This article is part of our DFS NPB series.
As predicted, Wednesday was a banner day for offense in NPB. There were a pair of double-digit run efforts, along with eight- and six-run tallies. The most fireworks on the night came at the PayPay Dome, where the Golden Eagles and Hawks combined for 20 runs in a 12-8 win for SoftBank that featured four home runs overall. The night also featured a second straight rainout for the Tigers and Giants, and a 5-5 tie between the Dragons and Swallows.
Some subpar pitchers helped facilitate the prolific run-scoring Wednesday, and there's a similar caliber of suspect arms on the hill Thursday. As such, I'm only comfortable recommending two pitchers overall, but I see an abundance of hitters across various price points that could thrive. With the struggling Takahiro Shiomi and Onelki Garcia taking the hill, stacks consisting of the 2-3-4 hitters for the Hawks and Giants also carry particular appeal, as I'll break down below.
Masato Morishita ($10,300) offers the same upside, if not more, as higher-priced options Rick van den Hurk ($12,100) and Drew VerHagen ($10,500) after posting 28.2 and 24.9 DK points against the BayStars and Dragons to start the new season. Morishita has racked up 15 strikeouts over 15.2 innings while issuing just three free passes over that span, and even more impressive is the fact he's accomplished all it on the road. He now makes his first home start of 2020 in a rematch versus Yokohama, which he blanked over seven frames back on June 21. While there's certainly risk involved when a pitcher sees a team a second time within a condensed span of time, Morishita's price makes him worthy of consideration.
Daiki Iwashita ($9,800) has gotten the season off to a stellar start, averaging 18.7 DK points while stifling the Buffaloes and powerful Golden Eagles squads in his first pair of trips to the mound. Iwashita comes into Thursday's matchup with a minuscule 1.69 ERA and similarly impressive 1.03 WHIP, and he's encouragingly allowed just one home run over his first 10.2 innings. That's a marked improvement for Iwashita, albeit over a small sample, after he posted a 1.3 HR/9 in 2019. Iwashita made clear advances in his sophomore 2019 season, and he appears to be on his way to taking another incremental step if his early-season performances are any indication. Finally, consider the matchup Thursday doesn't hurt his cause, either – the opposing Lions check in with a .245 team batting average and Pacific League-low 13 homers.
Yuki Yanagita ($8,500) has been outstanding in the first two games of the series versus the Golden Eagles, as he's hitting .556 (5-for-9) with three home runs and six RBI in those contests. Yanagita is averaging 15 DK points over the last 10 games overall, and he's been particularly lethal at home with a .412/.500/1.235 line across five contests. Thursday, he'll take aim at Takahiro Shiomi, who's gotten the season off to an extremely rocky start with a 10.61 ERA and three home runs allowed across his first 9.1 innings. Moreover, it's worth noting that as good as he's been recently, Yanagita still has room to ascend – he's a career .319/.422/.547 hitter that had three 30-homer campaigns in the four seasons prior to 2019, when he was limited to just 38 games.
Stefen Romero ($8,000) makes for an excellent option on the other side of the Golden Eagles-Hawks matchup, as he, too, comes into the game with a strong body of work against the opposing squad and a red-hot bat in general. The slugger is 3-for-7 with a pair of RBI in the first two games of the series against the Hawks, and he's slashing .342/.419/.658 with three of his four home runs and 10 of his 11 RBI in the last 10 contests. Romero will get a crack at Rick van den Hurk in Thursday's matchup, a veteran that's traditionally been susceptible to the long ball, as evidenced by the 53 homers he yielded between the 2016 and 2018 seasons. For his part, Romero may be due, as he hasn't homered in five of the last six contests – including four straight – and came into 2020 averaging a round tripper every 4.4 games across the first three seasons of his NPB career.
Tetsuto Yamada ($6,700) shouldn't carry very heavy ownership, considering his season .215/.301/.415 slash isn't exactly going to send pulses racing. However, the veteran is certainly worth a deeper dive, as he carries a .295/.399/.532 career line, numbers that are still impressive despite the fact they've been partly dragged down by his early struggles this year. Yamada is also due for a power breakout, as he slugged between 34 and 38 round trippers in four of the previous five campaigns. In short, he carries much greater upside than his current salary implies, and opposing pitcher Yuichiro Okano is a rookie who's opened the season with a 5.40 ERA over his first two starts.
Ryoya Kurihara ($4,500) is another Hawks player set up for success Thursday, and at his price, he could turn out to be one of the best fantasy-point-per-dollar values of the night. The four-year veteran is enjoying an abundance of success at the plate in the early going, slashing .318/.365/.576 and already belting three home runs across his first 16 games (75 plate appearances). All of those figures represent significant improvements over his career metrics, considering he came into the 2020 campaign with just one homer over 46 career games. The fact he draws the aforementioned favorable matchup against Takahiro Shiomi only furthers his cause at a very reasonable salary.
Jerry Sands ($4,100) displayed some prodigious power in a couple of minor-league stops stateside early last decade, and even though he's gotten off to a highly sluggish start to his NPB career, he represents low-owned access to some power upside in tournaments. Sands may be hinting at a bit of an ascension as well after hitting in three straight games, with his most recent contest Sunday against the Carp featuring his second homer of the season. The veteran has also encouragingly struck out only once over his last four contests after whiffing on four occasions across his first two games, another sign he may be starting to find his groove at the plate. Sands' matchup Wednesday could also work in his favor, considering Giants starter C.C. Mercedes has opened the season with a 5.19 ERA and unwieldy 3.3 HR/9 across his first two starts.
Stacks to Consider
Shiomi's various weaknesses have already been detailed previously in the entries for Kurihara and Yanigata, who, as noted earlier, come into Thursday in particularly favorable scenarios and already running hot at the plate.
Meanwhile, Balentien makes for an excellent way to round out the three-man stack, considering he also has more than enough pop in his bat to exploit Shiomi's struggles to avoid hard contact. Balentien has been swinging a blistering bat, posting between 10 and 36 DK points in five of the last six contests. He's averaging 10.7 DK points in his last 10 games overall, and the veteran is already averaging a home run every three games after coming into this season with four straight 30-homer seasons.
Garcia has opened the season with an 0-2 record, 7.45 ERA and 1.97 WHIP across his first pair of trips to the mound, and he exhibited some serious control issues in his last start by issuing five free passes to the Dragons across 5.2 frames.
Therefore, Sakamoto, who owns a .375 OBP over his first 15 games and also brings some pop (two doubles, one triple, three home runs) is an excellent option to start the stack with. The veteran has also been arguably underperforming thus far, considering he's hit between .312 and .345 in three of the prior four seasons and is hitting a much more modest .273 thus far.
Maru is definitely falling short of his career metrics as well in the early going, as he's limped to a .228/.302/.439 slash across his first 15 games. Look for an inevitable breakout soon, as Maru has launched 39 and 27 homers over the last two seasons, respectively, and has posted no worse than a .291 average, .388 on-base percentage and .481 slugging percentage in any of the last four seasons.
Finally, cleanup hitter Okamoto has produced an eye-popping .414/.469/.741 line across his first 15 games, numbers partly comprised of nine extra-base hits (four doubles, five home runs) and 12 RBI. He's also been at his best thus far on the road, where he's averaging 19.3 DK points and slashing .571/.600/1.071 over three games. Moreover, he's feasted on Hanshin pitching in his first three games against the Tigers, going 5-for-10 with a double, a home run, four RBI, two walks and four runs.