KBO: Kiwoom’s Lee Jung-hoo Out For Three Months With Ankle Injury

Outfielder Lee Jung-Hoo of the Kiwoom Heroes runs to first base in the bottom of the fifth inning during the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League opening game between Kiwoom Heroes and Lotte Giants at Gocheok Skydome on April 02, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network

Outfielder Lee Jung-hoo of the Kiwoom Heroes in the Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League will undergo ankle surgery and miss the next three months of the season, likely keeping him out of the lineup for the rest of the year. 

The team has not announced when he will undergo the surgery, or the specific type of surgery. According to YonHap News Agency, Lee has been diagnosed with damage to his extensor retinaculum tendons in his left ankle. 

“Lee received a detailed checkup including an MRI and an X-ray at two hospitals today,” the Kiwoom Heroes said in a statement on Monday. “He was diagnosed with damage to his left ankle and will have to undergo surgery. Rehabilitation is expected to take about three months.”

Lee was placed on the injured list following Saturday’s game against the Lotte Giants, and tests revealed the severity of his injury. Lee’s ankle injury may also cause him to miss the 2023 Asian Games, which start on September 23 in Hangzhou, China. 

Lee Jung-hoo was in the middle of his seventh season with the Kiwoom Heroes. He played his first season as an 18-year-old in 2017 and is a career .340 hitter and has struck out only 304 times in 3,946 career plate appearances. Although not known for his power, Lee hit a career-high 23 home runs on his way to winning the MVP Award in 2022. He finished his MVP campaign with 113 RBI, a .349 batting average, and a .996 OPS. Lee is a five-time KBO League Golden Glove Award winner. 

Lee has represented South Korea in the 2018 Asian Games, the 2019 WBSC Premier 12 tournament, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and the 2023 World Baseball Classic. In four games at the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Lee had five RBI and hit .429 in 14 at-bats. 

Lee will be posted at the conclusion of the 2023 KBO season for Major League Baseball consideration and should receive plenty of interest. He was hitting .319 with six home runs in 85 games this season before his injury. The 24-year-old will turn 25 in August and is eligible to sign an MLB contract of any length and salary because he will no longer be considered an “amateur” by Major League Baseball. Once Lee is posted, MLB organizations will have 30 days to negotiate and finalize a contract with him. 

“The team has been giving me so much support since I was a rookie, and I was able to start dreaming about playing overseas because the team has helped me grow as a player,” Lee said in an official Kiwoom Heroes statement in January. “First and foremost, I will concentrate on the upcoming season. I will put aside personal ambitions and try to help the team win the Korean Series.” 

Lee hired Scott Boras as his United States agent this past January in preparation for his Major League Baseball recruitment. Boras has represented several former South Korean MLB players including starting pitcher Chan Ho Park and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. He currently represents Toronto Blue Jays’ South Korean starting pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu. 

Boras most recently helped outfielder Masataka Yoshida secure a five-year deal with the Boston Red Sox worth $90 million last winter after playing seven seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. 

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