This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
The start of the weekend series in the KBO sees the league in much the same place as it was at the start of the week. Last year's five playoff teams are joined by the Landers and Lions to form a seven-team tier of contenders. The Landers and Lions jointly lead the group, but both lost Thursday, so the rest of that pack remains no more than 2.5 games out of first place. The Landers' loss was the most crushing, as they blew leads to the Wiz in both the seventh and eighth innings before losing in the 10th on a Sung Woo Jang walkoff double. Friday's action should be rain-free and features an unusual mix of starters. Six come into the day with ERAs of 3.81 or better while the other four own ERAs of 5.02 or worse, with none coming anywhere close to the league average of 4.59.
Any time you can get Eric Jokisch ($8,500) as merely the third most expensive pitcher on the slate, it's hard not to get excited. The southpaw was arguably the best pitcher in the league last season, as indicated by his league-best 2.15 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP that tied him for fourth among qualified starters. He's taken a step back this season, but hardly a massive one, as he owns a 3.11 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. After a pair of poor starts to begin the month of May, he's allowed just two runs over his last two outings. He'll have a good shot to make it three strong starts in a row against a lefty-heavy Twins lineup that ranks eighth in runs per game.
Ryan Carpenter ($9,000) didn't necessarily seem like the most inspired foreign pitcher signing over the offseason, as he pitched well in Taiwan last year but not nearly well enough to make it obvious that he'd handle the step up in competition easily. Through nine starts, it's quite clear that he can handle himself just fine in Korea, as he sits second among qualified starters with a 1.69 ERA and is tied for third with a 1.11 WHIP. He has plenty of strikeout upside as well, as his 25.0 percent strikeout rate is good for fourth among the same group. He's looked good enough to be usable against virtually any team, so the fifth-ranked Landers lineup shouldn't be much of a concern.
Perhaps the best reason not to select Carpenter is that you want to go with Jong Hun Park ($8,300) against him and the ninth-ranked Eagles lineup instead. Park didn't do much of note last season, finishing the year with a 4.81 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. Through eight starts this year, however, he's been on an entirely different level, posting a 2.72 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. While a .252 BABIP accounts for some of that gap, he's also shown much better control, cutting his walk rate from 11.3 percent to 7.9 percent. He's allowed just two earned runs across his last two starts and should make it three quality starts in a row with the Eagles unlikely to offer much resistance.
Jose Pirela ($6,200) is no slouch away from Daegu Samsung Lions Park, as he's posted a .951 OPS on the road, but he's an absolute terror at home, where the Lions will play Friday. He owns a 1.129 OPS at his team's hitter-friendly home and has hit 10 of his 13 homers (tied for first in the league) there. In addition to ranking near the top in homers, Pirela also sits tied for third in RBI (38) and fifth in runs (33). He's been the whole package through his first 44 games and has been a large part of the Lions' surprisingly hot start. He'll face Bears righty Won Joon Choi, who has strong numbers overall but has struggled to a 5.17 ERA over his last three starts.
Jung Hoo Lee ($5,200) took a while to get going this season, hitting just .269/.373/.344 through the end of April. In May, he's been something else entirely, hitting .486/.558/.757 while striking out just four times in 17 games. He's homered just once all year, a disappointment after he smashed his previous career high of six with a 15-homer season last year, but he makes so much contact that he's among the league's best hitters anyway. He has plenty of gap power even when he's not having much luck hitting it over the fence, as his 17 doubles are six more than anyone else in the league has managed. He'll get the platoon advantage Friday against Twins righty Casey Kelly, a strong starter who's suddenly become very hittable, allowing four or more runs in three of his last four starts.
Sticking with the Heroes, David Freitas ($2,500) makes for an interesting budget option at second or third base, two positions he hasn't played this year and didn't ever play in his three-year MLB career. (He'd be far more interesting if he was accurately listed as a catcher.) Freitas hasn't come close to meeting the lofty expectations placed on foreign hitters and was so poor to start the year that he was demoted in early May. He's back with the team now and may have earned himself some more playing time by going 3-for-3 with a homer against the Tigers on Thursday. While his season stats are still very poor, the benefit of the doubt should be given to former MLB players until they prove otherwise, and 30 bad games isn't enough to count as proof.
Min Woo Park ($3,700) has been quite affordable lately and is far too cheap for a player who regularly leads off for the league's best offense. His numbers are down this season, though that could be explained partially by a .322 BABIP, which may seem high but comes in 35 points lower than any of his BABIPs from the last seven seasons. Even in a down year, a .288/.394/.365 line is nothing to complain about, and he's chipped in with seven steals despite playing just 31 games, as he missed time with a back issue after being involved in a car accident in late April. He'll get the platoon advantage Friday against Giants righty Se Woong Park, who owns a 5.02 ERA on the year.
Stacks to Consider
So started last season poorly before cruising for most of the campaign, finishing the year with a 3.86 ERA and a Rookie of the Year trophy. He hasn't been the same guy at all this season. Through seven starts, he owns a 6.34 ERA and 1.78 WHIP, and while that's inflated by a seven-run, two-inning blowup against the Dinos, his ERA would still be 4.70 even without that outing. The 19-year-old has actually increased his strikeout rate from 16.1 percent of 17.8 percent, but his control has evaporated completely, with his walk rate jumping from 7.9 percent to 13.8 percent.
The struggling Tigers lineup isn't getting much of anything from the back half of the order, leaving our options limited for building this stack. The trio listed here contains the players who should be the top three lefties in the lineup Friday. Choi's .819 OPS isn't that special, though it's the best mark among any Tiger with at least 70 plate appearances this season. He's supplemented a solid season at the plate with 12 steals, the third-best mark in the league, justifying his high price tag. Tucker has been a major disappointment at the plate this season, as his power has evaporated, leaving him with three homers and a .262/.352/.381 slash line. He's shown signs of life over his last four games, though, homering and reaching base eight times, and getting the platoon advantage against So should help him stay hot. Lee is eligible at catcher despite serving exclusively as a designated hitter and makes for a good mid-priced option at the position. He had just 22 KBO plate appearances prior to this season but has established himself in the heart of the Tigers' order after hitting .333/.433/.491 through 17 games.
The opposite side of the same contest features an equally appealing stack target. Im is actually coming off two of his better outings, allowing a combined three runs, but his start to the year was so abysmal that they've only brought his ERA down to 6.19. Im's track record doesn't indicate that we should expect the good times to continue, as his unimpressive 5.15 ERA last year represented his best mark since 2017. That ERA actually came with encouraging underlying numbers, as he combined a 19.0 percent strikeout rate with a 5.9 percent walk rate. Both have moved in the wrong direction by a wide margin this year, however, as he owns a 13.3 percent strikeout rate (fourth-lowest among pitchers who've thrown at least 30 innings) and a 9.0 percent walk rate.
The Wiz lineup features a number of good but not great hitters surrounding one true star. That star, Kang, is a must-include in any Wiz stack, as he dragged his batting average back across the .400 mark with a three-hit day Thursday. He's been a great hitter ever since joining the league as an 18-year-old rookie in 2018 but is hitting another level this season, cutting his strikeout rate to a career-low 12.7 percent. Cho typically bats leadoff and is all-in on being a table-setter. He has zero career KBO homers in over a thousand trips to the plate, but his .285 average and 18.2 percent walk rate give Kang plenty of chances to drive him in. Sim is usually the number nine hitter, making this an atypical, wraparound stack, but his performances have been good enough that the Wiz may need to think of moving him up. He's hitting .296/.343/.416 on the year.