This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
Friday's KBO slate featured all 10 teams in action and a number of close games, with three decided by just a single run. Jose Pirela went 2-for-4 with a homer and Tae In Won struck out seven while allowing two runs over six innings of work as the Lions edged past the Landers, 3-2, while the Tigers edged past the Heroes by that same score despite six innings of one-hit, no-run ball from Heroes starter Chan Heon Jeong, with Hyoung Woo Choi hitting a two-run shot as part of a three-run seventh inning after Jeong left the game. Elsewhere, the Wiz scored five runs in five innings off Dan Straily and held off a late comeback to win, 5-4, extending their lead atop the standings to 2.5 games over the Twins, who lost 8-3 against the Dinos. In the day's other blowout, the Bears easily handled the Eagles by a 9-1 score, with Ariel Miranda striking out seven over seven scoreless innings as the top four hitters in the Bears' lineup combined for nine hits.
Unfortunately, we may go from five games Friday to zero Saturday, as all five games are in danger as of writing. With rain potentially affecting all five games, I've included players from each contest here, but you'll want to check the weather as last-minute as possible before filling out your lineups.
Can I interest you in a mid-priced pitcher who's yet to give up an earned run since the Olympic break? Casey Kelly ($7,500) wasn't at his best in the first half, and while he ended it with a perfectly decent 3.56 ERA in 17 starts, it took some good luck to get there, as it came with a sub-par 15.8 percent strikeout rate. He ended the first half with a pair of starts in which he allowed four runs apiece, but he's yet to give up a run in 14 innings in the second half. He's been dominant, striking out 12 (good for a 25.5 percent strikeout rate) while walking none and allowing just six hits. Kelly has been among the league's best starters in previous years, so it's believable that he could continue to look like one going forward. He'll face a Dinos lineup that lost four everyday starters to suspensions over the break due to health protocol violations, so the unit is no longer nearly as tough a matchup as its first-place ranking in runs per game suggests.
Can I interest you in a mid-priced pitcher who's yet to give up an earned run since the Olympic break? That same description applies not just to Kelly but also to Ryan Carpenter ($7,700), whose spotless streak actually lasts three outings, stretching back to his final start of the first half. The Eagles' lefty has been quite streaky throughout the year. He cruised to a 1.37 ERA in his first seven starts before stumbling to a 6.15 ERA over his next eight, but he's clearly back on track now. He struck out a season-high 10 batters in his most recent start against the Dinos, raising his strikeout rate to 24.8 percent, the fourth-highest mark among qualified starters. He'll face the third-ranked Bears lineup Saturday but will do so at pitcher-friendly Jamsil Baseball Stadium.
While Kelly and Carpenter appear to be clearly the top values on Saturday's slate, I'd be perfectly happy paying up for Eric Jokisch ($8,800), who's priced rather affordably himself. Jokisch hasn't had a scoreless start since mid-June, but he's on a run of three straight one-run outings. Those starts have brought his ERA and WHIP down to 2.45 and 1.13, respectively, not far from the 2.14 ERA and 1.06 WHIP he managed last season. He still doesn't offer a ton of strikeout upside, though his 19.3 percent strikeout rate is above league average, and he's proven for a few years now that he can get outs without elite strikeout numbers. He'll have an easy assignment Saturday against the ninth-ranked Tigers lineup.
Ja Wook Koo ($6,200) earns a spot here again, as he's one of the hottest hitters in the league right now. He's grabbed at least one hit in all nine games since the Olympic break, slashing .353/.452/.559 over that stretch. He's also swiped six bases, including five over his last five games. He's now stolen a career-high 22 bases, tying him for third in the league. Of the other 10 players with at least 10 steals, only one (Shin Soo Choo) can beat his 12 homers. Koo is especially dangerous when playing at home in the league's most hitter-friendly park, where he'll get the platoon advantage Saturday against Wilmer Font, who had an excellent first half but has allowed seven runs in nine innings since the break.
On the other side of that same contest, the Landers' righties look very interesting against Lions southpaw Chae Heung Choi, who's struggled to a 5.90 ERA this season. Jeong Choi ($5,400) is the best of that bunch and one of the best hitters in KBO history. His two-homer night Thursday against the Dinos gave him 390 for his career, good for second all-time in Korea. He may be 30 years old, but he's shown no signs of slowing down. His 1.022 OPS, the second-best mark of his career, is good for third among qualified hitters, while his 22 homers tie him for first.
