This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
The rain went away Sunday, allowing for a full five-game slate for the first DraftKings KBO contests of the year. As expected on a day full of aces, strong starting pitching was a common theme, as returning foreign starters Casey Kelly and Drew Rucinski each struck out six batters over five innings while allowing just one run in a game that Kelly's Twins eventually won 2-1. Newcomers Walker Lockett and Artie Lewicki turned in good debuts for the Bears and Landers, respectively, with Lockett allowing one run in 5.2 frames while Lewicki allowed two in six innings.
Tuesday's slate, which kicks off the first full week of KBO action, features clear skies across the country and a more varied set of pitchers, as teams move towards the middle of their rotations. Four of Tuesday's starting pitchers will be making their first career start in the KBO.
Won Joon Choi ($5,900) is among the best starters on the slate, so it's a mystery why he's the second-cheapest option. His low points per game total is misleading, as he spent the early part of the season as a reliever. Injuries forced him into the rotation in mid-July, and he cruised to a 3.44 ERA the rest of the way. His 16.5 percent strikeout rate on the season was fairly modest, which caps his upside, but he was generally quite reliable, never allowing more than four runs. He stands a good chance to finish well below that number against an unimpressive Lions lineup in the league's most pitcher-friendly park.
It's difficult to figure out what's going into DraftKings' pricing for new foreign pitchers. There are four on this slate, and their prices are separated by $2,500. Ryan Carpenter ($4,000) is easily the cheapest and the only one facing a lineup which ranked in the bottom half last season, so he's the one to earn the recommendation here. Carpenter wasn't good in his 63 MLB innings, struggling to an 8.57 ERA for the Tigers in 2018 and 2019, but that's true of pretty much every foreign player in the league. His 4.00 ERA in Taiwan last year seems unimpressive on the surface, especially given that it came at a level lower than the KBO, but it was good enough for fifth among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings in the high-scoring environment of the CPBL. It will take a few starts to see how his skills translate in Korea, but they don't have to translate all that well to justify his minimum price.
If you want to pay up for a more expensive arm, Jong Hun Park ($8,700) may be the best bet. He's primarily noteworthy because he gets to face Carpenter's Eagles, a lineup which finished last in scoring by a significant margin last season and didn't make many upgrades over the winter. He's an interesting enough arm in his own right, however, though his 4.81 ERA last season doesn't necessarily demonstrate that very well. He'd recorded ERAs between 3.88 and 4.18 over the previous three seasons, respectable numbers that look better when considering that the league had a juiced ball for the first two of those years. Even last year, when his ERA jumped to an unimpressive number, he still struck out a strong 19.4 percent of opposing batters, giving him plenty of upside against a weak Eagles offense.
If you aren't including the very inexpensive Carpenter in your lineup, consider choosing Jeong Choi ($5,800), who will get the platoon advantage against him for the Landers. The 34-year-old is one of the best hitters in KBO history, with his two homers Sunday giving him 370 for his career, good for second-best all time. He's still 97 bombs behind Seung Yeop Lee's all-time best mark of 467, but he should have enough good seasons left in his bat to make a charge at the record. He's deservedly the most expensive option at both third base and shortstop.
Odrisamer Despaigne may be the most expensive pitcher on the slate, but you shouldn't be afraid to use the Twins' top hitters against him, as his 4.33 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in his KBO debut last year were both hardly intimidating. Roberto Ramos ($4,900) is worth a look against most righties, including Despaigne. He does strike out quite a lot, with his 27.5 percent mark ranking last among all qualified hitters, but he makes arguably the best contact in the league when he gets a hold of the ball. His .592 slugging percentage ranked fourth in the league last year, while his 38 homers ranked second despite the fact that he missed 27 games.
Expect this section to feature a fair number of new foreign bats until their prices rise to reasonable levels. Former big-leaguer David Freitas ($2,400) remains at both the wrong price and wrong position Tuesday. Strictly a catcher and first baseman stateside, he's somehow wound up with both second-base and third-base eligibility on DraftKings. His .200/.268/.288 slash line in 59 MLB games is quite poor, but every hitter who earns one of a team's three foreign player spots should be treated as one of the best bats on the team until proving otherwise. Freitas certainly hasn't done that yet, going 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI on Sunday.
