This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
The KBO's 2021 season is in full swing, with all teams having played either five or six games at this point. It's a bit too early to draw too many definitive conclusions on players around the league, and some star bats are still in the midst of getting their timing down to optimal levels. Nevertheless, this is the point early in the campaign where both pitchers and hitters now have a few games under their belt and begin to provide more concrete indications of what kind of season might be ahead for them.
As customary, I'll highlight what I consider to be two of the safer pitching options at different price points, followed by some one-off hitters across the salary scale that could also prove profitable for cash games and/or tournaments. I'll then break down the two stacks that I trust the most to potentially string some above-average offensive numbers together and pay off for you in tournaments.
Drew Rucinski ($9,200) has already gotten the season off to a strong start by allowing an earned run over five innings to the Twins in his first trip to the mound on Sunday. He'll be in good position to repeat the feat and perhaps go even longer into the game Saturday against the Tigers, which have hit just one home run through five games and are ranked middle of the pack with five runs per game despite leading the KBO with 11.4 hits per contest. Rucinski was stellar with a 19-5 mark, 3.00 ERA, 20 quality starts and only 14 homers allowed through 183 innings last season, and he logged a pair of quality starts against the Tigers along the way as well. Rucinski also has the potent Dinos lineup backing him up, adding to his appeal as only the third-most expensive option in the pitcher pool.
Hyeong Jun So ($8,200) offers some good value at his salary, coming off an impressive rookie season in which he posted a 13-6 mark and allowed just six home runs over 133 innings. The right-hander could be in a good spot Saturday against Samsung, which has averaged just 3.5 runs and hit two home runs through six games. The Lions have a collective, pedestrian .254 average for the moment, and So posted quality starts in two of his three 2020 encounters with them. While his control issues are a bit of a concern, So was much better with his location down the stretch last season (two or fewer walks in his last nine starts) and posted a solid 7:2 K:BB across 5.2 innings in his first start of the season.
ALSO CONSIDER: Walker Lockett ($5,500)
Sung Bum Na ($6,300) was included in the MLB posting period this past offseason but did not come to agreement with any stateside club, which is naturally the Dinos' gain. The star veteran is already off to a stellar start in the new season, posting a 1.431 OPS through his first five games on the strength of three doubles, a triple, two home runs and 10 RBI across his first 23 plate appearances. Na faces a right-hander in Kia's Gi Yeong Im, who's submitted ERAs of between 5.15 and 6.26 over his last three seasons while allowing 39 home runs over that span.
Jeong Choi ($5,600) has opened the season in similarly spectacular fashion to Na, posting a .1409 OPS and already belting four round trippers through five games on his way to an average of 14.4 DK points per contest. Choi already has one 33-DK-point tally on his resume this season and has gone for 16 and 18 in his last two games. Twins starter Casey Kelly doesn't miss many bats and allowed extra bases on 46 (29 doubles, one triple, 16 homers) of the 160 hits he surrendered in 2020, despite generating a solid 15-7 record. Choi brings excellent power and is disciplined for a slugger of his caliber, making him worthy of consideration Saturday.
Jun Woo Jeon ($4,300) has a .474 average (9-for-19) with a pair of doubles and a .400 average with runners in scoring position over his first five games. The veteran has belted between 22 and 33 homers in his last three seasons while also lacing at least 30 doubles in each campaign, so he brings plenty of power upside at a bargain salary. Saturday, he takes a crack at Woo Jin An, who allowed three runs over three innings in his first start of the season and who was used as a reliever in all 42 appearances last season.
Dae Ho Lee ($3,600) often sported a salary that belied his upside last season, and he's started the 2021 campaign in similar fashion. Lee slashed .292/.354/.452 with 47 extra-base hits and 110 RBI while hitting .323 with runners in scoring position in 2020, and he's already compiled a whopping nine RBI through five games this season by hitting .556 with RISP in the early going. Lee is averaging 9.8 DK points per contest thus far – an excellent figure for his salary – and could be in a similar position to exploit An and his lack of starting experience.
Chang Ki Hong ($2,900) carries an extremely appealing salary for a player who's hit .476 (10-for-21) with two doubles, four RBI, three walks and four runs across his first five games. Hong has started every game for LG thus far and has scored 19 to 24 DK points in three of his first five contests. He obviously doesn't have to do too much to justify the minuscule investment required to roster him, and he faces a KBO rookie in Artie Lewicki that generated a 5.16 ERA and 1.78 WHIP across 52.1 MLB innings from 2017-20.
Also consider: Si Hwan Roh ($2,400)
Stacks to Consider
As mentioned in Na's entry, Im is a highly vulnerable pitcher who is prone to giving up the long ball and to wildness as well.
Park is off to a sluggish start by his elite standards at the plate, as he's hitting "only" .278 through his first five games. However, he already boasts a .458 OBP and posted a .345/.402/.475 slash a season ago, along with no worse than a .304 average and .383 OBP in any of his last six seasons. The veteran doesn't offer much power but does possess excellent speed (double-digit steals in seven consecutive campaigns), and the fact he hits ahead of Na should afford him some very good pitches to tee off on.
Na was already highlighted earlier in the article, while Yang was outstanding during a breakout 2020 in which he posted a 1.003 OPS, 33 home runs,124 RBI and a .425 average with runners in scoring position. The slugging backstop is already at it again this year, posting a .429 average with a pair of homers and nine RBI while sporting an absurd .714 average with RISP. Given his prolific power, excellent contact hitting skills, the matchup against Im is one that's tailor made for him to flourish in.
Finally, Altherr is almost overshadowed by some of his more prodigious teammates, but he's no slouch by any means. The former MLBer enjoyed his 2020 rookie KBO campaign, slashing .278/.352/.541 with 31 homers and 108 RBI while also going an impressive 22-for-25 in stolen-base attempts. He's started off 2021 on the right foot, too, posting a .333/.364/.667 line with a pair of homers and four RBI through five games.
Jang has struggled with run prevention throughout his long KBO career, allowing ERAs north of 4.60 in nine seasons, including a 5.02 figure to along with a 4-14 record in 2020. The right-hander is a below-average strikeout pitcher at this stage of his career as well and also posted a robust 5.0 BB/9 last season.
Heo makes for an excellent start to the stack, as he's annually one of the toughest hitters in the KBO to strike out and can deliver a bit of everything across the stat sheet. The veteran slashed .332/.382/.442 in 2020 while hitting .375 with runners in scoring position, posting 25 doubles, a triple and seven home runs along the way.
Fernandez's extremely slow start this season may make him less rostered than he otherwise would be, but the slugger hasn't forgotten how to hit from one season to the next and slashed .340/.404/.497 with 21 homers and 105 RBI in 2020. He's been unlucky for the most part with a .188 BABIP in the early going this season, as he boasts a 93.8 percent contact rate across his first 20 plate appearances.
Park has already gone deep twice in the early going this season and is hitting .350 with just one strikeout over 20 plate appearances. That comes on the heels of yet another stellar season in 2020 (.304/.369/.472 slash, 14 home runs, 78 RBI), his sixth straight season exceeding the .300 mark in batting average.
Finally, Kim isn't likely to be rostered heavily due to both his salary and extremely sluggish start to 2021, one that's seen him hit just .133 over his first 19 plate appearances while striking out six times. However, much like his teammate Fernandez, Kim is too talented a hitter not to snap out of his funk soon, as he's slugged at least 30 homers in four of his past five seasons while eclipsing the century mark in RBI in all of those campaigns. Additionally, the veteran's propensity to whiff shouldn't be too prevalent against Jang, who, as mentioned earlier, is not a big swing-and-miss pitcher at this point.