This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
Friday's KBO slate featured a large number of decent or better pitchers, and it largely played out as expected. Four teams were held to two runs or fewer, with just two scoring more than five. The expected pitchers' duel between Andrew Suarez and Ryan Carpenter was as advertised, with the 2-1 victory going to Suarez's Twins thanks to his six shutout innings in which he allowed just a single hit and struck out 10. Won Joon Choi also had an excellent outing, holding a loaded Dinos lineup to just three hits in seven scoreless innings as the Bears won 5-1. Daniel Mengden looked quite good as well, striking out nine while allowing just one run on three hits and two walks over six frames to help the Tigers to a 4-1 victory over the Lions. Offense wasn't impossible to find, however, with Dong Hui Han's grand slam helping the Giants past the Wiz, 10-5, while catcher Jae Won Lee led the way with three hits and a pair of runs scored in the Landers' 9-5 win over the Heroes.
Saturday's DraftKings slate features all five games, even though two will take place at 1:00 AM ET and the others will start three hours later, meaning lineups likely won't be available for the later games when contests begin. The day is perhaps a bit short on true top-tier arms, but it looks to have a fairly standard split between pitchers worth selecting and pitchers worth stacking against.
Young Pyo Ko ($7,600) is arguably the most interesting pitcher on the slate regardless of price, so the fact that there are four pitchers more expensive than him makes him the clear top choice. While he's never produced an ERA below 5.00, his marks from his two most recent seasons in 2017 and 2018 aren't nearly as bad as they look given that the KBO was still in its juiced-ball era. His 21.0 percent strikeout rate and 3.3 percent from those two seasons combined is more indicative of his talent. He's missed the last two years due to mandatory military service, but he hasn't missed a beat in his first three starts back in action, all of which came against teams that made the playoffs last year. He owns a 3.00 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 18 innings of work, striking out 17 while walking four. Ko should make it four strong starts out of four against a righty-heavy Giants lineup which surprisingly leads the league in scoring this year but which sat in the middle of the pack last season.
Chan Kyu Im ($7,300) didn't look good in his first start, allowing four runs in 3.1 innings against the Heroes while failing to strike out a single batter. One poor outing isn't enough that we should ignore who he was last season, however, which was a solid mid-rotation starter. His 4.08 ERA and 1.41 WHIP were nothing special, and he did walk a few too many batters (10.0 percent), but his strong 21.3 percent strikeout rate means he got to his ERA in a fantasy-friendly way. He should be much closer to that guy this time around against the Eagles, who have fallen into a tie for second-last in runs per game after ranking last in the league by more than half a run last season.
If you're looking to pay up for a more expensive arm, Ariel Miranda ($9,000) looks like the best bet as long as you're comfortable starting someone against the strong Dinos lineup. The Dinos haven't been at their best lately, averaging just three runs per game over their last five contests, so it's a good time for the southpaw to face the lefty-heavy unit. Miranda has a rather odd statline, as it's quite rare to see a pitcher with a WHIP (1.54) that's more than twice as high as his ERA (0.73). Miranda is walking far too many batters (17.9 percent) to believe that deserves an ERA anywhere close to that good, but he's also posted a strong 26.8 percent strikeout rate.
Jose Fernandez ($5,000) got off to an unimpressive start this season, hitting modest .279/.347/.349 through his first 11 games. After a one-game benching to clear his head, he's been on a tear over his last five games, hitting .525 with three homers. He's now hitting .359 for the season, a mark it wouldn't be at all surprising to see him sustain given that he hit .344 and .340 in his first two years in the league. He should stay hot Saturday with the platoon advantage against Dinos righty Dong Yeon Kang, who owns a 5.58 ERA over 59.2 career innings split across seven seasons.
Jae Gyun Hwang ($4,700) even more slowly, hitting just .184/.326/.263 in his first 10 contests. He's now riding a seven-game hitting streak, however, posting a .500/.563/.643 line over that stretch. He hasn't quite shown the power he's expected to show this year, managing four extra-base hits and just one homer, but that should come soon, as he hit 21 homers and 35 doubles last year. His hot streak should continue against Giants righty Se Woong Park, who's off to a decent start this year (3.57) but posted a mediocre 4.70 ERA and 1.52 WHIP last season.
Jamie Romak ($3,900) is confusingly cheap for a player with his KBO track record. The Canadian slugger is a career .281/.382/.548 hitter at the start of his fifth season in Korea, averaging 33.8 homers over his four full seasons. His inexpensive price reflects his comparatively mediocre .792 OPS on the season, but that's held back by the fact that he went hitless in his first five games. He's since gone hitless just once in his last 11 contests, hitting .318 with three homers over that stretch. He and the improved Landers lineup will face Won Tae Choi on Saturday, who's struggled to a 5.14 ERA and 2.07 WHIP on the year.
