This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
The start of a new week of KBO action sees some small changes to the playoff picture. The Wiz, Twins and Lions still make up a clear top tier, as they lead the rest of the pack by at least five games, but the Wiz have taken a four-game lead over the other two teams after winning three straight while the Twins lost three in a row. The middle pack appears to have shrunk from four to three, with the Bears now sitting in seventh, 13.5 games back of the leaders, while the Heroes, Dinos and Landers are all just nine or 10 games back. The Bears now only lead the eighth-place Giants by a single game, while the Tigers and Eagles remain nowhere close to the playoff picture.
Rain could be a factor Tuesday, with the Tigers-Wiz and Heroes-Bears games under at least some threat as of writing, though both games seemingly have a decent chance of going forward. The slate features a long list of strong starting pitchers, though there are enough weaker options to stack against as well.
With many good options available, you certainly don't have to pay up for Ariel Miranda ($10,000), but his status as the most expensive pitcher on the slate couldn't be more well-deserved. In the early part of the season, he was a dominant strikeout pitcher but walked too many batters to have a strong case as the best pitcher in the league. He hasn't walked more than two in any of his last 13 starts, however, a stretch in which he owns a 2.09 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He's been on an even more incredible run over his last three outings, throwing 23 scoreless innings while allowing just seven hits. He now leads all pitchers in ERA (2.38) to go along with his longstanding lead in strikeout rate (30.8 percent). He's as matchup-proof as it gets these days, though it certainly doesn't hurt that he's facing the seventh-ranked Heroes lineup at the league's most pitcher-friendly park Tuesday.
Drew Rucinski ($8,900) can't match Miranda's dominance, but he's having quite a strong season himself and would be the top pitcher on many slates given his matchup against the ninth-ranked Eagles lineup. After posting an identical 3.05 ERA in his first two seasons in Korea, Rucinski now owns an even better 2.96 ERA this season. He's gotten there thanks in part to a 22.0 percent strikeout rate, his highest mark in his three KBO campaigns. Rucinski looked a little shaky at the end of the first half, recording a 6.11 ERA and 1.58 WHIP over his final three starts, but he's sorted things out since the break and owns a 2.16 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over his last four appearances, including most recently six-inning, zero-run, two-hit showing against the Landers.
I don't like recommending three expensive pitchers in this section, but I'm not comfortable recommending anyone cheaper than Odrisamer Despaigne ($8,700). You could theoretically go one spot cheaper to Daniel Mengden ($8,300), but selecting Mengden against the top-ranked Wiz lineup instead of Despaigne against the last-ranked Tigers seems unwise. Despaigne has been surprisingly effective this season, cutting his ERA from 4.33 in his KBO debut to 2.99, with a corresponding increase in his strikeout rate, which jumped from 16.4 percent to 22.9 percent. Despaigne's first three starts after the break were unconvincing, as he allowed 13 runs in 13.2 innings, but he's since gone on to throw a pair of quality starts, capping that off with seven shutout innings against the Heroes in his most recent outing.
We'll go slightly cheaper with this category today given the lack of reliable and inexpensive pitcher options. While Suk Hwan Yang ($4,400) is priced as a second-tier option, he's been hitting like a first-tier bat of late. Over his last eight games, he's hit .467/.485/.933 with four homers and 14 RBI. The 30-year-old first baseman had never been much more than adequate in the past, topping out at a .758 OPS and 22 homers. His latest hot streak means he's now already set a new career high with 23 long bombs, and it would take a big slump down the stretch for him to avoid setting a personal best in OPS, as he now sits at .874 in that category. That number should rise Tuesday against 19-year-old Dong Hyeok Kim, whose respectable 4.08 ERA comes with a 19:23 K:BB.
Joo Hwan Choi ($4,300) left Yang's Bears as a free agent over the winter and is suddenly having one of his best seasons at age 33. While injuries have limited him to 73 games, his 15 homers are already just one shy of the 16 he managed last season, the second-highest total of his career. In 10 games since returning to the starting lineup following his latest injury, a hamstring issue, he's hit an excellent .394/.474/.879 with five homers and 10 RBI. That hot streak should continue Tuesday, as he'll get the platoon advantage against Twins righty Chan Kyu Im, who owns an unintimidating 4.46 ERA and 1.49 WHIP through seven starts this season.
Sticking with the Landers, I love the idea of pairing Choi with Yoo Seom Han ($3,900) to get a pair of affordable bats hitting in the fourth and fifth spots in the order. Han is correctly priced below most of the league's top outfielders, but he's one of the best options in his price range. After homering 15 times in just 62 games last year while posting an .874 OPS, he's cleared the fence 20 times in 94 games this year while slashing .256/.353/.489. Much of that power has come since the break, as he's hit six homers and driven in 14 runs over his last 16 games.
On the opposite side of that same contest, Geon Chang Seo ($3,800) provides an inexpensive way to grab a piece of the Twins' core against Landers righty Min Jun Choi, a 22-year-old who's struggled to a 5.69 ERA and 1.88 WHIP while primarily pitching in relief. Seo came over in a trade with the Heroes over the break and has provided the same level of production as usual. He doesn't have much power, but he's hit .289 in 20 games for his new team. That strong batting average should be sustainable, as he's striking out at just a 9.8 percent clip. Additionally, he's starting to run a bit more, as he's already stolen three bases in 20 games as a Twin after stealing just six in 76 games prior to the trade.
Stacks to Consider
The Dinos are no longer one of the most fearsome lineups in the league, as they lost four regulars for the remainder of the season due to suspensions for health-protocol violations over the break. The group that remains includes some of the best hitters in Korea, however, so they still make for an interesting stack whenever they're paired against a weaker starter. Few pitchers fit that description better than Jang. Of the 39 pitchers who have thrown at least 60 innings this season, Jang's 6.02 ERA ranks last, as does his 1.90 WHIP. It's hard to say those numbers are undeserved considering his 13.4 percent strikeout rate and 14.1 percent walk rate. The stack suggested here features a trio who occupied the first three spots in the order for most of last week. Yang and Na are arguably the best duo in the league, while Choi is quite affordable for a player who hits directly in front of that pair.
This game will be played in Daegu Samsung Lions Park, the most hitter-friendly venue in the league, which is the main reason I didn't include David Buchanan among my pitcher recommendations. The Lions would be a tempting stack in most stadiums given the matchup against Lee, however. Lee joins the aforementioned Si Hwan Jang as pitchers who have more walks than strikeouts this season, though his 11:22 K:BB is a far more extreme case. The young righty has posted those numbers in just 21 innings, as he's walked 19.6 percent of opposing batters. He's returning to the KBO level for the first time since mid-June after being deservedly demoted. The stack featured here includes a pair of inexpensive options alongside the excellent Koo, as it's tough to save money at pitcher on this slate, but Jose Pirela ($6,200) is also worth a look if you have the budget space.