This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
KBO's Opening Day on Saturday was a bit of a false start. Rain anywhere in the small country of South Korea (which would rank as the 38th-largest US state, right between Kentucky and Indiana) often means rain everywhere, so the only game which was able to be played was the game between the Lions and Heroes, which took place indoors at Gocheok Sky Dome. Last year's ERA leader Eric Jokisch showed no signs of rust in his season debut, allowing just one run in seven frames as the Heroes cruised to a 6-1 win. Thankfully, the rain seems to be gone Saturday, so the league's other eight teams should be able to make their season debuts. KBO daily fantasy players should also be able to make their season debuts, as the canceled games last night wiped out DraftKings' slate as well. With four of the five pitching matchups remaining unchanged from Saturday's slate, and prices largely remaining the same, many portions of this article have been lifted directly from Saturday's cheat sheet.
Sunday's slate is still full of top-tier starters even with the Lions and Heroes moving onto their number two options, but Dan Straily ($9,800) remains the best available arm. He's also confusingly slipped behind Aaron Brooks to become merely the second most expensive option despite the fact that both saw their scheduled outings postponed. He's not cheap, but he's fairly priced for someone who has a strong case as the best pitcher in the league. He finished second among all qualified starters last year in ERA (2.50), first in WHIP (1.02) and first in strikeout rate (26.4 percent). With a matchup against a Landers lineup that ranked ninth out of 10 teams in scoring last year (when they were named the SK Wyverns), he stands a strong chance of producing a performance to justify his lofty price tag.
In the middle tier, Hyeong Jun So ($8,300) looks like the best choice. He may get overlooked on a slate full of former MLB arms, but the 19-year-old second-year righty is very deserving of the Opening Day nod. He struggled early in his rookie campaign, as almost any 18-year-old would, posting a 6.65 ERA through his first nine starts. Once the calendar flipped to July, however, he was excellent, allowing more than two earned runs just once and never allowing more than three in an outing, closing the year with a 2.38 ERA in his final 17 starts. His overall 16.1 percent strikeout rate does suppress his upside somewhat, but he'll have a very high floor against an Eagles lineup which finished last in scoring by more than half a run in 2020.
Among the cheap options, Woo Jin An ($5,800) looks very interesting. Don't be fooled by his very low 2.9 fantasy points per game last season, as he spent the entire campaign as a reliever. He was a very strong late-inning arm for the Heroes, backing up his 3.00 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with a stellar 28.7 percent strikeout rate, good for fourth in the league among pitchers who threw at least 30 innings. His numbers should be expected to take a step back as he returns to the rotation, where he spent most of his unimpressive 2019 campaign, and there are workload concerns here as well, but the fact that the Heroes are trotting him out as their number two starter indicates they have a lot of faith in him. The upside here is quite high for a pitcher with his price tag, especially against an unimpressive Lions lineup.
Sung Bum Na ($5,400) faces a tough opposing pitcher in Casey Kelly, but that's true of virtually every hitter on this slate. If you're going to pay up for an elite bat, getting the guy who produced the most fantasy points per game by over a full point last season among players still in the league sure doesn't seem like a bad idea. Na failed to achieve his dream of signing with an MLB club this past winter, though that may have been more due to the depressed pandemic market than anything else. He could hardly have made a better case for himself than with his .324/.390/.596 slash line, as his .987 OPS was good for fourth among qualified batters. He also ranked third with 34 homers, while his place at the heart of the league's strongest lineup helped him finish second with 115 runs.
Hyoung Woo Choi ($5,200) gets the nod here over teammate Preston Tucker ($5,300) by virtue of being slightly cheaper, though both could make for strong options if you're looking to roster a high-priced pair. Both will get the platoon advantage against Walker Lockett, who deserves the same respect as any other foreign pitcher until he proves otherwise but who isn't necessarily any more intimidating than most of the arms on this slate. Choi, whose KBO debut came all the way back in 2002, proved he still had plenty to offer in his age-36 campaign last year, leading the league with a .354 average. He was far from a pure contact hitter, as he added 28 homers and 115 RBI, with the latter number ranking fourth in the league, one spot ahead of Tucker.
DraftKings' pricing algorithm seems to be looking only at KBO stats, creating massive values on the leagues' four new foreign hitters. Every hitter who a team chooses to give one of its precious few foreign player spots (of which typically only one goes to a hitter) is expected to be a star, yet all four of the new foreign bats are priced at or near the minimum. Jose Pirela ($2,000) was a competent enough utility man over parts of six MLB seasons, hitting .257/.308/.392 with 17 homers in 985 plate appearances. He spent last year with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, hitting a fairly modest .266/.312/.411 in 99 games, but he should be in line for a stronger showing this season given the step down in competition. He'll face Woo Jin An, who earned a recommendation above, but he's far too cheap and should be strongly considered for any lineup that doesn't include the opposing starter.
