This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
We're through just over one week of KBO contests, and very little sense of order has emerged. Eight of the 10 teams have either three or four wins, with the Twins sitting atop the standings with five and the Wiz trailing with just two.
From a league-wide perspective, it's perhaps notable that league ERA sits at 4.22 after coming in at 4.78 last season, while the league's batting average has dropped from .273 to .254. It's far too early to draw significant conclusions there, as the fact that front-end starters have thrown a disproportionate amount of innings thus far is undoubtedly part of the picture, as is the fact that offense is typically down in April due to colder temperatures, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
Offense could stay somewhat muted Tuesday, with three foreign starters on the slate as well as a few solid local arms, though the day on the whole features a fairly wide spread of pitchers.
One start doesn't tell you all that much, but Ariel Miranda ($8,200) threw five shutout innings in his KBO debut last week while Wilmer Font and Josh Smith combined to give up nine runs over five innings, making him the most interesting of the trio of new foreign starters on this slate. He'll face a Wiz lineup which should still have plenty of firepower even after the offseason departure of MVP Mel Rojas Jr. but which sits just tied for seventh in scoring thus far this year. Miranda recorded a respectable enough 4.72 ERA in his 223 MLB innings but has since gone on to have some success overseas. He spent 2020 with the CTBC Brothers of the CPBL in Taiwan, where his 3.80 ERA was much better than it looked given the league-wide 5.27 ERA.
While the aforementioned Josh Smith ($7,400) had a rather poor KBO debut, one outing isn't nearly enough to knock off the shine that comes with any pitcher deemed worthy of one of a team's two foreign pitcher slots. The 33-year-old recorded a fairly unimpressive 5.60 ERA in his 184.2 innings at the MLB level, though that innings total is a respectable number compared to many foreign starters in the league, which seems to bode well for his future in Korea. After getting knocked around by a mediocre Tigers lineup in his first KBO start, he'll look to get back on track against a Twins lineup which has started the season slowly, tying the Wiz and Lions for seventh in runs per game so far.
Young Pyo Ko ($6,700) looked good in his first start back in the league after missing two years due to military service, holding the Twins to just one run on two hits over six innings. He posted ERAs just north of 5.00 in each of his two seasons as a starter prior to that time off, but he's a better pitcher than you might think just from looking at those numbers. For starters, those years came during the league's juiced ball era, with the league ERA coming in at 4.97 and 5.17. Additionally, his underlying numbers suggested he deserved far better results, as he struck out 21.0 percent of opposing batters while walking just 3.3 percent. It's possible he's in for a breakout season, and it won't cost much to bet on another good outing here, though he won't have an easy matchup against the Bears.
Despite oddly batting in the bottom third of the order for much of last season, Aaron Altherr ($5,700) was a big part of the Dinos' first-ever KBO title. In his debut season overseas, he hit .278/.352/.541 and joined now-Padre Ha Seong Kim as the only players with at least 20 homers and 20 steals, finishing with 31 of the former and 22 of the latter. He's moved up to fifth in the order this season and has gotten off to an incredible start, hitting .379/.419/.862 with four homers and nine RBI through seven games. He'll face Wilmer Font, who has MLB experience but who lasted just two innings in his KBO debut against a weak Eagles lineup, allowing four runs.
Sun Bin Kim ($4,800) has also gotten off to an excellent start this year, leading all qualified hitters with a .538 batting average. While it's undoubtedly taken some BABIP luck to get him there, that level of contact is nothing new for the 31-year-old, who hit .330 last season and posted a career high average of .370 back in 2017. He's displayed excellent control of the zone thus far, walking seven times to go with just three strikeouts. That's nothing new for the veteran, either, as he has 22 more walks than strikeouts over his 13-year career.
If the Eagles had more reliable bats, they'd be an interesting stack option in the league's best hitters' park against Lions righty Tae In Won, who posted an unintimidating 4.89 ERA last season. Eun Won Jung ($3,500) will get the platoon advantage against Won and looks like one of the team's more interesting options. The 21-year-old has led off for the Eagles in every game this season and has gotten off to a strong start, hitting .300/.533/.350 through seven games. After walking exactly as often as he struck out last season, he already has 10 walks to go with just six strikeouts so far this year.
