Hanwha signed the contract without looking back…Will the club’s biggest rising star prove the reason for the scramble in 2024

Nov. 19, 2023, was a time when the lingering effects of the Korean Series were not over yet. However, the Hanwha Eagles’ clock, which ended early after failing to advance to the postseason, was ticking briskly. On Nov. 19, he signed foreign hitter Jonathan Peraza (26), starting the offseason.

Back then, even individuals eligible for renewal of their respective teams had yet to complete the contract. The U.S., one of the suppliers of players in the Korean pro-baseball league, was also an entry into the free agent market. Naturally, it was hard to predict the players’ market below that level as big-time players were not signing contracts. Against this backdrop, it was natural that keen attention was paid to Hanwha’s move to recruit new foreign batters early on. The deal also met the annual salary cap of 1 million U.S. dollars (down payment of 200,000 dollars) and annual salary incentive of 600,000 dollars). Literally, they signed the contract without looking back.

It would have been impossible without confidence in Peraza. In fact, Hanwha had kept track of Peraza for quite some time, placing him as the first recruitment priority. When Peraza became an FA and was freed from his status, he contacted him immediately and obtained his signature. A source familiar with foreign player markets said, “Peraza was an athlete who received attention from several clubs in Korea. It can be interpreted that Hanwha made a quick move.” A high-ranking Hanwha official also admitted, “There was a competition with other teams.”

Ferraza, a Venezuelan native who signed an international amateur contract with the Chicago Cubs in 2015, has no major league experience. No matter how many market players played or competed, it was difficult to find an unprecedented full bet for a player with no major league experience with $1 million. This is even more so for a fielder whose first contract is relatively small than a pitcher. It symbolizes that Hanwha was very satisfied with Ferraza’s skill and growth potential. 파워볼실시간

Then, why did Hanwha bet on Peraza? Basically, he had the kind of offensive capability that Hanwha wanted. “He is a mid- to long-distance hitter who produces strong batting based on his small but sturdy body and fast bat speed,” Hanwha said of Peraza at the time of his recruitment, adding that he expects his passionate play style to vitalize the young team’s atmosphere. Being a switch hitter was also attractive.

If you look at the scouting report in his childhood, you can see that he received good reviews from his contacts. As the number of home runs increased, however, he created more than 20 home runs in both Double-A and Triple-A seasons. He is not very large in size, but he has shown over the past two years that his bat speed is so fast that he pulls out and produces good hits. When you look at his physical appearance, this is not the style of play that we often think of. We cannot rule out the possibility that he shines more in slugging than in batting average.

Although he does not have experience in the Major League, his performance in the Minor League last year also gives a glimpse of expectations. Peraza played for the Iowa Cubs, a Triple-A team under the Chicago Cubs, last year. He garnered attention by posting a batting average of 0.284, 23 homers, 85 RBIs and an on-base plus slugging (OPS) of 0.922, in 121 games. He failed to make the Major League call-up, but it was no exaggeration to say that he was the best in Triple-A. Attention is also focusing on his ability to produce offense that is developing further through the minor league level.

Despite the fact that the defense issue is labeled as a tag, Hanwha could not ignore Peraza’s aggressive talent. Given that he is still young, some would have calculated that he could become a batter who can run for more than two years if he adapts well to the KBO League. The club has high expectations. “The whole club has high expectations for Peraza. I have confidence that he will do well,” said an official from the club.

Without Peraza’s performance, it would be hard to explain Hanwha’s leap forward. Hanwha’s team batting average remained at 0.241 in 2023. It was the lowest in the league, falling far below the league average of .263. The team’s OPS was also only 0.674. It was the only team in the KBO League whose OPS did not exceed 0.700. Young players gradually settled down on the mound, leaving possibilities, but batters in general failed to do so.

The main reason why there was no synergy effect despite the emergence of Roh Si-hwan and the addition of Chae Eun-sung was also the sluggishness of foreign hitters. Brian O’Greddie, who had high expectations for long-distance shots, was kicked out after a severe slump of 0.125 batting average in 22 games. The slump in the early days of the season affected psychology and deteriorated overall performance. Nick Williams, a substitute foreign hitter, also fell short of expectations with a batting average of 0.244 and an OPS of 0.678 in 68 games. The batting speed itself was good, but it did not lead to performance.

Hanwha added An Chi-hong to its No Si-hwan, Chae Eun-seong to strengthen its batting lineup. However, there is a relatively big gap between strong main players and young players who have yet to establish themselves. Therefore, Peraza needs to balance its gravity well. Attention is also focusing on whether Hanwha’s plan, which had confidence in Peraza, will be realized in the ground this year.

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