Last year’s Korean Series champions, the LG Twins, had a strong backup. This year is no different, with new faces emerging to fill in the gaps left by trades, retirements, and other departures.

Manager Yoon Kyung-yeop plans to keep the 28-man roster at 14 pitchers and 14 outfielders. Depending on the situation, the number of pitchers can be increased to 13, but the general rule is 14.

The 14 outfielders include nine starters and five backups up to the designated hitter. The five backups are a second catcher, an infield utility, a pinch-hitter, and two outfielders (pinch-runner and pinch-hitter).

At the start of spring training, Yeom mentioned Song Chan-ui, the home run king of the exhibition games, and Choi Seung-min, the big bat, as his two outfield backups. But through camp and exhibition games, the competition has grown. Rookie Kim Hyun-jong (19) and third-year player Choi Won-young (20) have surged to prominence.

Yeom decided to put Kim Hyun-jong in the opening lineup instead of Song Chan. He said he would give Choi Won-young, who is a developmental player, a chance to play for the first team when he officially registers on May 1.

First up, Kim Hyun-jong. He was drafted in the second round of the 2024 rookie draft. LG acquired pitcher Choi Won-tae from Kiwoom in a trade last July in exchange for Lee Joo-hyung, Kim Dong-gyu and a first-round pick in the 2024 rookie draft. Kim Hyun-jong is LG’s first rookie of the year.

The No. 1-ranked outfielder in high school, Kim stood out in spring training. Kim caught the eye of manager Yoon when he went 8-for-14 with a 5.7 RBI, one home run, two triples, and three stolen bases in four exhibition games (including the Blue-White Game) during spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA.

In the first scrimmage against NC, he went 2-for-4 with two doubles, one triple, and one home run, and in the second scrimmage against NC, he went 5-for-5 with three doubles and two triples. He showed an even mix of contact, power, and mobility.

Yeom has also been giving Kim Hyun-jong playing time in the exhibition games. Kim has appeared in all four games, going 3-for-6 with a home run, a double, and two strikeouts. He came off the bench in the first game against KT on Sept. 9 and went 1-for-2 with a walk and a stolen base in his first at-bat. He also went 2-for-2 with a walk in a pinch-hit appearance against Samsung Electronics on April 11.

Manager Yoon has confirmed that he will put Kim Hyun-jong in the opening lineup. “I’m going to put Kim Hyun-jong in the opening lineup and let him play for about a month,” Yeom said on April 10.

“Hyun Jong-yi is still growing right now. First of all, (Song) Chan-ui is playing in the second team right now, and Chan-ui is a little bit late to be ready. My plan is to take Hyun Jong-i to the opening roster. I’m going to put him on the opening roster, give him a month or so of first team experience, play some first team games, and then send him down to the second team. The idea is to get him some first-team experience, get him some first-team experience, get him some confidence, and then get him down to the second team. First, we’re going to develop the mental part of him, then we’ll move him up a level, and then we’ll send him to the second team.”

The plan is to move Kim Hyun-jong down to the second team and move Song Chan-ui up to the first team to give him a chance in the rotation. This year, Yeom plans to give both players experience. “For Chan Eui and Hyun Jong-yi, it’s not that the team is expecting anything from them this year, but for them, it’s a time to figure out what we want to get out of them in three years and what will be good for them so that we can make investments that will help them,” said Yeom.

Choi was drafted by LG in the sixth round (57th overall) of the 2022 Rookie Draft. He has yet to make his first team debut. He wears the number 118 as a developmental player. Has played exclusively in the Futures League for the past two years. In 2022, he appeared in three games for the second team, going 3-for-7 with a triple, a home run, four RBIs and one stolen base, and last year he appeared in 14 games for the second team, going 3-for-8 (12-for-39) with a home run, four RBIs and two stolen bases.

Choi trained with the second team in spring training and joined the first team ahead of the exhibition games. Quick feet. Choi came off the bench in an exhibition game against KT on Sept. 9, and in his first at-bat, he reached base on a passed ball and promptly stole second base. He added another stolen base against KT on the 10th, and against Samsung Electronics on the 11th, he stole one base and was caught stealing once.

In Suwon on the 10th, Yeom said, “Choi Won-young was one of the pinch runners I thought of after Choi Seung-min. He’s not as bad as I thought, so I think he and Seung-min will compete. The runner-up is an important position. It’s a position where you can make three or four wins for your team. In my baseball, in a one-run game, Seung-min made three or four wins last year because of a certain player. (The pinch-hitter) has a certain impact on the team, so we will decide who is more effective and make a roster decision.”

Yeom heaped praise on Choi Won-young against Daegu on Nov. 11, saying, “I’m going to use him unconditionally. He is worthy of being a substitute and I like his playing style. He really puts his life on the line. I love the way he plays. I want to give a player like Choi Won-young an unconditional chance.”

Choi is currently a developmental player. On May 1, he will be able to register as an official player. “I will unconditionally register him (as an official player) on May 1,” said Yeom. After the exhibition match, he will join the Future Team and prepare for about a month, focusing on the roles of runner and defender, before being called up to the first team.” When Choi Won-young becomes a full-time player in May, he will compete with Choi Seung-min for a spot on the roster.