This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
For a day full of completely unproven starters, Thursday's KBO slate was surprisingly low-scoring, with teams averaging 4.7 runs, below last year's average of 5.2 runs per game. 20-year-old Lions lefty Seung Min Lee, who posted a 6.84 ERA and 2.01 WHIP in his 26.1-inning debut last season, was perhaps the most impressive, as he held last year's runners up, the Bears, to one hit in six scoreless innings in the Lions' 6-1 win. Jeong In Kim (who owned a career 7.92 ERA) and Eui Lee Lee (making his KBO debut) were also surprisingly effective, combining to allow just three runs on four hits in 10.2 innings in a game that Lee's Tigers would eventually win 5-3. There weren't many huge performances on the offensive side, but Shin Soo Choo finally grabbed his first KBO hit, going 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBI.
Friday's slate features a new set of matchups and a wide spread of pitching options. Some teams have rolled their rotations over to their aces while others are trotting out back-end arms.
Friday's pitcher pool is led by three former MLB arms who are priced far above the rest of the pack. Of the three, Eric Jokisch ($12,000) is the most appealing. He'd be the most appealing pitcher nearly every day he's on the mound, as he led all qualified starters with a 2.14 ERA last season and finished fourth with a 1.06 WHIP. He didn't post an elite strikeout rate, but his 18.0 percent mark was still slightly above league average and looked great next to his 3.9 percent walk rate, the second-best mark among qualified starters. He started 2021 off on the right foot, allowing just one run in seven innings against the Lions, and has a good chance at another strong outing Friday against a Giants offense which ranked sixth in scoring last year.
Deok Ju Ham ($7,500) is the most pricey domestic starter on the slate and comes with plenty of intrigue. Ham has been a reliever for most of his career and was quite a good one, saving 53 games over the last three seasons. He was moved to the rotation late last season for the Bears with mixed results, posting a 4.26 ERA in six starts. Following an offseason trade to the Bears' local rival, it looks as though the Twins will be using him as a starter for now. His 22.4 percent strikeout rate last season gives him enough upside to offset some potential workload concerns, especially against a Landers lineup that ranked ninth in scoring last season and sits eighth in the early going this year.
The risk-takers out there may want to take a look at Jin Uk Kim ($4,000). He'll have a tough time earning a win against Jokisch and faces a fairly strong Heroes lineup, but that's all baked into his price tag. Kim has no KBO track record to speak of, as he'll be making his KBO debut after being selected first overall in last year's draft. It would hardly be surprising if he struggles this season, but that's also baked into the price here. Kim showed plenty of promise as an amateur, beating out 2020 KBO Rookie of the Year Hyeong Jun So to win the prize as the top amateur pitcher in 2019. The Heroes offense just looked unremarkable against another rookie lefty in Eui Lee Lee on Thursday, and it won't cost much to bet on that happening again Friday.
Kang Nam Yoo ($4,600) didn't fit into the Twins stack discussed below, as he typically hits low in the order, but he's a strong option for those willing to pay up at the catcher position. He's scored the most DraftKings points per game among regular backstops thus far in the young season thanks to his .308/.357/.615 line and four RBI. While he won't keep up quite those numbers going forward, he's been a solid offensive option at the position for several years now, hitting 16 or more homers for four straight seasons. With an easy matchup against Geon Wook Lee (discussed below), he looks like the catcher to grab if you aren't trying to stay cheap at the position.
Won Jun Choi ($4,000) earns a recommendation here ahead of his more expensive teammates Preston Tucker and Hyoung Woo Choi, though any of them would make for worthy inclusions with the platoon advantage against Dinos righty Min Hyuk Shin, who struggled to a 5.79 ERA and 1.67 WHIP last season. Won Jun Choi has been hot to start the season, hitting .350 with three multi-hit games in four contests. The 2016 third-overall pick broke out to hit .326/.387/.421 last season after doing very little his first four seasons, but he's doing his best so far to prove that wasn't a fluke.
If the Eagles had enough bats worth considering, they'd be a potential stack option against Bears lefty Hui Kwan Yu, who struck out just 9.0 percent of opposing batters last season en route to a 5.02 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. This seems like a great opportunity for Ryon Healy ($2,600) to get on track following a poor start to his KBO career. Like the rest of the new foreign hitters, Healy has been confusingly priced near the minimum thus far, though he's hit like he deserves to be there, going 3-for-16 with seven strikeouts. Players with MLB experience should be expected to perform like stars until they prove otherwise, however, and four games certainly doesn't count as anything close to proof. With the platoon advantage against a pitcher who doesn't strike anybody out, this is as good a time as any for him to get going.