Ryon Healy ($2,000) joins Pirela as a minimum-price foreign hitter, making him a bargain that's hard to pass up even against a quality righty in Hyeong Jun So. Healy actually has a slightly above-average batting line in 405 MLB games, with his .261/.298/.450 line translating to a 101 wRC+ and making him one of the most accomplished foreign hitters in the league. He hardly walks, posting just a 4.7 percent walk rate, but he struck out at an acceptable 22.2 percent clip and showed solid power. He could hit quite a few homers off of KBO pitchers, even good ones like So.
Stacks to Consider
Kim is a decent enough pitcher, but the fact that he's starting on Opening Day says far more about the Eagles than it does about Kim himself. Kim's 4.34 ERA last season was respectable and came in more than two runs better than the marks he'd produced in the previous four years, but it's nowhere near the level of the rest of the arms on this slate. He did strike out a fair number of batters (20.9 percent) but also walked far too many (12.1 percent). The Wiz should be a very popular stack here, but it's hard not to go along with the crowd given the alternatives.
Kang looks set to take over as the Wiz's scariest bat following the departure of league MVP Mel Rojas Jr. to Japan over the winter. He's more than capable of filling that role and would have already filled it on most teams in the league last season, as his .955 OPS tied him for fifth in the league. His .330 batting average ranked ninth among qualified hitters, while his 23 homers ranked 12th. He has the potential to add significantly more power, as he homered 29 times as a rookie back in 2018 and is still just 21 years old.
Former San Francisco Giant Hwang is deservedly the second most expensive option at the somewhat shallow hot corner. He posted a strong .312/.370/.512 slash line last season, with his .882 OPS ranking 17th among qualified hitters. He hit 21 homers, marking his fifth straight KBO campaign with at least 20 bombs. He and Kang should remain one of the strongest pairs of Korean hitters in the league this season, likely trailing only the Dinos' combination of Eui Ji Yang and Sung Bum Na.
Almonte has huge shoes to fill following Rojas' departure, and how close he comes to filling them will go a long way towards determining whether or not the Wiz can get back to the playoffs for the second season in their seven-year history. While Almonte's experience at the MLB level is limited, as he struggled to a .523 OPS in just 47 games, the last of which came back in 2014, he has plenty of experience at the international level. He's spent the last three seasons playing for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan, hitting .316/.375/.484. He could be a potential star with the step down in competition to the KBO level, but he's priced near the minimum on DraftKings as he's yet to play a game in Korea.
On a day full of domestic aces and former MLB arms, there aren't many obvious stacks available. We'll go here with a lineup that's typically full of affordable bats against a pitcher who's unknown at the KBO level. Lewicki deserves respect until proving otherwise, as with every pitcher who earns one of a team's two foreign pitcher spots, but the rest of the foreign arms on Sunday's slate have either proven themselves in Korea already or, in the case of Walker Lockett, are pitching in the league's most pitcher-friendly park. That leaves Lewicki looking like the second-best stack target. He didn't show much of note in his 52.1 career MLB innings, posting a 5.16 ERA and 1.78 WHIP. That's a pretty typical line for a foreign starter, so he could certainly wind up pitching like an ace for the Landers this year, but he still looks like one of the better targets on what could be a tough day for offense Sunday, especially as the Landers don't have many intimidating arms behind him in the bullpen.
Son is one of the best contact hitters in the entire league. He finished second among qualified hitters with a .352 batting average last season while striking out in just 9.2 percent of his plate appearances. He's not a total zero in the power department, either, doubling 43 times (the second-best total in the league) to go with 11 homers. That's been Son's profile for over a decade now, as he's hit .295 or better in every season since 2010. He's a good bet for multiple hits against any pitcher, even a former major leaguer like Lewicki.
35-year-old Jeon won't get the platoon advantage against Lewicki the way his 33-year-old teammate Son will, but he's a strong mid-priced option nonetheless. He may not be elite in any one area, but he's still a productive player. His 26 homers last season were good for 12th, while he tied for 10th with 95 runs and tied for 15th with 96 RBI. His .829 OPS last season may have been his lowest mark since 2016, and he's not getting any younger, but he's still good enough to justify his second-tier price tag.
MLB fans may remember Lee from his season with the Mariners in 2016, when he homered 14 times in 317 trips to the plate. Since returning to his home country, he's continued to mash, averaging 26.8 homers over the last four homers while hitting .308. His numbers trailed off slightly in his age-38 season last year, though his .292/.354/.452 slash line and 20 homers were both quite respectable. He also drove in 110 runs, good for eighth in the league and marking his seventh career 100-RBI season. First base is a very deep position in KBO, as one might expect in a league where every team uses a designated hitter, but he's a strong affordable option at the position as usual Sunday.