This article is part of our DFS NPB series.
Offense led the way on Sunday, with the Giants, Carp and BayStars all scoring at least nine runs. The Giants' 12-0 blowout win over the Swallows kept them atop the Central League standings with a 6-2-1 record, while the Marines won a tight game against the Buffaloes 6-5 to complete a perfect week and keep them atop the entire league with eight wins and one loss. Brandon Laird, Sho Nakata and Hotaka Yamakawa all hit their fifth homers of the season, joining Seiya Suzuki at the top of the leaderboard in that category. On the pitching side, Masato Morishita was one out shy of a complete game against the Dragons, striking out seven and allowing three runs in 3.2 innings, while Angel Sanchez picked up his second win of the season with six scoreless frames against the Swallows. With bats starting to come alive across the league, scoring could stay high Tuesday, as number four starters will be taking the hill across the league.
Kris Johnson ($8,500) comes quite cheap for a pitcher who owns a career 2.56 ERA at the start of his sixth NPB campaign. The 35-year-old hasn't faded in the later stages of his career, as he produced a 2.59 ERA last season. He backed that number up with a solid 20.3 percent strikeout rate and an 8.9 percent walk rate, neither of which is an elite mark but both of which were right in line with his career numbers. He wasn't great in his season debut against a strong Giants team, but he's a great play at his price against a Swallows side which ranks a modest seventh in scoring.
Haruhiro Hamaguchi ($10,500) will have to face a Giants side which is tied for the lead in runs per game this season, but he has the talent to be worth considering nonetheless, especially given his mid-tier price. The 25-year-old cruised to a 3.17 ERA in his third NPB season last year, as his strong 24.9 percent strikeout rate offset his 11.1 percent walk rate. A high-strikeout, high-walk arm is generally better than the alternative for fantasy purposes, as the strikeouts bring with them plenty of upside. He looked great in his first start of the year, striking out seven Dragons in 8.1 scoreless innings, and will be a high-ceiling play in this one even if the matchup gives him a fairly low floor.
Naoyuki Uwasawa ($11,600) faces the three-time defending-champion Hawks, though their lineup hasn't really gotten going through nine games this year, as they rank tied for eighth in scoring. Uwasawa will be making his season debut and will be pitching for the first time in over a year, as a line drive fractured his kneecap last June. He'd recorded a 3.15 ERA in 11 outings prior to suffering that injury, a near match for his 3.16 ERA from the season before, so he should be one of the more reliable pitchers in the league as long as he's healthy.
As mentioned in the introduction, Brandon Laird ($7,900) sits among a group of four hitters atop the early home run race, hitting five bombs through his first nine games. His overall performance has been excellent, as he's hitting .344/.432/.813. That batting average is a particular surprise, as he's a lifetime .243 hitter in Japan. A career 23.0 percent strikeout rate has helped suppress that number, though he's striking out in just 13.5 percent of his plate appearances so far this season.
Hideto Asamura ($7,600) is off to an excellent start as well, hitting .389/.463/.750 with three homers and sitting tied for first with 13 RBI. The 29-year-old second baseman's career .285/.358/.465 slash line is strong but not elite, though he's seemingly reaching a new level in his late 20s. His two highest home-run totals (32 and 33) have come in the last two seasons. He'll face Marines righty Kota Futaki, who struggled to a 4.41 ERA last season and who allowed four runs in 5.2 innings in his season debut.
Takayuki Kajitani ($4,200) is quite cheap for a leadoff man, especially one who fills that role for a BayStars team which ranks third in scoring so far this season. That strong lineup has helped him score nine runs in nine games this season, part of a well-rounded stat line which has seen him hit .333/.415/.556 with a pair of homers.The 31-year-old owns a .261/.340/.444 career slash line at the start of his 11th NPB season and could be set for a big day with the platoon advantage against Giants righty Shosei Togoh, a 20-year-old who's made just three career appearances.
