Vlad Sedler gives an overview and his best tips for successfully cashing in KBO DFS!
In case you missed it and before you proceed, make sure to check out part one which was an intro and primer to the KBO. We covered four of the 10 teams in the Korean Baseball Organization, so in this week’s installment, we’ll run through the remaining teams and discuss some key DFS strategies.
The four teams featured last week are among the league’s best. The NC Dinos have the league’s best record (26-9), the Doosan Bears won last year’s championship, the LG Twins are the quiet, but deadly team that is devoid of power outside of Roberto Ramos, and the KT Wiz have arguably the best 1-2 power punch in Mel Rojas Jr. and 20-year-old star-in-the-making Baek-ho Kang.
Here are the rest of them:
The Heroes have been around since 2008 (originally the Woori Heroes) and were known as the Nexen Heroes from 2010 to 2018 before Nexen Tire sold the team to Kiwoom Securities at the end of 2018. They are the only team in the league with a domed stadium. The Heroes finished with the second-best record last season, and though they have a record over .500 this year, it took them a little while to warm up. They’ve scored the second-most runs in the league thus far with a nice chunk coming in an explosive outing (18 runs) against the Dinos last week.
For DFS, they are quite frequently an offense that is used in stacks. But, like the Dinos and Bears, there are usually a couple of guys at the top of the price tier on DraftKings that makes it hard to use their key pieces.
Ha-seong Kim (SS) – This may be a strong comp, but Kim is the Francisco Lindor of the league, as he’s one of the best all-around hitters and across-the-board stat producers. Kim led the league in runs last season (112) and was second in stolen bases (33) behind Kia’s Chan-ho Park (no, not THAT Chan-ho!). He hit nearly as many homers in last year’s de-juiced ball season (19) than he did in the juiced season previously (20). Kim has also averaged around 21 homers in each of the past five seasons and typically hits anywhere from second to fourth for the Heroes. So far this year, his 14.8 percent strikeout rate is the best mark since his rookie season (13.6% in 2014). Kim typically goes overlooked in DFS since he is on the expensive side, and most DFS players prefer the big power guys.
Jung-hoo Lee (OF) – Lee is a lefty bat and the team’s #3 hitter. He is a guy to keep an eye on, as he is just 21 years old but has been one of the prime contact guys in the league. Just check out these slash lines from his three seasons and this year so far:
Lee isn’t known at all for his power, hitting six homers in each of his last two seasons. But he has already slugged six bombs in just 36 games so far this year. Typically on the pricey side but a great play against the weaker right-handed pitchers in the league.
Byung-ho Park (1B) – Park has been in the KBO since 2005 and played half a season with the Minnesota Twins back in 2016, hitting 12 homers in 244 plate appearances. He has been among the league leaders in homers (33 last year, 43 in 2018) and smashed 50-plus in 2014 and 2015. This year has been quite the struggle for him so far, as he’s hitting just .202 and has a strikeout rate over 30 percent for the first time since 2011. On the flipside, he is an on-base machine. How about a .457 OBP in 2018? And this season, he leads the league in walk rate (17.4 percent). Just one of those guys who you roster without thinking twice when he is locked in at the plate.
Eric Jokisch (SP) – Jokisch is a 30-year-old righty in his second season in the KBO, with the Heroes. He was drafted by the Cubs in the 11th round of the 2010 draft and spent most of the decade with them in the minors. Jokisch had a phenomenal debut season (30 starts, 181 IP, 3.13 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 20.1% K, 4.3% BB), as he finished the year as a top-10 starting pitcher in the league. So far, his 2020 has been splendid, as he has allowed just one homer over seven starts (42.1 innings), boasts a top-notch ERA (1.49) with a relatively decent FIP (2.81) along with a 33:7 K:BB. Usually, one of the top-priced pitchers on any DFS slate he is on but worth the price of admission, especially with the run support provided.
The Wiz (Suwon) are one of the newer teams in the KBO, joining in 2015. They finished dead last in the league their first three seasons, ninth in 2018 and sixth last season. Their offense is one of the more potent ones in the league this year, as they’ve collectively hit the league’s third-most homers (41).
Baek-ho Kang (1B) – He is the 2018 rookie of the year, posting an incredible line as an 18-year old (.290 – 29 HR – 84 RBI – 108 R – 3 SB), and is maturing quickly into one of the league’s premier hitters. He missed a few weeks of this season with injury but has caught up quickly, smacking seven homers in just 89 PA (20 games). Kang is one of the few best bets to be wearing an MLB uniform at some point in the near future.
Mel Rojas Jr. (OF) – Rojas is KBO power personified. He’s a hulking 6’2’’, 225-lb switch-hitter who posted some magical numbers just two years ago (.305 – 43 HR – 114 RBI – 114 R – 18 SB in 645 PA) and went .322-24-104 in the de-juiced ball 2019 season. This season, the 30-year-old has picked up right where he left off, among the league leaders in homers (12), runs batted in (36) and average (.383). His .402 ISO is over .040 points higher than the next-best guy (Dinos’ Jin-sun Kang – .360).
