This article is part of our DFS NPB series.
Thursday was a mixed bag in terms of expected outcomes in what turned into a five-game NPB slate. CC Mercedes, Onelki Garcia and Takahiro Shiomi all turned in rather surprisingly solid performances, derailing the nights of many of the bats I'd envisioned thriving. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles found their groove by scoring nine runs in what turned out to be the most explosive offensive performance of the night, with the majority of their success coming in fifth and sixth innings when they crossed the plate on eight occasions.
Friday, we're back to having three pitcher recommendations after only deeming two worthy of inclusion Thursday. I'm going light on stacks – there is still a secondary suggestion that is worth considering implementing into some tournament lineups – but also spotlighting a number of individual bats that could pay off.
Koyo Aoyagi ($12,000) gives you a $1,000 discount off top option Takahiro Norimoto, who's a fine choice as well and is listed as an additional consideration below. Aoyagi has been one of NPB's stingiest pitchers to open the season however, generating a microscopic 0.75 ERA and 0.67 WHIP on his way to an average of 18.2 DK points in his first pair of starts. Aoyagi has accomplished those impressive numbers on the road as well, and he'll have the advantage of pitching in his home park Friday. The opposing BayStars do present a formidable challenge, but Aoyagi already has a multi-season track record of limiting contact and home runs, and Yokohama's powerful lineup is still projected for a modest 3.5 runs Friday.
Daichi Ohsera ($10,200) makes for an excellent pivot if you're trying to save some cash at pitcher, considering he brings a 2.86 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and average of 19.1 DK points into a matchup against an average Dragons offense. Chunichi has a .259 team batting average and NPB-low 10 team home runs, while Ohsera has averaged 28.6 DK points on the strength of a 1.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and .188 BAA over his first two road turns of the season, logging complete games in each.
Tsubasa Sakakibara ($8,900) has an inconsistent Buffaloes offense to support him, so a victory is far from a lock. However, the right-hander makes for a viable cost-savings tournament option versus a Fighters squad hitting a miserable, NPB-low .213 on the season. Sakakibara was effective in his first start of the season, holding the Lions to one earned run on five hits and three walks over five innings last Friday. The young veteran was similarly effective over his first two professional seasons, posting respective ERAs of 3.50 and 2.72 while allowing 76 hits (five home runs) across 97.1 frames.
ALSO CONSIDER: Takahiro Norimoto ($13,000)
Seiya Suzuki ($8,200) is frequently featured in this section with good reason. The veteran is slashing .389/.500/.833 and averaging 13.1 DK points per game. He also slugged five of his six homers on the season on the road, and opposing pitcher Yudai Ohno could certainly facilitate more of the same success. The southpaw has pitched to no shortage of contact early this season, allowing 24 hits, including six home runs, over just 17 innings in his first three starts.
Munetaka Murakami ($7,500) offers a lot of the same upside as Suzuki at a $700 savings. In his first full season in 2019, Murakami was outstanding in the power department with 36 home runs and 96 RBI, even as his 184 strikeouts over 593 plate appearances helped keep his average at a pedestrian .231. It's been a different story thus far this season, as the 20-year-old is showing a much more discerning eye at the plate on his way to a .328/.446/.574 line over his first 17 games. His three homers in the early going are a bit of a disappointment, but he's also striking out at a much lesser clip (13 whiffs in 74 PAs). Murakami is likely due for some long-ball fireworks, and although his matchup against Giants starter Shosei Togoh isn't favorable on paper, Murakami's average of 12.9 DK points in his last 10 contests makes him highly worthy of consideration.
Shota Dobayashi ($5,100) continues to carry an absurd price for a player slashing .422/.458/.667 across his first 12 games. Dobayashi has essentially been as good a hitter on the road as he's been at home, as he owns a .412 average – and two of his three homers – over nine away contests. It's worth noting he's had his way against Dragons pitching thus far this season as well, going 4-for-8 with two doubles and a home run in his first two games against Chunichi.
Jabari Blash ($4,900) may be starting to lock in against NPB arms, as he's now tallied double-digit DK points in three of his last four games. Blash has also has four RBI in his first three games versus Hawks pitchers, and his No. 3 slotting in the order sees him surrounded by capable hitters such as Daichi Suzuki and the red-hot Hideto Asamura. That gives the former MLBer a solid shot at both RBI opportunities and a favorable pitch selection, affording him the opportunity to pay off what is still a modest salary despite his recent surge.
Ryutaro Umeno ($4,100) has rather quietly put together an outstanding .359/.419/.641 line over his first 13 games, which represent the best numbers of the veteran catcher's career by far. Half (five doubles, two home runs) of Umeno's 14 hits have gone for extra bases, and his improvement at the plate thus far this year extends a favorable two-season trend of Umeno boosting his offensive numbers over the prior campaign. Additionally, consider opposing pitcher Shinichi Ohnuki is far from a prohibitive matchup, having allowed 87 hits (including seven home runs) and 27 walks while posting a 4.97 ERA across his first 70.2 NPB frames over the last season-plus.
Stacks to Consider
While I do like several isolated hitters and even one two-bat combo Friday as already discussed, the Giants are the one stack I feel strongly enough about to make a detailed case for (the Marines, as listed below, are more of a tournament-only play with more risk attached), despite the proverbial egg they laid Thursday in what appeared to be a highly favorable matchup.
Swallows starter Ishikawa has gotten the season off to a rough start, as he's pitched to a 5.65 ERA and 1.95 WHIP across his 14.1 innings over his first three starts. Those struggles are nothing new for the veteran southpaw, who's generated an ERA of 4.47 or higher in four of the last six seasons and has allowed between 15 and 20 homers in each of his previous seven campaigns.
Sakamoto continues to be an excellent asset for DFS lineups in any slate, as he carries a .375 on-base percentage and is averaging 9.4 DK points per game thus far this season. As discussed yesterday, the veteran is also bound to boost his already solid numbers further, as he blasted a career-best 40 homers last season and had hit over .300 in three of the previous four seasons.
Maru was one of the Giants that wasn't able to take advantage of a potentially favorable situation Thursday, going 0-for-4. He's now slashing an ugly .213/.284/.410, but Ishikawa's issues keeping the ball in the park could well be the cure for what ails the veteran slugger. As noted yesterday, Maru's 66 homers over the last two seasons and personal bests of a.291 average, .388 on-base percentage and .481 slugging percentage in the last four seasons all point to an impending ascension to the mean.
Finally, Okamoto continues to operate out of the cleanup spot and does come in mired in a rare 1-for-12 slump, but he's already punished Swallows pitching for a .571 average (8-for-14) across three games this season. Despite his recent struggles, Okamoto is also slashing a very fantasy-friendly.387/.441/.694 in 2020 and is more than capable of capitalizing on Ishikawa's frequent struggles to keep the ball in the park after slugging 69 homers across the last two seasons-plus.