. During the 2016 season, Kim changed his position once again as a closer and managed to pick up eight wins, one loss and 14 saves. So far in the 2017 season, he is rated as one of the top closers in the KBO. Since the majority of the closers in the KBO are older, Kim, who is still in his 20s, is receiving greater attention from fans.

Of a total of 22 games, Kim has recorded one win, one loss and 13 saves with a 2.70 ERA. Though he is not given many chances to pick up saves, as the Wiz has recorded only three wins and 12 losses during the month of June as of Sunday, he is still ranked second in the KBO in that regard, behind Lim Chang-min of the NC Dinos.

“Once Kim takes the mound, our players seem more relaxed,” Kim Jin-wook, manager of the Wiz said. “A stable closer on the mound can strengthen the team. And Kim is that kind of closer to us.”

BY LEE HYEONG-SEOK [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]