The Lions are one of the league’s original teams from 1982 and have a storied history, winning eight league championships, including four straight from 2011-2014. One of their star players from those dynasty years is 36-year-old veteran Hyoung-woo Choi, who has played for the KIA Tigers these last four seasons.
The Lions have an intriguing roster, as they have a few up-and-comers and feel to be in a rebuilding mode. They are rarely utilized as popular offensive DFS stacks, but I feel they will improve as the season progresses and make some waves. They finished with the third-worst record last season (60-83), though, they did hit the second-most homers in the league as a team last year. Their best hitter last year was former major-leaguer Darin Ruf, who was on the verge of cracking the San Francisco Giants’ Opening Day roster prior to the shutdown in March.
Ja-wook Koo (OF/DH) – Koo is 27 and is in his sixth season in the league. He is their best overall offensive player and typically hits second in the lineup. Koo spent two weeks on the injured list in May but has been stroking the ball quite well since returning. Surely some regression incoming, but through 69 plate appearances (17 games), he has a .383 average and .449 on-base percentage.
Here are his career stats:
The only problem with Koo on DraftKings is their algorithm is good and you can’t get a discount on him, as he’s always priced over $5,000 (in the top spectrum of salaries). He’s a disciplined hitter with slightly above-average power and a bit of speed. Not quite superstar, but good enough to throw into your lineup to differentiate when everyone else is playing the Rojas, Ramos and Fernandez’s of the league. On FanDuel, you can usually roster him for cheap.
Tyler Saladino (3B/SS) – The mustachioed 30-year-old former White Sox’ infielder is in his first year in the KBO. A subpar major-leaguer, Saladino is an above-average hitter in the KBO. He started off ice cold but has slowly been adjusting to the league, even moving up from lower in the lineup to more recently hitting third or fourth in the lineup. Saladino has a bit of pop and can swipe some bags. A 12.7 walk rate thus far is about league average. Seeing Koo and Saladino as the stars of this offense tells you pretty much all you need to know about the Lions when compared to the rest of the league.
David Buchanan (SP) – Buchanan is in his first season with the Lions and the KBO. He has been rather mediocre so far when you look at overall numbers (3.63 ERA, 5.12 FIP, 1.21 HR/9, 14.8% K). But note that in his debut, he served up five runs and then 10 against the LG Twins on May 19. In his other five starts, he has allowed just two runs or less. At the very least, you’re getting an innings-eater, as he goes deep into games (over 100 pitches in six-of-seven). You’ve got to pick your spots with Buchanan though, as he is more of a GPP (tournament) play than a cash game (50/50 & double-up) one.
Tae-in Won (SP) – This is the kid I’ve been raving about. A guy I could see on an MLB roster someday. Won is only 20 years old but has quite the live arm. He also has a tae-in (pun intended!) with his squad, as his father was drafted by Samsung in 1984. Won has been a big fan of the Lions and has been attending games with his father and brother since the age of six. He was also a baseball prodigy, appearing on TV shows in Korea as a kid.
As for his actual prowess on the field, well, it was a rough start. He posted an ERA near 5.00 as a rookie but looks like an entirely different pitcher on the mound this year. His strikeouts are up only slightly, and his walks down a bit but most notably, he has been limiting damage on the field (2.30 ERA in 43 IP) though it’s come with a bit of luck (86% LOB, 4.25 FIP). Let’s not forget he is still a kid. A work in progress who will have his share of ups and downs. But he is incredibly mature and looks like someone who will have a successful career in baseball.
The Tigers are the most storied franchise in KBO history, winning 11 championships and never losing in the finals, their latest coming in 2017. They are managed by former big-leaguer Matt Williams. The Tigers were in the bottom-half of the league standings last year and this year are 20-17, though sixth in runs scored. (Whoops, looks like I covered the Tigers in the first article, blame on little sleep, but here’s a more in-depth look)
Hyun-jong Yang, Drew Gagnon, Aaron Brooks (SPs) – This is arguably the strongest rotation trio in the league. Yang led the KBO in ERA last season (2.29, with a 2.59 FIP) though has had his share of rough stat lines since joining the Tigers back in 2017. The lefty is usually the highest-priced starter on DraftKings when he is on the mound. His 20 percent strikeout rate over the past four seasons is actually one of the league’s highest marks, though, he has been roughed up a couple times this year.
Gagnon is 29 and a former MLB pitcher for the Mets, though just 35 innings over two seasons, mostly as a reliever. He has the league’s second-best strikeout rate (27.4%) behind only Dinos’ Chang-mo Koo’s 30.1% and has a much higher ERA (3.57) than FIP (2.08), which is good to note for DFS purposes. Gagnon has been far too cheap on DraftKings his last few starts, but that is bound to change soon.
Brooks is off to a fine start in his KBO career after spending some time with the A’s and Orioles the last few seasons. Through seven starts, Brooks has a 2.76 ERA (3.15 FIP), a 1.18 WHIP, miniscule 4.2 percent walk rate and 12th best strikeout rate (20.2 percent).
