Shin Min-jae, 27, a former pinch-hitting specialist, has emerged as LG’s new starting second baseman. He’s poised to seize the biggest opportunity of his baseball career.

Shin has started nine of LG’s last 11 games at second base, from last month’s game against KIA in Gwangju on April 28 to the game against Hanwha in Daejeon on April 11. After Seo Geon-chang, who opened the season as the starting second baseman, was sent down to the second team in the middle of last month following a batting slump, Kim Min-sung and Shin Min-jae shared the position, but Shin has been getting more starts lately.

LG manager Yoon Kyung-yeop said, “We’re testing Shin Min-jae as a starter at second base. His contact is not bad. It’s getting better 안전놀이터 and better. He has practiced a lot of batting practice and has become a difficult contact to hit. He’s not striking out as much. If he can hit like that in the ninth spot in the batting order, he’s good enough (to be a starter) to give it a shot.”

After batting just 2-for-2 in four seasons in the first team until last year (30-for-133), Shin has improved his accuracy to 3-for-4 in 45 games this season (16-for-46). Not a huge sample size, but the highest among 134 hitters with 50 or more at-bats. He also struck out just four times in 52 at-bats. He also drew four walks for a 4% on-base percentage.

His defense at second base is also improving as he plays more games. Against Hanwha on the 9th, he made an accurate running throw to second base for a force out in the seventh inning when his center of gravity shifted backwards after catching Noh’s hard-hit single up the middle.

“The defense is still rough, but if we keep practicing and playing, we’ll be fine,” said Yeom Kyung-yup. “We also have to think about Seo Ji-chang not being available. We also have to manage Kim Min-sung because we have to use him in many places,” explaining why he decided to test Shin Min-jae as the starting second baseman.

Shin Min-jae, a right-handed hitting infielder from Incheon High School, joined Doosan as a developmental player in 2015 after going undrafted in the rookie draft. He played 95 games in the Futures League for two years in 2015 and 2016, but never got a first-team opportunity. After a stint as a social service worker, he was selected in the third round by LG in the November 2017 KBO Secondary Draft.

Shin made his first-team debut for LG in 2019 after being called up, but he started only 21 of his 195 career games until last year. He played a strictly supporting role as a utility player who specialized in pinch-hitting and played all six outfield positions except first base.

This year, however, he has already stolen a career-high 14 bases, catching the eye of manager Yoon Kyung-yeop, and is poised to pass the starter’s test. Against Hanwha on Nov. 11, his first game at second base this season, he went 2-for-5 with a double, a walk, and three runs scored, and he also stole two bases, setting the stage for LG’s 13-7 victory.

If Shin continues to be a regular second baseman, LG will need to find a new specialist for the position. “In the postseason, you have to have one fast runner,” said Yeom. We absolutely need a player who can play that role in the postseason,” he said, hinting at a possible trade.

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