With Mondays representing a day of rest in the KBO, the season quietly reached about one-fourth of the games played mark with the NC Dinos still atop the standings. There are some teams on the rise with injuries and slow starts returning to a sense of balance making the upcoming week an intriguing one. First, here are the present standings:

Keeping up with the home run trends this season, game averages of them continue to rise with the warm weather. After 177 games this season, there are 2.02 hit per contest (358 total), while pitcher’s ERA seems to be settling in at 4.82 as the league average. However, with warmer weather around the corner and games with higher humidity, the power surge could climb to a higher rate. Part of the reason the Dinos remain in first place, its deep lineup as evidenced in the league leaders in hitting: 

Although he missed the last three games, Roberto Ramos kept his league lead in home runs. Ramos will travel with LG to Hanwha but there’s no indication he will be activated during the series:

On the pitching side, Chang-mo Koo in the midst of a breakout at the right time with increased exposure to scouts in the major leagues has made seven starts this year with each being a quality outing and keeping his ratio statistics below one in a hitter friendly environment:

Perhaps the biggest news from last week, the Hanwha Eagles ending their 18-game losing streak with a win over Doosan in a suspended game then starting a new streak taking the regularly scheduled game over the Bears as well on Sunday winning both games by one run. During the losing skid, Hanwha changed managers and demoted ten veterans to the Futures League but can recall any of them on Thursday as covered in this article:

Both Jin-hang Choi (OF) and Sung-yul Lee (DH) stand in line to return with each hitting for power since their demotion. Also, Jeong Choi of SK could reach a personal milestone this week

His next home run puts him into a tie for third all-time in the KBO but he’s a long way from the top of 467 home runs in league history. Good news, the Wyverns host the struggling KT Wiz pitching staff so Choi could end the series in third place all by himself. Last, Kiwoom lost its import hitter Taylor Motter due to personal issues along with his less than impressive performance with the Heroes. They continue to monitor the list of players released from the MLB before signing a hitter with power to fill a void in their lineup: 

With an eye on the future, here’s some of the top performers in June so far who seem to be on the rise in the KBO: 

Starting Pitcher Spotlight

Mike Wright , NC Dinos

Part of the triumvirate of Dinos starting pitchers fueling their strong start, Wright is 5-1 with a 2.77 ERA, 4.72 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP through 39 innings of work. If he’s going to stave off the pending regression in his FIP, Wright needs to reduce the free passes he issues. On a positive note, he has yielded two walks or fewer in five of his seven starts. In June, he’s 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings with 11 strikeouts against six walks holding hitters to a .211 average. 

David Buchanan, Samsung Lions

With Samsung on the rise in the standings, Buchanan’s recorded four straight wins giving up 21 hits, three earned runs, and five walks with six strikeouts his last 26.2 innings. His ratio statistics of a 1.01 ERA and 0.97 WHIP whittle down his overall numbers following a ten earned run implosion versus Doosan prior to this hot stretch. Like Wright above, Buchanan needs to attack hitters to defray his 5.12 FIP compared to his present 3.63 ERA for the season. 

Ki-young Im, Kia Tigers

Presently fourth in the KBO in strikeouts minus walks percentage (18.8), Im’s only 3-3 with a 2.82 ERA, 3.18 FIP, and 1.12 WHIP through 38.1 innings. Im needs to work deeper into games with only three quality starts but his 34:5 K:BB should not be ignored with his underlying numbers pointing to an emerging starter in the Kia rotation. 

Tae-in Won, Samsung Lions

Like his teammate above, Won’s also surging over his last four outings with three wins in them while recording a 0.72 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 17 strikeouts his last 25 innings. On the season, he’s 4-1 with a 2.30 ERA, 4.25 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP which means he needs to carry over the recent gains but if he keeps allowing traffic on the bases some migration to the mean could ensue. 

Hitter Highlights

Mel Rojas Jr., KT Wiz

It’s time to show some love to Rojas Jr. who ranks among the top three in all three categories of the KBO triple crown. He’s currently first in RBI (36), second in home runs (12), and third in batting average (.383). In June, Rojas Jr.’s power spike can be seen in his six home runs in 48 at-bats (one every eight) with a .750 slugging percentage and robust .417 isolated power driving his season on-base plus slugging rate to 1.126. Here’s his zone profile courtesy of Statiz and note how he handles pitches in the lower third of the strike zone in the KBO, a league predicated on inducing ground balls while pitching to contact:

Rojas Jr. will look to keep his power surge going with his team heading to SK for a three-game set to open the week. If Ramos remains sidelined, Rojas Jr. could take the home run lead heading into the weekend. 

Aaron Altherr , NC Dinos

After a slow start, Altherr’s turned the corner, adjusting to the KBO and a new culture. Even though he’s hit seventh or eighth in the lineup most of the season but now sits second in the KBO in RBI (35). He’s also fifth in home runs (9). In June, Altherr’s hitting .417 (10-for-24) with a 1.206 on-base plus slugging percentage in 12 games with four home runs driving in 17 runs in only 12 contests. More impressive, Altherr’s only struck out eight times in 47 plate appearances (17 percent strikeout rate) with an 8.5 walk percentage. If the plate discipline holds and his power along with speed continues, Altherr could be a factor in NC playing deep in the playoffs. 

Tyler Saladino , Samsung Lions

Battling through early injury issues and adapting to the KBO, Saladino’s settled in as a Swiss Army Knife for the Lions playing all over the diamond and turning his season around. Over 12 games in June, Saldino’s slashing .333/.511/.636 with nine runs, four doubles, two home runs, nine RBI, four stolen bases, 10 walks, and nine strikeouts. Keying on his improved plate discipline and recent propensity to steal bases, Saladino could be a pivotal part of his team moving into playoff contention. 

Ja-wook Koo, Samsung Lions

Speaking of hot Samsung players, Koo returned from the injured list a week ago and already owns a six-game hit streak upon activation. Koo’s 10-for-24 (.417) with four runs, three doubles, two home runs, and six RBI with four multiple hit games in the streak. Last year, Koo hit 15 home runs while stealing 11 bases and owns a career .320/.392/.520 slash in the KBO. He’s also in his age-27 season meaning his power spike could be in full effect. 

Kun-woo Park, Doosan Bears

Part of Doosan’s resurgent offense lies in the rebound by Park this month. After an abysmal start in May hitting .214, he’s in the midst of four straight multi-hit contests along with six such performances over his last ten played. In June, Park’s batting .468 with 14 runs, 222 hits, six doubles, two home runs, six RBI, and two stolen bases. While DFS seeks out power, Park’s steady production atop the Bears lineup makes him a worthy target going forward. 

With an eye on the week ahead, here’s the latest KBO power rankings from lead correspondent Daniel Kim:

As for the first set of three-game series, here’s now the teams will match-up on Tuesday morning:

  • KT Wiz at SK Wyverns
  • LG Twins at Hanwha Eagles
  • Lotte Giants at Kiwoom Heroes
  • NC Dinos at Kia Tigers
  • Samsung Lions at Doosan Bears

Be sure to stay with Fantasy Alarm to remain ahead of the competition across all fantasy formats and be well. 

Statistical Credits: