(ATTN: ADDS photos, details at bottom)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) -- Mel Rojas Jr. slugged his way to the top individual award in South Korean baseball this season.
Rojas Jr., star outfielder for the KT Wiz, was voted the most valuable player (MVP) of the 2020 season in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) on Monday.
Rojas Jr. led the KBO with 47 home runs and 135 RBIs, and finished third with a .349 batting average as he came up one category shy of winning the Triple Crown.
Rojas Jr. also topped all players with 116 runs scored, 374 total bases, .680 slugging percentage and 1.097 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS).
Players received points for top-five votes. The first-place vote was worth eight points, followed by four points for second place, three points for third place, two points for fourth place and one point for fifth place.
Rojas Jr. earned 653 out of 896 possible points, with 71 first-place votes. NC Dinos' catcher Yang Eui-ji was the runner-up with 374 points from 19 first-place votes, followed by Doosan Bears' starter Raul Alcantara with 319 points from seven first-place votes.
"I'd like to thank my family and fans for their support," Rojas Jr. said in a pretaped video message. "I couldn't have won this award without my coaches, teammates and front office. I put in so much hard work, and it led to great results on the field."
In other categories, the 30-year-old ranked second in hits (192), sixth in doubles (39), third in on-base percentage (.417) and third in multihit games (58).
Behind Rojas' power surge, the Wiz finished the regular season in second place with a franchise-best 81 victories and reached the postseason for the first time since joining the KBO in 2015.
Rojas is the second straight foreign MVP winner and sixth overall. He joins Josh Lindblom (Doosan Bears, 2019), Dustin Nippert (Bears, 2016), Eric Thames (NC Dinos, 2015), Daniel Rios (Bears, 2007) and Tyrone Woods (Bears, 1998).
Rojas' teammate, starter So Hyeong-jun, was voted the Rookie of the Year earlier Monday. The Wiz became the sixth team to produce both the MVP and the Rookie of the Year in the same season, joining the 1985 Haitai (currently Kia) Tigers, 1993 Samsung Lions, 2006 Hanwha Eagles, 2007 Doosan Bears and 2012 Nexen (currently Kiwoom) Heroes.
Rojas has spent four productive seasons in the KBO, with a .321/.388/.594 line, 132 home runs and 409 RBIs in 511 games here.
He arrived as a midseason replacement for Johnny Monell in June 2017 and hit .301 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs in 83 games.
In 2018, his first full season, Rojas exploded for 43 home runs and 114 RBIs, while also stealing 18 bags.
He followed that up with a 24-homer, 104-RBI campaign in 2019 and then set the KBO on fire with his MVP season in 2020. Rojas set his KBO career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs and total bases this year.
Rojas has reportedly been drawing interest from teams in Major League Baseball (MLB) and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). The switch hitter was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third round of the 2010 draft, but he hadn't yet made his big league debut when he signed with the Wiz in 2017. He has played in 259 games in Triple-A.
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