Like Freitas, Zoilo Almonte ($2,400) is seemingly priced very incorrectly. He hasn't appeared in an MLB game since 2014, but he's carved out a nice career in Japan in recent years, hitting .316/.375/.484 over three seasons. He slotted straight into 2020 MVP Mel Rojas Jr.'s spot in the lineup in Sunday's season opener, hitting between Jae Gyun Hwang and Baek Ho Kang in the No. 3 spot. As a switch hitter, there won't be many days where selecting Almonte is a bad idea this season, especially while he remains this cheap.
Stacks to Consider
Baek seems to be the weakest of the returning starters on the slate. His 5.19 ERA last season ranked last among that group, while his 1.42 WHIP tied for second-worst. He missed the back of the season with an elbow issue but is evidently ready to go again this season. He did strike out a roughly average 17.8 percent of opposing batters, but he struggled with the long ball, giving up 2.0 HR/9. Pitcher-friendly Jamsil Stadium may help him somewhat in that regard on Tuesday, but the Bears offense has enough firepower to get to him anywhere.
With the left-handed Baek on the mound, will skip the Bears' very expensive lefty bats (Jose Fernandez and Jae Hwan Kim) in favor of some cheaper righties. Park produced a strong .841 OPS last season, though that was actually below his typical standards, as it represented his lowest mark since 2014. He has good gap power, tying for fourth in the league with 40 doubles. His spot at the heart of a good Bears lineup should help him score plenty of runs, as he finished sixth in the league with 103 last season.
Hur, who should be the Bears' primary leadoff man this season, is one of the best contact hitters in the entire league. His .332 batting average ranked seventh among qualified hitters last season, while his 5.7 percent strikeout rate led the entire league. He only had two multi-strikeout games all season and struck out just twice over a 32-game stretch from Aug. 27 through Oct. 4. He should get on base multiple times against Baek and should have the chance to score multiple runs.
Yang is far from the most exciting option, but he's great value for his near-minimum price even without considering the strength of the hitters around him and the fact that he'll get the platoon advantage against one of the day's least intimidating arms. Acquired in a March trade with the local rival Twins, who share the Bears' home stadium, Yang had a down season last year, hitting a modest .246/.315/.364 in limited action. He has some decent seasons on his resume, however, hitting .263 with 22 homers in 2018. He hit fifth in his Bears debut Sunday, indicating that the team has some faith in him.
Choi had a strong season in 2019, cruising to a 3.38 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. He took a big step back last year, however, struggling to a 5.07 ERA and 1.38 WHIP and missing a month with shoulder inflammation. He wasn't a high strikeout pitcher even during his better seasons, but he saw his strikeout rate dip to a career-low 14.0 percent last season. Just 24 years old, Choi could certainly recapture his previous form at some point this season, but he's a very interesting stack target until he shows that level of performance.
Tucker is worth consideration against nearly every righty, and Choi is no exception. After a promising partial season in 2019, in which he hit .311/.381/.479 in 95 games, he reached another level in the power department last year, hitting .306/.398/.557. He filled up the leaderboards, finishing tied for sixth in homers (32), tied for fifth in RBI (113) and seventh in runs (100). With fellow lefty Hyoung Woo Choi hitting behind him, the heart of the Tigers' order should continue to scare opposing righties this season.
Hyoung Woo Choi may be 37 years old, but he's shown no signs of slowing down in recent years. His 1.023 OPS last season was good for second in the league and marked his fifth time posting a four-digit mark in that category. His 28 homers on the season gave him 330 for his career, good for seventh on the KBO's all-time leaderboard. He also tied for seventh with 37 doubles and ranked fourth with 115 RBI. He should drive in plenty more runs this season with Tucker hitting ahead of him.
Leadoff hitter Won Jun Choi gets the advantage of setting the table for the Tigers' aforementioned big bats. Choi had a breakout season last year, hitting .326/.387/.421, with that batting average ranking him 11th among qualified hitters. He's very tough to strike out, with his 8.5 percent strikeout rate ranking sixth among that same group. He also has decent speed, swiping 14 bags. He's primarily interesting for his platoon advantage and lineup spot, however, so consider looking elsewhere if he doesn't lead off like he did in the Tigers' first game of the year.