This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
Eight teams were held to five runs or less in Tuesday's KBO action, with two getting shut out, though there were still strong stacks available. The Wiz led the way with 14 runs in their demolition of the Landers, with the top five Wiz hitters combining for 14 hits. Elsewhere, the Lions put nine runs past the Dinos, with Jae Il Oh going 3-for-3 with a walk in his Lions debut. That game also featured one of the best pitching performances of the day, as those bold enough to pay up for David Buchanan against the league's best lineup in the league's most hitter-friendly park were rewarded with six strikeouts over six shutout, three-hit innings. Chan Heon Jeong was nearly as good as his Twins beat the Giants by a 4-0 score, striking out five while allowing the same three hits in six scoreless frames.
Wednesday's slate should feature several more impressive outings, as the day features six foreign starters, including a handful of very good ones.
Any of the day's top three starters are very much worth considering, but I'll give Casey Kelly ($8,900) the edge here, and not just because he's the cheapest. Drew Rucinski is pitching at the league's most hitter-friendly park and Dan Straily is coming off a start in which he left early due to a blister, an issue which sometimes resurfaces without warning. You could point to Kelly's 4:4 K:BB in each of his last two starts as a minor worry, but he still seems like the safest out of the trio of returning aces. Even with those mediocre strikeout and walk numbers, Kelly owns a dominant 2.05 ERA through four starts. That dominance should be no surprise, as it follows a season in which he cruised to a 3.32 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, numbers he backed up with an 18.4 percent strikeout rate and 5.5 percent walk rate. Squaring off against Straily means a win will be tougher to earn than normal, but he has every chance to win the duel, as the righty-heavy Giants lineup shouldn't be too tough to slow down.
In the middle tier, Walker Lockett ($8,400) gets to face a Heroes team which has really struggled so far this season, sitting last in the standings and third from the bottom in scoring. The Bears appear to have unearthed another strong foreign arm in Lockett, who's allowed exactly one earned run in each of his first four starts and who owns a 1.48 ERA and 1.23 WHIP on the year. Lockett didn't do much in 54 MLB innings, struggling to a 7.67 ERA and 1.78 WHIP, but neither did his former Mets teammate Chris Flexen, who owned an 8.07 MLB ERA before starring with the Bears last season and finishing with a 3.01 ERA. Lockett's 17.2 percent strikeout rate and 9.1 percent walk rate don't fully back up his dominance, but he's shown little reason to doubt that he'll be successful at the KBO level.
If you're looking to stay cheaper at the position, Ben Lively ($6,700) makes for a very high-risk, high-reward option. The risk comes from the fact that he's facing the dominant Dinos lineup at hitter-friendly Daegu Samsung Lions Park. Some risk may come from Lively himself, though he's far better than his 5.91 through four starts suggests. He was very poor in his first two outings, giving up 11 runs in 8.2 innings with a 7:6 K:BB, but he's turned things around dramatically in his last two, giving up three earned runs on six hits over 12.2 frames while striking out 16 and walking three. Even with his bat outings included, he's still striking out an impressive 25.3 percent of opposing batters, up from his already strong 19.9 percent mark last season. His ceiling is as high as the top aces on the slate, so his very low price makes him a great target for larger tournaments.
Jae Hwan Kim ($5,800) started the season quite slowly, grabbing just five hits in his first 12 games, though his OPS was still a somewhat respectable .719 over that stretch thanks to a pair of homers and 11 walks. He's turned a corner in his last eight games, however, hitting .400/.486/.867 with four more homers and 12 RBI. A spot at the heart of a diminished but still strong Bears lineup could help him drive in multiple runs Wednesday, as he'll get the platoon advantage against Heroes righty Hyun Hee Han, who owns a mediocre 4.76 ERA and a 5:4 K:BB through his first two starts.
Shin Soo Choo ($6,100) now ranks as the most expensive hitter in the league, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he held onto that position. Even at age 38, he really ought to be one of the best players in Korea, as he has 1,671 MLB hits in a league where anyone with even one hit at that level is likely a star. He's understandably fading with age but still maintained a very respectable 97 wRC+ in his final season stateside. After going hitless in his first three games in his home country, he's turned things around dramatically, posting an .889 OPS with five homers and five steals in his last 16 contests. He'll face a former major leaguer Wednesday in Wiz righty William Cuevas, but Cuevas has allowed seven runs (six earned) in 8.1 innings this year after missing the start of the season with back issues.
Sticking with the Landers, Yoo Seom Han ($3,200) will also get the platoon advantage against Cuevas and is worth a look. Han, who went by the given name "Dong Min" before this year, missed much of last season due to injuries, but he still managed 15 homers in 62 games and an .874 OPS when available. He started this year poorly, hitting .192/.382/.231 through his first 10 contests, but he's turned things around over the last 10, hitting .289/.349/.526 with a pair of homers. He moved up into the fifth spot in the order Tuesday due to Joo Hwan Choi's hamstring injury, which should give him more RBI opportunities going forward.