The Tigers have done very little right this season, winning just two of nine games while scoring just 2.1 runs per game, the worst mark in the league. Yoshio Itoi ($4,900) has pulled his weight, however, posting a .364/.400/.485 slash line. Itoi seems quite cheap for a number three hitter, even on a bad team, and quite cheap for his track record as well. He's never hit 20 homers in a season, but he's a productive hitter nevertheless, posting a career .302/.394/.457 slash line. The 38-year-old is still going strong late in his career, as he hit .314/.403/.416 last season.
Stacks To Consider
The Buffaloes have struggled this season, sitting second-last in runs per game with a 2.89 mark while winning just one of their first nine contests. A date with Takahashi could be what they need to wake up, however. He's produced an ERA above 4.00 for four straight seasons and came in at 4.50 or above in that category in each of the last two years. His 4.51 ERA last season came with a low 16.2 percent strikeout rate, so he shouldn't be much of a threat even to one of the league's weakest lineups.
Okada moved from the leadoff spot to the number five spot for the Buffaloes' last three games, but he's been productive wherever he's been slotted in. The 32-year-old owns a strong .300/.436/.567 slash line with a pair of homers through nine games. He barely played last season, hitting .120/.214/.180 in just 56 plate appearances, and he was poor in 2018 as well, but his career .262/.334/.448 line in 13 seasons is a perfectly respectable mark. While his numbers are likely to fall soon, he's not priced as if he's anywhere near as good as his current stats suggest, but he may well remain that good for at least one more game with the platoon advantage against a shaky righty Tuesday.
Jones hasn't excelled in his first nine games overseas, but he hasn't been bad, as his lopsided .242/.286/.455 slash line is good for an above-average .740 OPS. He isn't priced as if he's anything more than an average hitter in NPB, but there's certainly a chance he's much more than that given his extensive MLB resume. His fantasy numbers thus far have been held back in part by some weak performances from his teammates, as he's only scored three runs and driven in three more, but he could have a chance for a big day batting out of the cleanup spot against Takahashi.
Adachi hasn't played every day, but he's been one of the Buffaloes' best hitters when available, hitting .400/.478/.550 through seven games. That's been enough to move him up to the number two spot in two of the last three contests. The 32-year-old's price reflects his rather poor track record, as he owns a 240/.312/.320 career slash line. It's possible he's a late bloomer, though, as his respectable .277/.354/.368 last season represented the best marks of his career in all three categories.
This game seems likely to be rather high-scoring, as both the Buffaloes and Lions look worthy of stack consideration. Albers spent parts of four seasons at the MLB level, recording a respectable 4.10 ERA. He looked good in his first NPB season in 2018, cruising to a 3.08 ERA, but everything fell apart last year. In 13 outings, he slumped to a 5.83 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP. His 16.2 percent strikeout rate suggests he shouldn't give Buffaloes hitters too much trouble in this one. He didn't give Marines hitters many issues in his season debut, allowing three homers and four total earned runs in six innings of work. Homers were his primary problem last year as well, as he allowed a very high 1.7 HR/9.
Yamakawa has been one of the best hitters in the league and would be worthy of inclusion even against a far more intimidating arm. He's tied for the league lead in both homers (five) and RBI (13) while hitting a remarkable .321/.474/.857. While he'll presumably fall off a bit from his hot start, there's no doubting his power, as he's hit 90 homers across the last two seasons combined. He did see his batting average drop from .281 in 2018 to .256 last year, but he's a very productive hitter even at that lower number.
Tonosaki follows Yamakawa out of the number five spot and will also get the platoon advantage against the left-handed Albers. His numbers aren't at Yamakawa's elite level, but there's little reason to complain about his .276/.417/.483 slash line through eight games. The 27-year-old has a solid track record as a good all-around player, as he hit .287 with 18 homers and 25 steals in 2018 and backed that up by hitting .274 with 26 homers and 22 steals last year.
We'll drop back to the sixth spot to round out this stack, as the Lions' typical top three hitters will all get the platoon disadvantage with a lefty on the mound. Nakamura has quite the pedigree for a number six hitter, as the 36-year-old slugger sits 16th on NPB's all-time home run leaderboard with 416 career long bombs. He hasn't faded much in the later stages of his career, as he's coming off a year in which he hit .286 with 30 homers and 123 RBI. He's gotten off to a good start this year as well, hitting .286/.359/.528 through nine games.