This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
Saturday's KBO action had something for everyone. There was an extra-innings walkoff in the early game between the Tigers and Landers, which didn't feature on DraftKings' slate, with Heung Ryun Lee's two-out single winning the game for the Landers in the 10th inning. There were a pair of blowouts, with the Dinos getting six strong innings from Myung Gi Song and three RBI from all three of Min Woo Park, Eui Ji Yang and Jin Hyuk No to beat the Eagles by a 14-4 score, while the Lions scored eight runs off Enderson Franco in the first inning to beat the Giants, 12-0. There was also one low-scoring contest, with the Bears beating the Twins 3-1, though it wasn't actually a pitchers' duel, as Twins starter Andrew Suarez needed 90 pitches to record just nine outs, allowing three runs.
Sunday's slate, which starts bright and early at 1 a.m. ET, features three foreign starters and a fairly strong group of local arms, giving us plenty of viable options to choose from on the mound.
It's a pretty big risk to select a pitcher against the loaded Dinos lineup, a unit that led the league in scoring by half a run per game last season and which leads the league by 0.8 runs per game so far this year. Southpaw Ryan Carpenter ($7,700) comes quite cheap, however, and could have a shot to silence the lefty-heavy unit. Carpenter doesn't have a great resume compared to most of the league's foreign starters, most recently spending the season in Taiwan after struggling to an 8.57 ERA in 63 MLB innings, but he's looked great through his first two starts in Korea. He's allowed just a single earned run in 11 innings, striking out 15 while walking four. It won't cost much to find out if he can make it three good starts out of three to start his KBO career.
One reason not to select Carpenter is that there are other usable and inexpensive starters available. Young Pyo Ko ($7,200) looks like the most interesting option. He missed the 2019 and 2020 seasons due to mandatory military service, but he's shown no signs of rust through two starts this year against a pair of strong lineups in the Twins and Bears. In 12 innings, he's given up four runs on eight hits, striking out 12 while walking four. While his ERAs prior to his time off all came in north of 5.00, he's better than you might think just by looking at those numbers. The KBO was still in its juiced-ball era at that point, and Ko's 21.0 percent strikeout rate and 3.3 percent walk rate from his two seasons as a starter were both very strong. He'll face a decent Heroes lineup that ranks fifth in scoring thus far after finishing in the same spot last season, though they're not exactly a unit to avoid at all costs.
Like Carpenter, Wilmer Font ($7,900) is quite cheap for a pitcher with MLB experience, as his price tag is suppressed by the fact that he has barely any KBO games under his belt. Unlike Carpenter, his early results haven't been all that impressive, as he owns a 7.71 ERA and 1.57 WHIP through two starts. We're still very early in the season, however, so he's been held back by one very poor outing (four runs in two innings against the Eagles). His second start, which came against the Dinos, saw him strike out six and walk just one while allowing two runs in five frames. Given the expectations that come with all pitchers deemed worthy of one of a team's foreign player spots, we should see a lot more outings like his most recent one going forward, beginning with Sunday's game against the Tigers.
Kun Woo Park ($5,800) has been a very good hitter for several seasons, hitting over .300 for six straight years and helping the Bears reach the Korean Series in each of those campaigns. The Bears lost some key players in free agency, but the veteran right fielder has done everything he can to pick up the slack. He's off to an incredible start, hitting .422/.469/.644 while grabbing at least one hit in all 12 games. He'll face 19-year-old Twins righty Mon Ho Lee on Sunday, whose 3.69 ERA as a rookie last season came with an unimpressive combination of a 14.8 percent strikeout rate and 9.7 percent walk rate.
Speaking of incredible starts, few hitters have gotten off to a better one than Ja Wook Koo ($6,100). He's been a good hitter throughout his KBO career but doesn't quite have the power to be considered a top-tier bat, averaging a modest 16 homers over his first six seasons. He's been on quite a tear through 13 games this season, however, hitting .422/.519/.689 with a pair of homers and seven total extra-base hits while also stealing five bases, good for second in the league. He'll have a good shot to stay hot with the platoon advantage against Giants righty Se Woong Park, who's had a pair of good starts this season but finished with a mediocre 4.70 ERA and 1.52 WHIP last year.
Sticking with the Lions, Jose Pirela ($3,900) is the most expensive he's been so far this season but is still quite underpriced, as DraftKings' pricing algorithm doesn't seem to be accounting for non-KBO stats. Pirela hit just .208 with a .448 OPS in his first six games in Korea, but he's been on fire over his last seven, hitting .385 with three homers, eight RBI and a 1.221 OPS. Like all players with MLB experience, Pirela should be expected to wind up as one of the better hitters in the league, and he's well on his way to that already.
