SSG acquired catcher Kim Min-sik, 34, in a trade with KIA last May. The team bolstered its catching staff by hemorrhaging left-hander Kim Sa-yoon (formerly Kim Jung-bin) and the team’s once-prized right-handed bat resource Lim Seok-jin.

The problem for SSG was the unexpectedly steep downward curve of star catcher Lee Jae-won, but it wasn’t that the backup catchers weren’t strong enough. The team’s internal assessment was that the catchers’ skills were not up to par. Cho Hyung-woo, the team’s most anticipated next-generation catcher, needed a little more time in the first team.

That’s when Kim Min-sik, who had a lot of first-team experience and was somewhat out of favor with KIA due to the signing of Park Dong-won, came into the picture. There weren’t many teams willing to give up a first-team catcher, but they were grasping at straws. Kia said, “If the cards are right, we can do it,” and when he became available, they approached him immediately.

A 2012 second-round pick (11th overall) of the team, Kim was traded to KIA in 2017 when they were in need of a starting catcher. Kim was the starting 스포츠토토 catcher for KIA and helped them win the 2017 Korean Series. However, he hasn’t played well since then. When KIA signed Park Dong-won to bolster their catching staff, he immediately lost his starting spot.

However, since returning to his family, Kim has been quietly contributing to the team. Last year, he shared the catcher’s mask with Lee Jae-won and helped the team win the wire-to-wire title and the Korean Series. With Lee Jae-won’s performance struggling, SSG was able to hold on thanks to Kim Min-sik.

This year, he and Lee Jae-won were competing for the starting catcher position, but with Lee Jae-won dropping to the second team due to his rapid decline, he is now the first team catcher. That meant more responsibility. Kim Min-sik has taken that responsibility on his shoulders and is stepping up to the plate. He has led the younger catcher, Cho Hyung-woo, and has been instrumental in SSG’s run to the top of the standings.

Through three days, Kim is batting .234 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 44 games this season. It’s not a flashy stat line, but Kim’s offense is where he really shines. He’s already drawn 18 four-pitch walks, which has boosted his slugging percentage to .357, more than a full percentage higher than his batting average. As a catcher, a slugging percentage in the mid-thirties is a pretty good indication of offensive value.

He sees the ball calmly and has a good aim, which is unique to a catcher. In the game against Kiwoom at the Incheon SSG Landers Field on the 3rd, he not only kept the pitchers in check until the 10th inning, but also shined at the end with a game-winning hit in the 10th inning of extra innings in a 1-1 tie. Kim Min-sik said after the game that he was looking for pitches to hit to the body, and he got it, and he got it right.

In defense, he is doing more than the basics. As he becomes the main catcher and plays more systematically, he seems to be finding more stability in his game. He has 15 stolen bases this year, the most in the league, and has a good 36% success rate. His blocking isn’t too shabby either, as he’s been able to keep the forkball-throwing pitchers at bay on the SSG mound. His performance so far is nothing to sneeze at for a catcher who can also play offense.

On a personal note, it’s nice to see Kim turn his career around before he hits free agency. Last year’s flood of catchers caused a stir in the market, but this year’s market is not as crowded as last year’s, so his value will be considerably higher. When asked about free agency, Kim Min-sik always says, “I don’t care about it, I just do my best in each game.”

SSG should consider re-signing him if he continues to perform like this. Cho Hyung-woo also has military issues. They need a catcher to fill the gap, and Kim Min-sik could be the best alternative. The trade last May is looking like a stroke of genius.

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