Preston Tucker (OF) – Former member of the Houston Astros and older brother of Astros’ phenom Kyle Tucker, Preston is one of the bigger power bats in the league. He played half the season (his first foray) with the Tigers last year and underwhelmed but is among the league leaders in homers (10) with a .336/.404/.629 slash and a 12.8 percent strikeout rate.
Hyoung-woo Choi (OF) – Mentioned him earlier, this guy is a KBO legend as part of the Samsung dynasty from 2011-2014. Choi is now 36 but still plays a large role as a prime contact bat in the top-third of the lineup. Here are his career numbers:
The Giants are the team located in the city of Busan and were one of the originals in the league. Though, they have had very little success over the last almost-three decades, winning only two league titles with the most recent one all the way back in 1992. Back in 2007, they were the first professional Korean club to hire a foreign manager (Jerry Royster). Despite their lack of success, they were voted as the league’s most popular team three years in a row (early last decade) though much of that likely to do with their location in Busan. From 2008 through 2011, they drew over one million fans, a first in the KBO.
Dan Straily (SP) – Among the more popular former MLB’ers in the KBO, Straily pitched for five teams in the majors. His numbers were less than stellar (career 4.56 ERA), though, he did rack off his fair share of strikeouts. He was a fun guy to stack against in MLB DFS because of his propensity for giving up longballs, but so far in the KBO, he has done a great job minimizing them (just two allowed in 47.2 innings over eight starts). Straily has the league’s third-best strikeout rate (26.2%) behind Koo and Gagnon along with an impressive 2.08 ERA.
Dae-ho Lee (1B) – The Giants don’t have an impressive offense whatsoever, but their key guy is 37-year-old Lee, who has been on the team since 2002 with the exception of a 104-game stint with the Seattle Mariners where he hit 14 homers. Lee’s best season was in 2010 (127 games – .364-44-133), and he has hit 37 dingers as recently as 2018. The power went down considerably in an off-year last year (just 16 homers while hitting under .300 for the first time since 2019). He has five homers in 35 games so far, is slashing .318/.404/.488 and is usually a mid-priced option on DraftKings. Since we don’t typically stack Giants unless they’re playing Hanwha or we’re really getting contrarian, Lee should mostly be used as a one-off as a compliment to another team’s stack.
The Wyverns were founded in 2000 and have three league championships, the latest one coming in 2010. Last season, they tied Doosan for the league’s best record (88-55) but have been the clear second-worst team this season behind only the lonely (Hanwha Eagles). Their defense and pitching are right about or above league-average, but their hitting has had some blows with key guys on IL and overall struggles.
Jamie Romak (1B) – Romak is an American who was drafted by the Braves in 2006 but only saw 39 MLB plate appearances between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in 2014 and 2015. He has been with SK for four seasons, hitting 31, 43 and 29 home runs over his first three seasons, and is the team’s cleanup hitter. Because the Wyverns have struggled so much offensively (second-least runs scored), they are rarely rostered in DFS, but that should change as this offense starts to heat up.
Jong-wook Ko (DH) – Ko spent a month on IL with an ankle injury so he might be a guy under-rostered in DFS due to lack of familiarity. He is a punchless speed guy (3 HR, 31 SB in 2019) but hits second in the lineup and has hit over .300 in four of his last five seasons. Only main issue with him is bad plate discipline (sub five-percent walk rate in each of his last five seasons).
Jeong Choi (3B) – Choi is the team’s #3 hitter ahead of Romak. His batting average fluctuates rather greatly from year to year (.292, .244, .316, .288 the last four seasons), though, the 33-year-old can still pack a punch (29, 35, 46, 40 homers the last four seasons).
The Eagles are the Marlins of the KBO and have been for a very long time. They entered the league in 1985, winning championships only in 1989 and 1992. The Eagles didn’t even make the playoffs for 11 straight years (from 2008 to 2017). Last season, only the Lotte Giants were a worse team (48 wins, Eagles: 48 wins), and this year, they’re the clear cellar-dwellers once again. They are not that far removed from a shockingly pathetic 18-game losing streak, which ties the KBO record. Their offense averages a putrid 3.29 runs per game, which is less than half of what the league’s best NC Dinos average (6.87).
Jared Hoying is quite literally their only fantasy-palpable offensive player, but he is hitting just .202 on the season and is the only guy on the team with more than two homers (he has four). The only other intriguing option from a DFS standpoint is pitcher Warwick Saupold, and even then, it’s hard to use him with the team so often huge underdogs. Southpaw Chad Bell is on the team as well, though, he spent the first few weeks of the season on IL and has an 8.80 ERA through four starts.
Hopefully, these breakdowns have pumped you up a bit for KBO baseball. With the possibility of MLB not having a season in 2020, it is very likely we have baseball fans and fantasy players across the nation hopping aboard the KBO bandwagon. Yes, it’s true the 13 to 16-hour time difference makes it tough for us to enjoy it without messing up our sleep schedules, but the diehard fan in all of us will do anything for the sport we love.