Remaining in the underpriced foreign hitter category, Zoilo Almonte ($3,400) earns yet another mention in this column. As a switch hitter, he gets the platoon advantage every game, so he's rarely a bad choice. He'll face Heroes righty Won Tae Choi, who struggled last season and owns a 1.70 WHIP this year despite a solid 3.60 ERA. Almonte hasn't done a ton yet this season, hitting a modest .255/.327/.362, but 12 mediocre games aren't nearly enough to conclude that he doesn't have what it takes to succeed at the KBO level.
Stacks to Consider
It's extremely rare for me to recommend an Eagles stack, but if there's ever a time to do it, it's now. Lee was a solid starter for the Dinos for several seasons, posting an ERA as low as 3.75 as recently as 2019. He didn't look good at all in 19 starts last season, finishing with a 6.55 ERA and 1.63 WHIP. His 14.9 percent strikeout rate and 10.5 percent walk rate don't suggest that he deserved any better. If his first outing this year is any indication, he's headed for a similar performance this year. He failed to complete the fourth inning in his season debut against the Giants, walking six batters and allowing six runs in just 3.2 frames.
Lee has been poor enough that it looks reasonable to include a bunch of rather uninspiring Eagles. Healy is arguably the most appealing of the bunch. That's not exactly what you want to hear about a guy who owns a .614 OPS, but 11 games isn't nearly enough time to rub off the shine that should come with any KBO hitter with MLB experience. Healy has one of the better track records at the highest level among the 10 foreign hitters in Korea, as his lopsided .261/.298.450 line in 405 career games was good for a slightly above-average 101 wRC+.
Ha is quite expensive for a hitter with a career .689 OPS, but his eligibility at the fairly shallow shortstop position makes him worth a look Sunday given that he'll get the platoon advantage against a very shaky right-hander. He's never made good on the promise that came with being the first-overall pick back in 2012, but he's shown at least the early signs of taking the next step in his age-27 season, hitting .326 and stealing a pair of bases in his first 11 games. He leads the Eagles with nine runs scored.
Jung will also get the platoon advantage against Lee and will occupy the leadoff spot. He's hitting just .206 so far this season, but his league-leading 14 walks (three more than anyone else in the KBO) has helped him to an excellent .449 on-base percentage, good for eighth among qualified hitters. He won't maintain a 29.2 percent walk rate all season, but the 21-year-old has demonstrated a strong eye before, posting a 13.5 percent walk rate in 2020. If the Eagles get to Lee on Sunday, he's likely to score multiple runs.
Nam is unlikely to be a true starter Sunday. He'll be pitching on just two days rest, having thrown 38 pitches out of the bullpen on Thursday. All 18 of the 24-year-old's KBO appearances to date have come out of the bullpen, and his numbers haven't been anything close to good. In 24.2 career innings, he owns a 6.20 ERA and 2.35 WHIP, striking out 18 batters while walking 22. The Landers' bats haven't really gotten going this season, as they rank last in scoring, but they shouldn't have much trouble against Nam to start the game or against the long relievers who will follow him early in the contest.
I've skipped the very expensive Jeong Choi ($6,200) here in favor of a slightly cheaper group (though he's certainly worthy of consideration), but Choo is very capable of leading a stack all by himself. The 38-year-old has by far the best MLB track record of any player in the league, recording 1,671 hits and 218 homers at the highest level. While he's understandably fading a bit at the tail end of his career, he still managed a perfectly respectable 97 wRC+ last season. He started his KBO career slowly, going hitless in his first three games, but he's hit .276 in his last eight contests and has homered in two in a row.
Veteran second baseman Choi was signed in free agency after a long and successful career with the Bears in an attempt to kickstart a sputtering offense. While the Landers are still struggling to score runs, Choi has certainly done his part. Through 12 games, he's hitting .354/.367/.625 and sits tied for fifth in the league with 17 hits. He's also tied for third with three homers. That power might not last, as he hit a modest 16 homers last year, but the contact should stick around, as he's hit .298 over his 14-year career.
Han, who went by "Dong Min Han" prior to this season, started the year slowly, grabbing just five hits in his first 10 games. He's started to heat up in recent days, however, going 3-for-7 with two doubles, a homer and three walks in the first two games against the Tigers. Han battled injuries for much of last season but was a productive hitter when healthy, homering 15 times in just 62 games. He showed an excellent eye, walking at a 13.0 percent clip, and has a similar 13.6 percent walk rate thus far this season.