This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
Thursday's KBO action saw three teams score at least 11 runs, results made all the more surprising by the fact that all three of those teams were facing some of the league's best starters. The Bears scored six runs off Dan Straily in just 2.1 innings and went on to dismantle the Giants by a 13-1 score, with each of the team's first seven hitters recording at least two hits. Drew Rucinski at least lasted five innings against the Wiz, but he gave up eight runs in a game the visitors would eventually win 11-5, with Min Hyuck Kim leading the way with four hits. Meanwhile, Ben Lively wasn't to blame as the Lions lost to the Landers, 11-6, as he allowed three runs over 6.2 frames while striking out 10, but the Landers scored eight runs off the Lions' bullpen in their comeback victory, with Joo Hwan Choi leading the way by driving in seven.
Friday's slate should in theory be somewhat low-scoring, as the day features four foreign starters plus some intriguing local arms, with few games standing out as obvious stacking opportunities.
With a large number of strong pitchers on the slate, you certainly don't have to pay up for Andrew Suarez ($10,700), though he's likely to be worth the high price tag for anyone who can find room for him. His first two KBO outings were dominant enough that his season numbers remain excellent even after a disappointing outing last time out against the Bears. He's struck out 36.5 percent of opposing batters this season while walking 7.9 percent, helping him to a 1.59 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. He has what should be an easy matchup Friday against the Eagles, who rank a surprisingly respectable sixth in scoring so far this season but who finished last in that category by a significant margin last year and didn't add many significant pieces.
One reason to skip Suarez is that he'll have a tougher time earning a win than normal against Ryan Carpenter ($7,700). Carpenter wasn't one of the more heralded new foreign starters this season, as he spent last year pitching in Taiwan, but he's been one of the better ones through his first three starts, two of which came against last year's Korean Series contestants, the Bears and Dinos. He's struck out 29.4 percent of the batters he's faced en route to a 1.65 ERA. Pitching against Suarez could make getting a win tough, but the Twins' offense has really struggled this season, ranking last in scoring at just 4.0 runs per game.
Daniel Mengden ($6,400) hasn't had the same dominant start that the two former MLB pitchers mentioned above have gotten off to, but he's done enough that he has no business being the third-cheapest option on the slate. His 4.86 ERA is nothing special, but his 1.14 WHIP, 22.1 percent strikeout rate and 4.4 percent walk rate are all quite good. He has one of the stronger MLB resumes among KBO arms, recording a respectable 4.64 ERA in 302.2 innings at the highest level, so those underlying numbers aren't much of a surprise. He'll face a Lions lineup which ranks fourth in scoring this season but which isn't all that intimidating when not playing at the team's hitter-friendly home park.
Joo Hwan Choi ($4,800) has been everything the Landers hoped he would be when they signed him to a four-year deal over the offseason following a long and successful career as part of the core of the Bears team which reached six straight Korean Series. That probably understates things significantly, as there's almost no way the Landers would have expected this sort of start. Choi has only reached eight homers in two of his 13 previous seasons, but his home run Thursday means he's already halfway there, tying him for fifth in the league with four on the year. While he's unlikely to finish with anything close to his 1.045 OPS (he's finished higher than .850 in that category just once), he should still wind up as one of the league's top second basemen and should stay hot Friday against Heroes righty Woo Jin An, who owns a 5.25 ERA and 2.00 WHIP through three starts.
The Tigers are worth consideration as a potential stack against Lions southpaw Jung Hyun Baek, whose 2.40 ERA this year isn't remotely supported by his 11:10 K:BB, but most of the team's best bats are both struggling and left-handed. Chang Jin Lee ($4,300) fits into neither of those categories and looks like potentially the most appealing Tiger to grab if you include just one. He's moved up to fifth in the order recently due to his teammates' struggles and his own strong performance, as he's hitting .361/.500/.472 through 13 games. He's yet to homer and has just six career homers in 205 games overall, but he's seeing the ball exceptionally well, walking 10 times to go with just three strikeouts.
The Heroes find themselves surprisingly at the foot of the standings and are struggling on both sides of the ball, ranking in the bottom three both runs scored and runs allowed. With players failing to live up to expectations up and down the roster, Geon Chang Seo ($3,700) has done his best to hold things together. He's moved up to the top third of the order in each of the last 10 games after starting the season lower in the lineup. The move is deserved, as he's hitting .339/.431/.429, with his .860 OPS representing his best mark since his MVP campaign back in 2014. He'll get the platoon advantage against Landers righty Jong Hun Park, who's started this season well but who posted an unremarkable 4.81 ERA last season.