It's possible it's too much of a galaxy-brain play, but there's a case to be made for Roberto Ramos ($3,700) on this slate. He gets what should be an incredibly difficult matchup against Dan Straily, but Straily allowed six runs in 2.1 innings in his previous start before exiting with a blister. The fact that Straily is starting Wednesday probably indicates that he's indeed good to go, but Ramos could be a rewarding tournament play should the blister resurface. Ramos' own struggles this season (he's hitting just .215/.311/.385) add further risk but also make him more affordable than he'll ever be, and he's capable of being one of the best hitters in the league when he's on his game.
Stacks to Consider
Jang was at least mildly interesting at times last season thanks to his above-average 19.1 percent strikeout rate, but when combined with a poor 12.3 percent walk rate it wasn't surprising to see him struggle to a 5.02 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. Things have gone considerably worse for him through his first three starts this year. He hasn't lasted more than four innings in any of them, giving up 15 total runs (12 earned) in 11 innings, striking out nine while walking eight. The Tigers lineup has gotten off to a very slow start this season, ranking ninth in scoring, but facing Jang seems like a great way to get going.
Choi hasn't lived up to expectations this season and is partially to blame for the Tigers' struggles at the plate, though it's not as if he's been awful. His .785 OPS is a mark that many hitters in the league would be happy to have. He's kept that mark respectable primarily through his .400 on-base percentage, as he's slugging a modest .385. While some regression should be expected in his age-37 season, he'll likely end up a lot closer to his 1.028 OPS from last season by the end of the year. He's already made moves in that direction lately, hitting .275/.442/.500 over his last 11 games, walking 11 times to go with just five strikeouts.
While Choi deserves some of the blame for the Tigers' slow offensive start, Tucker deserves far more. His .598 OPS is far below expectations for a foreign hitter, let alone one who managed a .958 OPS last season. He's turning things around lately, however, riding a seven-game hitting streak and going 8-for-14 with six RBI in his last three games. He's still yet to homer this season, but that drought should end soon, as he cleared the fence 32 times last year.
Unlike Choi and Tucker, Kim won't get the platoon advantage against Jang, but he should still be set to benefit from their big bats should the Tigers go off as expected here. Typically batting second, Kim is one of the better on-base threats in the league. His .321 batting average and 13.3 percent walk rate have helped him to a .411 on-base percentage, good for 14th among qualified hitters. His .405 mark last season would have ranked eighth had he received enough plate appearances to qualify.
Oh might not be one of the top pitchers worth stacking against on a more typical day, but he stands out as one of the weakest starters among a very strong group Wednesday. The 20-year-old has potential, with the Landers selecting him in the regional draft last year, a round which precedes the normal draft in which teams can each select one player from the surrounding area. For a 20-year-old, his career 5.16 ERA in 22.2 innings isn't bad, and his 14:5 K:BB in 13 frames this year is encouraging. His good outings this year have all come out of the bullpen, however, as he allowed five runs (three earned) in just 4.2 frames against the Lions in his first start last week. While there's seemingly something here, Oh is nowhere close to a finished product and shouldn't be considered an intimidating opponent any time soon.
The lefty-on-lefty matchup gave me some pause about recommending Kang, but Oh's track record is brief enough that he shouldn't be able to give Kang too much trouble here. Kang does have a fairly standard split, posting a career .946 OPS against righties and an .853 OPS against lefties, though it's not as if that mark is anything close to poor. Kang has been on a tear this season, ranking second in the league with a .400 batting average, but he's been even better lately. He's riding an 11-game hitting streak and has four multi-hit games in his last six, driving in 12 runs over that latter stretch.
Almonte is certainly no Mel Rojas Jr., who departed for Japan in free agency, but he's quite affordable for a foreign hitter, especially given how well he's been hitting lately. He got off to an unremarkable start, hitting .256/.341/.359 in his first 10 KBO games, but he's now riding a 10-game hitting streak, posting a .350/.422/.475 line. He grabbed a season-high four hits Tuesday, sending his batting average above .300 for the first time. He should follow Kang out of the cleanup spot and could have multiple opportunities to drive him in.
The 39-year-old Yoo hasn't been an everyday player this year, but he's hit fifth in two out of the last three games and will be a strong budget option if he bats there again Wednesday. He's looked quite good in a limited role this season, hitting .368/.478/.447 in 46 plate appearances, walking seven times to go with just two strikeouts. He's yet to hit a homer, but he's reached double-digits in that category for seven straight seasons, so he's not purely a contact hitter.