This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
The KBO tees up its usual five-game slate Thursday, with several pitchers who had rough first starts taking their next turns through the rotation. The slate features William Cuevas, taking the hill for the first time in 2021, and the powerful Dinos, who are starting to heat up at the plate and draw a tantalizing matchup.
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.
Eric Jokisch ($10,500) has been masterful over his first two starts of the season, allowing just one run on eight hits over 14 innings on his way to an 0.64 ERA and 0.79 WHIP. It's par for the course for the southpaw, who put together a 25-16 mark over his first two KBO seasons. Jokisch draws a good matchup against an LG team that's tied for first place with the Dinos but has still averaged just 8.1 hits per contest and generated a team batting average of .243. Jokisch is averaging 25.5 DK points per start over his first two trips to the mound and allowed all of one earned run over 18 innings across three starts against the Twins in 2020.
Min Woo Kim ($6,400) sports a very appealing salary for a pitcher who's generated a 1.94 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 10:1 K:BB across the 11 innings covering his first two starts. The right-hander could be challenged to get some run support from his team's pedestrian offense, but he did put up 28.5 DK points in his last start, so it certainly isn't out of the question for him to generate a good score even if he doesn't get the win. Additionally, Kim is in a favorble spot against a Samsung Lions squad that's hit just six home runs over 10 games and is averaging a modest 3.8 runs and 7.8 hits per contest.
Also consider: Young Kyu Kim ($8,300)
Aaron Altherr ($6,200) is one of several Dinos in a good spot Thursday against Landers starter Geon Wook Lee, who was touched up by the Twins for five earned runs on three hits and six walks in his first start of the season. Altherr is off to a scalding hot start, averaging 14.4 DK points per game on the strength of a 1.244 OPS, five home runs and 10 RBI across his first nine games. That includes a four-game streak of over 20 DK points that was just snapped Wednesday, and it's also worth noting Altherr has done the overwhelming majority of his damage on the road, where he owns a .500 average and has slugged three of his five homers thus far this season (five games).
Kun Woo Park ($5,300) is averaging 12.1 DK points over his first nine games on the strength of a 1.243 OPS, and he checks into Thursday with a four-game streak of double-digit DK-point tallies. The veteran is hitting .429 with runners in scoring position as well and has struck out just four times over his first 38 plate appearances. KT starting pitcher William Cuevas is making his first start of the season after being scratched Tuesday due to back soreness, so it remains to be seen if he'll be at 100 percent for Thursday's game. Cuevas has been solid over his first two KBO seasons (23-18, 3.84 ERA, 1.21 WHIP), but he's exhibited some control issues and posted a mediocre 15.7 percent strikeout rate in 2020. He's given up 34 home runs over his first two campaigns as well, furthering Park's appeal.
Sun Bin Kim ($4,900) still sports a .400 average over his first 42 plate appearances despite having gone 0-for-8 in his last two games, a testament to how hot the start to his season was. The success at the plate is nothing new for the veteran, who finished last season with a .330/.406/.403 slash across 351 plate appearances. As that line indicates, getting on base by methods other than the long ball is Kim's strong suit, but what he lacks in power he makes up for by making consistent contact and often delivering with men on base. In fact, the 31-year-old is already hitting .429 with runners in scoring position after producing a .345 figure last season. Lotte starter Jin Uk Kim makes for a good target to help Kim break out of his brief slump, considering he's allowed six earned runs on five hits and four walks over the five innings in his first start of the season.
Chi Hong An ($3,500) continues to sport a bargain-basement salary despite averaging 10.9 DK points per game and already having hit double-digit DK points in four of his first nine games. He's also averaging 13 DK points per game versus Kia pitching this season, and he's posted double-digit hits on six occasions overall. Tigers rookie starter Eui Lee Lee has only one KBO game under his belt and gave up three hits, including a home run, and three walks over his first start of the season, making him a potentially good candidate to facilitate another productive effort for An.
Ryon Healy ($3,200) went just 3-for-16 over his first four KBO games, but he's picked up the pace significantly since that point by hitting .412 (7-for-17) with a double, RBI and three runs over his four subsequent contests. Healy slugged 52 of his 69 career MLB homers against right-handed pitching, and Samsung starter David Buchanan pitched to plenty of contact in his first KBO season in 2020 and has continued to do so over his first two starts of 2021, allowing 11 hits over his first 11.2 innings. It's also worth noting Healy has yet to go deep in the hitter-friendly KBO over 33 opportunities, yet he averaged a round tripper every 23.3 plate appearances in his MLB career; therefore, he's overdue for a blast or two, and it could come against a pitcher like Buchanan that surrendered a .311 average, .368 wOBA and 1.2 HR/9 to right-handed hitters during his MLB career.
Also consider: Si Hwan Roh ($3,900)
Stacks to Consider
As mentioned in Altherr's entry, Lee struggled in his first start of the season, and he was very hittable last season as well while pitching to a 6-12 record, 5.68 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and posting a crooked 91:81 K:BB.
Na is welcome in any stack, even when he checks in on a bit of a downturn after hitting only .111 (2-for-18) over his last four games. The 31-year-old is still hitting .400 with runners in scoring position, however, and averaging 12.8 DK points per contest overall.
Yang has started the year in typically stellar fashion as well, posting a .323/.417/.645 line through his first 36 plate appearances while lacing six of his 10 hits for extra bases. He continues to demonstrate the same good eye he's flashed over his last three KBO seasons as well, striking out just six times across his first nine games.
Altherr was already highlighted earlier, while Kang makes for the type of low-salary, low-rostered player you'd need to fit a four-game Dinos stack and still have a viable lineup. The veteran's dreadful start to the season – he's slashing just .207/.314/.276 across his first 35 plate appearances – is in sharp contrast to .309/.350/.463 line he posted in 2020. Kang is a much better hitter than he's demonstrated thus far, and it's worth noting he's struck out at just an 11.4 percent rate while getting a bit unlucky with a .240 BABIP.
Yoo is another starter in Wednesday's ledger that struggled to start the season, allowing six earned runs on nine hits, including two home runs, across 4.2 innings. The struggles are nothing new, as he also pitched to 5.02 and 6.70 ERAs in two of his last three seasons and allowed at least 20 homers in each campaign from 2014-18.
Hwang starts off the stack with a miserable .206 average and .294 slugging percentage across his first 41 plate appearances. However, the 33-year-old has a .341 OBP and slashed .312/.368/.512 with 61 XBH, including 21 homers, and 97 RBI just a season ago. Hwang has a long track record of success at the KBO level and has been partly held back by a .250 BABIP early, but Yoo is the kind of pitcher who could help him snap out of the doldrums.
The switch-hitting Almonte is off to a good start in his first KBO season with a .294/.385/.412 slash in his first nine games. The former MLBer has garnered double-digit DK points on three occasions already and slashed an impressive .316/.375/.484 with 31 homers over his last three seasons in Japan, where he arguably faced a higher level of competition.
Kang has a lefty-on-lefty matchup to start the game against Yoo, but he's pulverized both handedness of pitcher throughout his brief but highly successful KBO career thus far. The 21-year-old already owns 65 career homers over his first three seasons and is hitting .400 with runners in scoring position early in the current campaign, but he has only one extra-base hit through his first 39 plate appearances. Count on that changing as early as Thursday, considering Kang has averaged one XBH every 10.2 trips to the plate coming into 2021.
Finally, Joo carries a rock-bottom salary and is a proven hitter who's opened the season with a .278 average and .381 OBP across his first seven games. He's yet to leave the yard, but Joo slugged double-digit homers in every season from 2014-20.