Min Su Jeon ($2,300) earns a spot here, though not as a result of his own talents. The 32-year-old owns an unremarkable .267/.337/.358 slash line in a part-time role over parts of eight seasons. He's hitting .385/.500/.385 this year, though that comes in a tiny sample of 16 plate appearances. He earns a mention here because he's hit second in each of the last two games, and anyone who occupies that role in a lineup as strong as the Dinos' deserves a look at almost any price. You're almost never going to find a hitter this cheap filling a spot that important in a lineup this strong, so Jeon is certainly worth a look as long as he remains the number two hitter.
Stacks to Consider
On a day full of decent or better starters, Jung Hyun Lee stands out as the obvious pitcher to target. He may have potential, as he was selected first overall by the Wiz back in 2017 and is still just 23 years old, but most top players have established themselves by that age which often sees players debut at age 18. Lee's only KBO experience to date came in 2019, when he allowed 13 runs in 12 innings while posting a 9:8 K:BB. He spent all of last year in the Futures League. The Giants lineup has started surprisingly hot, sitting third in scoring, and should stay that way against Lee on Friday.
Jeon is a big part of the Giants' hot start on offense. Through 16 games, he's hitting .390/.507/.525, tying him for sixth among qualified hitters with a 1.032 OPS. That's almost certainly more than can be expected of him going forward, as he's only once posted an OPS above .850 and had a solid but unremarkable .829 mark last year. Still, he's seeing the ball incredibly well so far this year, walking 14 times to go with just five strikeouts, so there's little reason to believe he's suddenly about to go cold.
Like his 35-year-old teammate, the 38-year-old Dae Ho Lee has gotten off to a strong start, hitting .317/.414/.483. He's not the hitter he was at his peak, when he slugged .667 and hit 44 homers back in 2010, but he clearly still has plenty to offer. He hit 20 homers last season and consistently came up big in the clutch, finishing eighth in the league with 110 RBI. He's set for a similar season this year, as he's homered three times and driven in 17 runs, good for fifth on the RBI leaderboard.
Son is one of a very small number of Giants hitters who hasn't gotten off to a good start. Through 16 games, he's hit a modest .264/.354/.292. He's still been able to hold down the second spot in the order and will get the platoon advantage against Jung Hyun Lee, which keeps him as a viable option. He's started showing signs of turning things around, too, recording multi-hit games in four of his last six. Once he gets going, he should be one of the best contact hitters in the entire league, as he finished second among qualified hitters with a .352 average last season.
The opposite side of that same contest features arguably the second-best stack opportunity. It's certainly far too early to give up on Franco just three starts into his KBO career, as the rule about trusting teams' scouting departments to have brought in a pitcher who is indeed worthy of a foreign pitcher slot still applies. On a day without many particularly shaky starters, however, Franco's early results are poor enough to make him one of the better stack targets. He looked decent enough in his first two starts but was lit up by the Lions in his last outing, giving up eight runs (four earned) while failing to complete the first inning. He now owns 14.0 percent walk rate to go with his 6.94 ERA and 1.54 WHIP.
Kang is doing a great job leading the Wiz lineup following the offseason departure of MVP Mel Rojas Jr., with his .967 OPS narrowly edging out his .964 mark from last year. The fact that he's reached that mark while only homering once is remarkable and indicates just how high his ceiling is. He's been a very good all-around hitter since breaking into the league as an 18-year-old in 2018, but he could be reaching a new level in his age-21 season. Most notably, he's cut his strikeout rate from 16.2 percent last season to 9.6 percent this year while walking in 12.3 percent of his trips to the plate.
Almonte remains underpriced for the level of performance one can expect from a foreign hitter, though his price tag is perhaps fair for what he's accomplished thus far. His .274/.357/.355 slash line through his first 70 KBO plate appearances is fine in the first two categories but lacking in the power department. His six-game hitting streak seemingly indicates that he's finding his groove, though, and he should eventually hit for respectable power. In parts of three seasons in Japan, he hit 31 homers over 243 games (the equivalent of 18.4 in the KBO's 144-game schedule) and slugged .484. Given the drop in talent from Japan to Korea, a 20-homer season should be very achievable for Almonte.
A 20-homer season is almost certainly not achievable for Cho, who doesn't have a single homer in 320 career KBO games. He still makes for a solid leadoff man thanks to his contact and on-base skills, however. He's hit .281 so far this season and is capable of even more, as he's crossed .290 in each of the last two seasons. He's also walking at a 14.5 percent clip, a mark that beats his 13.0 percent strikeout rate. If the Wiz have a big day at the plate against Franco, expect Cho to give Kang and Almonte multiple chances to drive him in.