If you don't take the chance on Jin Uk Kim, David Freitas ($2,500) makes for a strong option to use against him. Like Healy, he's new to the KBO and is therefore priced near the minimum, despite the fact that he should be expected to perform as one of the league's best hitters thanks to his previous MLB experience. He did very little in his stateside opportunities, hitting just .200/.268/.288, but that's true of basically every foreign hitter in the KBO. He has six hits and four RBI in his last four games and could add a few more to both categories Friday with the platoon advantage against an 18-year-old rookie.
Stacks to Consider
The Lions' bats have gotten off to a slow start this season, ranking last in the league with just 2.8 runs scored per game. They're finally home at their hitter-friendly home park, however, and they'll get what should be quite a good matchup against Kim. The righty's 4.96 ERA in 2019 represents his best mark of his six-year career, and that came with the dejuiced ball. He slumped to a 6.10 mark in that category last year, and his underlying numbers don't suggest he deserved much better. He posted a 1.75 WHIP and struck out just 13.1 percent of opposing batters.
Koo was one of the Lions' few reliable hitters last season, finishing second among the team's qualified hitters (trailing only the currently-injured Dong Yub Kim) with an .863 OPS. If he had a bit more power, he might be one of the better hitters in the league, though he's not a complete zero in that category, hitting at least 15 homers in four straight seasons. He's an excellent contact hitter, hitting .307 last year and .317 over his seven-year career. He also stole a career-high 19 bases last season and already has two this year. With the platoon advantage against Kim and a spot in the top third of the Lions' order, he could be set for a big day.
Park will also get the platoon advantage Friday and has hit in the top third of the order in all five games thus far, leading off in four of them. He's a classic leadoff man, favoring contact over power and possessing tons of speed. His 11 homers last season represented a career high, but he hit a strong .290 and stole 34 bases, one shy of the league lead. His lineup position and wheels could set him up to score multiple runs in this one.
Pirela won't get the platoon advantage here, but he's another new foreign hitter whose price should rise significantly over time as he accumulates some KBO stats. He's already risen significantly from the minimum price tag of $2,000 he featured on the first slate of the year despite not doing a whole lot at the plate in five games, going 5-for-20 with no extra-base hits or walks. The hits should start falling for the 31-year-old soon, however, as he hit a respectable .257/.308/.392 across parts of six MLB seasons before heading overseas to play in Japan last year.
A lack of rotation depth was a big part of the Landers' (then known as the Wyverns) struggles last season, and the fact that Geon Wook Lee is still in the Opening Day rotation is a sign that they may be in for another tough campaign. He entered last season as a 25-year-old with just two innings of KBO experience, which wouldn't be uncommon at the MLB level but is rare in a league which frequently sees 18-year-olds debut right out of high school. Nothing in his 2020 numbers suggests he deserved much of a look previously, as he finished with a 5.68 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. His underlying numbers don't tell any more optimistic of a story, as his 14.9 percent walk rate was the worst mark among pitchers who threw at least 120 innings by more than 2.5 points. He paired that with a below-average 16.8 percent strikeout rate. Twins hitters should be on base all day against him.
I've chosen not to list either Roberto Ramos (thumb) or Hyun Soo Kim (thigh) here due to their minor injuries. Both are certainly worth a look if they make the starting lineup, though the Twins have enough power to be interesting even without their two stars. Oh is arguably the best offensive shortstop in the league now that Ha Seong Kim is a San Diego Padre (though Jeong Choi is eligible at the position on DraftKings despite last playing there in 2012). He's been more of a league-average hitter for most of his career but broke out to hit .300/.362/.461 last season. While he doesn't have much home-run power, homering just 10 times last season, he finished third in the league with 41 doubles.
Hong has led off in each of the Twins' games this season, batting directly in front of Oh twice. He has even less power than Oh, homering just five times in 177 career games, but he's an excellent table-setter. His 16.4 percent walk rate ranked second among qualified hitters, helping him to a .411 on-base percentage, good for sixth among that same group. With the platoon advantage against Lee, he should give whoever bats in the middle of the Twins' order plenty of chances to drive him in.
Hyung Jong Lee is the member of this group who I'd replace if Ramos or Kim returns, but he's an interesting backup option if they remain out. He's hit cleanup in three of the last four games and could be the one to take advantage of Oh and Hong's on-base abilities. He's struggled to start this season, grabbing one hit in 15 at-bats, but that's far too small of a sample to be significantly worried. He's coming off a strong season in which he set a career high with a .915 OPS and also hit a career-best 17 homers despite playing in just 81 games.