This article is part of our DraftKings KBO series.
The Korean Series has finally arrived. The Bears slugged their way through three rounds despite missing both of their foreign starters due to injury, winning by an average score of 7.9 to 5. While they're an underdog in the context of just this season, as they entered the playoffs as the fourth seed, they stand as the KBO's incumbent dynasty, appearing in the Korean Series for the seventh straight year.
The Wiz, on the other hand, got the privilege of resting for two full weeks after securing the number one seed. That's proven to be a huge advantage in recent KBO history, with the number one seed winning 17 of the last 19 titles. On the other hand, the Wiz themselves don't have much history to speak of. This is only their seventh year of existence (meaning they've never seen a world in which the Bears didn't make the Korean Series), their second-ever playoff appearance and their first-ever Korean Series berth.
The key to the series will be whether or not the Wiz pitching staff, which finished second in runs allowed per game, can shut down a Bears lineup which led the league in scoring and has been even better in the postseason. The Wiz have rare rotation depth, with three starters finishing with an ERA of 3.70 or better and another (William Cuevas, who we'll get to in a minute) looking much better than his 4.12 ERA down the stretch. They also have a strong bullpen, with their top five relievers by games pitched all finishing with ERAs of 3.31 or better, with four of those five finishing below 3.00.
I'll side with the Wiz's pitching depth and the historical dominance of number one seeds and pick the Wiz in six games. For now, we'll move on to discuss just Game 1 for DraftKings Showdown contests. As a reminder, Showdown contests require fantasy players to select six total players at any position (including pitcher), with one designated as a captain, who costs 50 percent more but earns 50 percent more points. The prices listed here are given for the utility spots rather than the captain. Lineups must contain at least one player from both teams.
Been Gwak, Bears ($10,400): While the pitchers are nearly always the most expensive players on a Showdown slate, their points-per-dollar numbers typically make them the strongest choices for your captain spot, assuming they'll be allowed to pitch deep enough into the game. That can't be taken for granted in the playoffs, and it can't be taken for granted with Gwak, a talented but unreliable 22-year-old. He averaged just 4.7 innings per start in the regular season and hasn't reached five innings in either of his two postseason outings. If his chances of earning a win are slim (he has just four in 23 total starts this season), he becomes a lot less appealing as a fantasy option, though facing a Wiz lineup that started the season strong but fell off down the stretch to finish fifth in scoring at least keeps him in consideration. He does own an above-average 19.6 percent strikeout rate, but his 16.1 percent walk rate was far too high, leading to a 1.59 WHIP and a 4.10 ERA, a number which looks somewhat unsustainable if he keeps allowing so many baserunners.
William Cuevas, Wiz ($11,200): Judging purely by his 4.12 ERA, which ranked fourth among Wiz starters, Cuevas looks like an odd choice to start Game 1. That number doesn't represent the pitcher he was for much of the season, however. He owned a 6.40 ERA through his first 10 starts but cruised to a 2.66 ERA over his final 13. Zoom in on just his final six outings and that number improves to 2.16, with three double-digit strikeout totals over that stretch. That doesn't even count his performance in the tiebreaker game against the Lions which clinched the number one seed for the Wiz, in which he struck out eight batters while allowing just a single hit in seven scoreless innings, all while pitching on just two days' rest. In his current form (assuming his two weeks off gave him time to recover without breaking his momentum), there's arguably no better pitcher in the league, making him a strong captain choice even against a dangerous Bears lineup.
Bears hitters: This version of Cuevas is intimidating enough that I'm not inclined to build a Bears-based lineup, but if I wanted to differentiate myself from the crowd, betting on a poor start from Cuevas is more attractive than betting on Gwak to dominate for five-plus innings, so this is probably where I'd look for a captain. I'm always drawn to the power hitters when I select a hitter as captain, as getting extra value for your homers is a good way to win a contest. That's pretty much just Jae Hwan Kim ($9,200) and Suk Hwan Yang ($9,000) in this lineup, with Kim being the preferred option due to the platoon advantage and his much stronger recent form. Soo Bin Jung ($7,200) is very affordable for a leadoff man, but the team lacks regulars who are priced anywhere near the minimum, which limits how many of their best bats you'll be able to include.
Wiz hitters: Cuevas is the strongest captain pick for the Wiz, as he's the primary reason to build around the Wiz in the first place, though Baek Ho Kang ($9,800) has the upside to be a solid contrarian pick or simply a bat worth including in a utility spot. He didn't look the same down the stretch, however, hitting .400/.503/.590 through Aug. 17 but a much more ordinary .276/.377/.430 the rest of the way. Jae Gyun Hwang ($9,600) collapsed even more dramatically, hitting .332/.400/.483 through Sept. 1 but just .237/.301/.294 over his final 50 games, making him tough to pay up for. The solution may simply be to captain Wiz alongside Kang and a number of the team's cheapest bats, including Yong Ho Cho ($5,000), who led off in the final two games, and Han Joon Yoo ($5,400), a confusingly affordable cleanup man. Kyung Su Park ($4,000) and his .649 OPS won't help much, but he's a minimum-priced player who should start at second base, helping you include more expensive names elsewhere.
Wiz -165 and Under 8.5 (-115) runs, though I don't particularly like the odds on the former. I have the Wiz as pretty clear favorites here thanks to Cuevas' late-season dominance, but -165 is a lot for any playoff game, so I don't hate the upset pick here, either. I don't think the Wiz's lineup will put up a big number, even against the unreliable Gwak, but something like a 5-2 score seems like a good bet to me, so the over/under is an easier bet. A bet on the Bears is presumably a bet that Cuevas' form won't continue, so I'd go with the over if I decided to lean their way.