Will Craig ($2,000) has started his KBO career well, hitting .353/.400/.471 over his first six games. Like every other foreign hitter, however, he'd have no business being anywhere near this cheap regardless of how he'd performed in his first few games in Korea. Anyone who's cracked a major-league roster should be assumed to be one of the best hitters at the KBO level until they prove otherwise. Craig's MLB experience is on the low end for a foreign KBO bat, as he played in just 20 games before making the jump, but he's come over at the unusually young age of 26 and still has the chance to establish himself as an MLB-caliber talent if he looks good with regular playing time in Korea. He shouldn't have much trouble Saturday against Tigers righty Gi Yeong Im, who owns a 4.71 ERA.
Unlike Craig, Hernan Perez ($2,000) hasn't looked good in his first handful of KBO games, going 1-for-12 with five strikeouts in three contests. Again, though, that's a tiny sample size, and he deserves the benefit of the doubt as a former MLB player until he shows over an extended period that he's not good enough for the KBO level. The 30-year-old's MLB experience is much more extensive than Craig's, as he's appeared in 651 games over parts of 10 seasons. A player with 436 career hits against the highest caliber of pitching shouldn't have much trouble against KBO arms, even against Walker Lockett, who'd been one of the better pitchers in the league for most of the year but has allowed 11 runs in 9.2 innings over his last two starts.
Stacks to Consider
Seo was selected in the regional round (a round which precedes the bulk of the draft in which teams can take one player from their local area) of the 2019 draft, implying that he has a fair amount of potential. He's yet to show much of that potential through his first three years in the league, however. The young righty deserves credit for at least sticking in the league to throw 204.2 innings as a swingman in his first two seasons, though his 5.32 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and 13.0 percent strikeout rate in those innings was far from impressive. He's taken a step backwards in his third KBO campaign. In 20 appearances (just two of which have been starts), he's struggled to a 6.83 ERA and 1.86 WHIP, striking out 13.2 percent of opposing batters while walking 15.4 percent.
Kang is as expensive as I can remember a hitter ever being on this slate, but it's tough to argue with the price tag. He's hitting .388/.501/.580 on the season, leading all qualified hitters in both average and on-base percentage while ranking third in slugging. The issue here is how to build a remotely affordable stack around him. To that end, I've skipped the expensive Jae Gyun Hwang ($5,600), though he's worth a look if you have the budget space. We'll go with a pair of mid-tier outfielders instead. Bae broke out to post a .789 OPS last season, and while his .734 OPS this year falls short of that mark, he's still good enough to be usable against a weaker pitcher like Seo. Yoo, who usually follows Bae out of the sixth spot, is still hanging around at age 40 and remains an above-average hitter. He doesn't have much power left, clearing the fence just once this season, but he makes plenty of contact and has a good eye, striking out just 8.9 percent of the time en route to a .304/.426/.385 slash line.
Lee finally had a good start his last time out, holding the lowly Eagles to just one run on three hits and two walks over seven innings of work while striking out five batters. That one start is out of line with his performances over the last two seasons, though, so he remains an ideal stack target. He struggled to a 6.55 ERA in 19 starts last season and didn't open up this year any better. He allowed 17 runs with a 10:14 K:BB over his first three starts of the season, and while he only allowed one run over his next two outings, his 4:7 K:BB hardly suggests he suddenly started pitching well. Lee does have a respectable 4.49 career ERA and should be far from over the hill at age 30, but it's going to take more than one strong outing to make him look like an intimidating opponent.
Hong came to the plate a total of just 56 times prior to his age-26 season last year, but he broke out that season to hit .279/.409/.417. He's taken another leap forward this season and has been an excellent leadoff man, with his 17.3 percent walk rate helping him to a .340/.477/.442 slash line. Kim has taken a step back from the .927 OPS he posted last year, as would probably be expected in his age-33 season, but his .285/.381/.471 slash line is still good enough to justify his mid-tier price even when he doesn't get the platoon advantage against a pitcher like Lee. Bour has struggled significantly in his first nine games in Korea, hitting a miserable .091/.211/.182, but no sample that small is enough to significantly reduce the expectations for a player with as much MLB experience as he has. A hitter with 92 career homers and a 114 wRC+ at the highest level of the spot has no business being anywhere near this cheap.