The Giants are another potential stack option, as they'll face Tigers righty Min Woo Lee, who's coming off a season in which he struggled to a 6.79 ERA and 1.66 WHIP. The Giants have several similarly-priced options who are adequate but unexciting. Chi Hong An ($3,300) looks like one of the best choices Tuesday, as he's among the team's cheaper starters despite leading off in every game this year. He has the strong on-base skills one would expect from a leadoff man, hitting .333/.500/.481 through seven games. He's demonstrated excellent plate discipline, walking nine times against just three strikeouts, which should give his teammates plenty of chances to drive him in.
Stacks to Consider
The Lions' lineup has accomplished very little this season, as they sit tied for seventh with just 4.0 runs per game. The mediocre unit is a lot more dangerous at their home park, however, which ranks as the most hitter-friendly park in the league. They're also a lot more dangerous against a pitcher like Park, a 21-year-old with a career 8.07 ERA in 83.2 KBO innings. He struggled to an 8.39 ERA and 1.86 WHIP in 24.2 innings last season, with that WHIP representing a very uninspiring career best. His 16.2 percent strikeout rate wasn't too far below league average, but his 13.7 percent walk rate was far too high, as was his 1.8 HR/9.
A lefty on the mound for the Eagles means it's time to load up on the Lions' righties. The three batters listed here hit fourth, fifth and sixth in each of the team's last two games. Pirela entered the season as a minimum-priced player on DraftKings thanks to his lack of KBO experience, but he's seen his price tag rise as expected as he's begun to find his footing at the plate. He went 4-for-8 with a pair of homers over the weekend against the Wiz and should continue to find success at hitter-friendly Daegu Samsung Lions Park on Tuesday.
Kang has the second-highest price tag among all catchers on Tuesday's slate, but his cost appears justified. He trailed only Eui Ji Yang in OPS among regular backstops last season with a mark of .836 and finished second among that same group with 19 homers. That level of production is nothing new for the 35-year-old, who's posted an OPS north of .800 eight times. He's gotten off to a hot start this season as well, hitting .346/.393/.538 through his first eight games.
Kim was previously expected to be out until late April with a lat injury, but he returned to make his season debut Saturday. He went just 1-for-7 at the plate in his first two games of the year, but he looks like quite a good value if he is indeed fully healthy. Kim was demoted twice last season after a very poor start to the year, but a second-half tear saw him finish with a .312/.360/.508 line and 20 homers in 115 games. All three elements of his slash line represented his highest marks since his 57-game debut back in 2016.
Stacking the Landers is admittedly risky, as the team ranks last in scoring through seven games after finishing ninth in that category last year. The team added a few key pieces to its lineup over the offseason, however, and a game against Kang is as good a time as any to get going. Kang threw just 24 innings last season, all in relief, and they weren't particularly good ones. He finished with a 6.00 ERA and 1.58 WHIP, with his 16.0 percent strikeout rate and 10.4 percent walk rate hardly suggesting he deserved much better. Those numbers are right in line with his career 5.93 ERA and 1.57 WHIP. He'll be making his first career start Tuesday due to injuries at the top of the Dinos' rotation, and it's not hard to see why he's never gotten the chance before now.
Jeong Choi is the only member of this stack who won't be getting the platoon advantage against Kang, but he's good enough to be worthy of inclusion nonetheless. The 34-year-old is one of the best hitters in KBO history, with his 372 career homers ranking second all-time. He's still 95 home runs shy of all-time leader Seung Yeop Lee, but he seemingly has plenty of time to catch him. If the early results this season are any indication, he's set to make quite a bit of progress towards the number one spot this year, as he's already homered four times, tying him with Aaron Altherr for the early lead.
Joo Hwan Choi sits alone in third place on the home run leaderboard this season, hitting three long bombs. He was a big part of the Landers' efforts to rebound from a poor 20200 campaign this offseason, joining in free agency after helping the Bears reach six straight Korean Series. He probably won't remain close to the home-run lead all season, as he's only twice reached double-digit homers, though he did hit a respectable 16 last year. He's gotten off to a very hot start this season, posting a 1.071 OPS through seven games.
Choo made his KBO debut this season as a 38-year-old, as he headed stateside as a teenager without ever appearing at the highest level in his native country. He went hitless in his first three KBO contests but has since gone 5-for-13 at the plate over his last four. Despite his age, he has a strong chance to be one of the better hitters in Korea this season, as his MLB resume dwarfs that of all the league's foreign bats. He was beginning to fall off in recent years, as one would expect given his age, though his 97 wRC+ last season was still a perfectly respectable number.