David Freitas ($3,500) will become even considerably more interesting once his position eventually gets corrected to catcher, the spot he occupied for the first time Friday. Even at second or third base (positions he's never played as a professional), he's a strong value play. His .679 OPS on the season is unimpressive, but he should be expected to produce at a much higher rate given that the Heroes thought he was worthy of their lone foreign hitter slot. Like the hitters mentioned above him, he started slowly, posting a .520 OPS in his first nine games in Korea, but he's since found his groove, recording a .900 OPS in his last eight games. He should keep rolling against Wilmer Font, who owns an impressive 5.25 ERA and 11:8 K:BB through his first three KBO outings.
Stacks to Consider
The Lions' lineup isn't anything special when not playing at hitter-friendly Daegu Samsung Lions Park, but a matchup against Lee should keep them quite interesting in this particular road game. Lee was arguably the worst regular starter in the entire league last season. Among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings, his 6.79 ERA trailed the rest of the pack by 0.62 runs, while his 1.68 WHIP ranked fourth among the same group. He did nothing to suggest he's turning over a new leaf in his first start of the season, allowing six runs on seven hits in just two innings of work against the Giants, striking out two while walking three.
It would have been a surprise to see Koo as the most expensive hitter on the slate last season, as his .307/.388/.478 slash line was good but not quite top-tier. You could argue he shouldn't be quite that expensive Saturday, as he's gone hitless in his last three games, but getting the platoon advantage against a righty as unimpressive as Lee makes him worth considering nonetheless. Even after those three hitless contests, Koo is still hitting a remarkable .349/.456/.603, with his 1.059 OPS ranking second among qualified hitters.
Including Kang next to Koo makes this a rather expensive stack, but that should be doable on a day with a handful of affordable mid-tier pitchers. Kang carries the second-highest price tag among all catchers, trailing only Eui Ji Yang, but the pair have separated themselves very clearly from the rest of the pool at the position. A remarkable start to the season has seen Kang hit .390/.422/.610, and while the 35-year-old won't sustain quite that level of performance, he's no stranger to a strong offensive season, having posted an OPS north of .800 eight times.
Pirela has seen his price tag slowly climb up to where one would expect most foreign hitters to wind up after he began the year priced at the minimum due to his lack of KBO experience. He didn't impress in his first six games in Korea, grabbing just five hits, but he's been on fire over his last 11, hitting .372/.429/.860 with six homers and 14 RBI. He now trails only Aaron Altherr in the homer run race. He only managed a modest 11 homers in 99 games in Japan last season but seems to be thriving with the step down in competition.
The Twins may be tied for the top record in the league thus far, but that's entirely attributed to their top-ranked pitching staff, as they rank last in the league in scoring. That's not something that should be expected to continue, however, as they ranked a solid fourth last season and brought back all their key players. They may have scored more than three runs just once in their last seven contests, but a matchup against Yi Hwan Kim seems like as good a time as any to get going. Kim may have looked good in 8.2 innings so far this season, allowing just a single run on four hits, but that's far too short a sample to conclude that he's anyone different from the guy who posted a 6.82 ERA, 1.84 WHIP and 41:44 K:BB last year.
The Twins' slow start at the plate can be attributed mainly to the slow starts of Hyun Soo Kim and especially Ramos, but a game against a very unreliable righty should get the two big left-handed bats going. It's possible Kim is feeling the effects of aging in his age-33 season, though he didn't seem to be trending in that direction last year, hitting an excellent .331/.404/.523 with 22 homers and 119 RBI. Whatever the reason for his early struggles, he appears to be getting over them, as he's hit .270/.372/.541 with three homers in his last 10 games. He's seen the ball well all year even when the hits weren't falling, as he's walked more times (11) than he's struck out (nine), something he's done eight times in his career.
Unlike with Kim, there's less of a reason to be optimistic about Ramos' recent performance. He's struggled all year and is hitting just 232/.306/.375 with two homers in 16 games, though his 19.4 percent strikeout rate represents a major improvement on his 27.5 percent mark in his KBO debut last year. Even with that high strikeout rate, he still crushed the ball, posting a .960 OPS with 38 homers, the second-highest total in the league. A bet on Ramos is a bet that he'll get back to that form with a weak righty on the mound for the Eagles, and it could be a bet worth making despite his poor early numbers, as you're unlikely to find him this cheap under normal circumstances.
I've selected Lee over the more expensive Chang Ki Hong ($5,600) here due to Lee's better track record and the gap in price between the pair, though Hong is certainly worth a look for anyone with the cap space. In what's become a recurring theme for this particular article, Lee struggled early, hitting just .154/.283/.359 over his first 12 games, but he's begun to turn things around. He's hit .353 over his last five contests with more walks (five) than strikeouts (four).