This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
The KBO's five-game Thursday slate features a few questionable pitchers taking the hill, as well as some of the bigger MLB names in the league at the moment in the likes of Dan Straily and Drew Rucinski. There's a good balance of viable options across the salary scale in terms of bats, and the multiple questionable pitchers gives us plenty to consider on the offensive end of things.
As customary, I'll highlight what I consider to be two of the safer pitching options at different price points, followed by some one-off hitters across the salary scale that could also prove profitable for cash games and/or tournaments. I'll then break down the two stacks that I trust the most to potentially string some above-average offensive numbers together and pay off for you in tournaments.
Casey Kelly ($8,600) is averaging an impressive 15.2 DK points over his first three starts and makes for an interesting pivot off the higher-salaried options on the slate. The right-hander has a 1.64 ERA and .220 BAA in his first two home starts of the campaign, and he faces a Kia squad that's posted a pedestrian .253 team batting average, along with the fourth-fewest runs per game (4.5). The Tigers do have some power that Kelly will have to tread carefully around, but that's something he's done very successfully over his first two KBO seasons while posting HR/9s of 0.4 and 0.8. Kelly doesn't bring elite strikeout upside by any stretch, but his ability to pitch deep into games gives him a very good chance of delivering a strong return on investment.
Hyun Hee Han ($7,300) is a very viable mid-salary option in a matchup against an Eagles team that's averaging the fourth-fewest hits per game (8.3) and has only slugged eight home runs across 15 games while posting a .252 team batting average. Han churned out a quality start in his first start of the season, allowing three earned runs on three hits and a pair of walks over 6.1 innings (13.3 DK points). Han has done an excellent job keeping the ball in the park over the last two seasons as well, posting 0.2 and 0.7 HR/9s in that pair of campaigns. With a favorable opponent that could allow him to return at least 2x his current salary, he's worthy of consideration.
Eui Ji Yang ($6,100) is always a consideration despite his typically hefty salaries, and that's no exception Thursday despite the matchup against a solid starter in Odrisamer Despaigne. The former MLB right-hander has started his second KBO campaign in solid fashion, but he's still yielded multiple earned runs in each of his first three starts, including one two-homer outing. Yang has opened his season in trademark stellar fashion, posting a career-best 1.064 OPS and eight extra-base hits (five doubles, three home runs) over his first 58 plate appearances while hitting an outstanding .588 with runners in scoring position. Yang boasts a .370/.455/.630 slash at home over nine contests as well, furthering his case.
Joo Hwan Choi ($4,900) is averaging 8.5 DK points across his first 15 games on the strength of a .963 OPS and eight extra-base hits (five doubles, three home runs). The veteran has hit over .300 in three of his past four seasons as well, so the fast start to 2021 is no mirage. The lefty-swinging Choi also has a good opposite-handed matchup against Lions starter Ben Lively, who's opened the season allowing a 7.36 ERA and 1.57 WHIP across his first three starts. Lively did bounce back nicely against Lotte his last time out, but he's still allowed a 1.2 HR/9 through his first 14.2 innings while producing a 5.16 FIP and generating a mediocre 58.6 percent LOB rate.
Kyoung Min Heo ($3,900) carries a double-take-worthy salary, considering he sports a .349 average and .379 OBP through his first 66 plate appearances. The 30-year-old is also hitting .364 with runners in scoring position, and although he hasn't shown it yet this season, has plenty of stolen-base upside that allows him to supplement his fantasy production. While he offers only modest power, he's an excellent contact hitter who already has four tallies of double-digit DK points, making him a viable low-risk option despite the matchup against Dan Straily, who, it should be noted, has been a bit more hittable than during his dominant 2020 in the early going of this season.
Geon Chang Seo ($3,900) is a bargain option with which to attack Hanwha starter Shi Hwan Jang, who's pitched to a 10.29 ERA, 2.43 WHIP and middling 7:5 K:BB across his first two starts. Seo has been at his best on the road by far, averaging 10.6 DK points per contest across seven games on the strength of a 1.180 OPS. The veteran second baseman is also hitting .500 with runners in scoring position, has tallied double-digit DK points in three of his last four, and has logged double-digit stolen bases in four of his last five campaigns alone, giving him an abundance of upside at his current salary.
Jun Young Park ($2,900) is a second Dinos bat that is very playable at his salary Thursday despite Despaigne serving as the opposing pitcher. Park has opened the season with a .333/.412/.800 slash and three extra-base hits (one double, two home runs) across just 17 plate appearances. The 23-year-old already looks like a drastically different hitter than in a 2020 rookie campaign where he produced a .152/.235/.239 line (51 plate appearances) and won't have to do a great deal to give you a strong return on investment.
Stacks to Consider
As mentioned in Choi's entry, Lively has started the season off in mostly poor form and got banged around in his first home start to the tune of five earned runs over four innings.
Choo has gotten his KBO return off to a so-so start, offsetting a .216 average with an .843 OPS partly comprised of five homers. The left-handed slugger is starting to pick it up, posting tallies of 22, 17 and 30 DK points in three of his last five games, and it's certainly worth noting Lively allowed a .305 average and .394 wOBA to left-handed hitters during his MLB career.
Choi is also struggling a bit in terms of batting average to open the season, but like his teammate Choo, he's been impressive with four home runs in his first 60 plate appearances. The veteran's slash line is also going to ascend back to the mean, as he's posted at least a .270 average in all but two of his last 11 seasons and OBPs of .385 and up in 10 seasons during that stretch as well.
Romak has been one of the more prolific sluggers in the KBO in the last four seasons, and he's already launched three blasts over his first 59 plate appearances this season. There's always plenty of strikeout risk with the veteran, but his reduced salary and pair of double-digit DK-point tallies in the last four games certainly puts him in play for tournaments.
Finally, Joo Hwan Choi, who rounds out the stack, was already discussed earlier in his entry.
As mentioned earlier, Despaigne has been solid but certainly not prohibitive over his first three starts, and the Dinos, which lead the KBO with 5.9 runs per game and 23 home runs, certainly have the bats to exploit any weaknesses.
Na has been on an extended slump that's now at seven games, one that's seen him hit just .185 (5-for-27) while striking out at a 31.3 percent clip. However, he's too good not to snap out of that funk soon, and the veteran also has the plus of the opposite-handed matchup versus Despaigne, who allowed a .294 average and .350 wOBA to left-handed hitters during his MLB career.
Yang was already discussed earlier in his entry, while Altherr has been on a season-long tear that sees him carrying a 1.185 OPS and slug eight homers through 63 plate appearances. The former Phillie has only two fantasy-point blankings all season, as well as a whopping eight double-digit tallies.
Finally, Park just made his return from a hand injury Wednesday and should be in the starting lineup Thursday. The 35-year-old led the KBO with a .436 OBP a year ago and still offers plenty of power upside at what is still a significantly discounted salary Thursday.