The ugliest baseball slate of the season is here, Monday MLB DFS action features a three-game afternoon set and a two-game affair in the evening across both DraftKings and FanDuel. Both slates are extremely short on quality pitching options. It would be best to go into every situation anticipating four to five runs being scored on the pitcher while simply focusing on who may provide the best opportunity for five innings, a win and a handful of strikeouts, which is enough on slates like these. With short opportunities, there are good reasons to consider alternate lineup constructions and even rostering hitters against pitchers. Let’s check out the best MLB DFS stacks for Monday, Sept. 27.
MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Top HR Options
Home runs are the holy grail when making MLB DFS picks. Finding the right combination of sluggers who will knock one, or better two, out of the park to drive in the teammates you stack with them is critical to winning GPPs. Identifying the likely home run hitters is trickier than just looking at the big names. Using a model of my design, based on a blend of several predictive statistics for the batter-pitcher matchup, I will give each team one of the top choices. However, it will not always be the absolute top-ranked player, particularly when there is an obvious star in that spot every day.
Home Run Ratings
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Scale: 5-10 Average; 10-20 Good; 20-25 Very Good; 25+ Great
Chicago White Sox: Eloy Jimenez — 10.14
Cincinnati Reds: Eugenio Suarez — 13.04
Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes — 12.20
Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron — 26.79
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera — 6.09
Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana — 5.74
Oakland Athletics: Matt Chapman — 6.24
Pittsburgh Pirates: Yoshi Tsutsugo — 12.05
Seattle Mariners: Jarred Kelenic — 3.33
Washington Nationals: Juan Soto — 6.98
This is intended to capture the full range of home run upside for each team. It is not meant as a stack ranking and does not account for pricing or popularity — only home run potential. The first column is the average rating for the full projected lineup (pitcher bats not included in non-DH games), and the second is for the top six hitters in the projected lineup.
MLB DFS Picks: Pitchers, Optimal Stacks & Leverage Plays
This section will feature a few standout MLB DFS spots and teams to look at for potential plays on DraftKings and FanDuel. Ensure to check out the Awesemo Ownership Projections for critical updates and monitor the top stacks tool throughout the day for changes.
On the Hill
The two-game pitching slate is a total mess, with only four options and one of the games taking place at Coors Field. Whenever that happens in MLB DFS it also creates opportunities around the under-owned players, at least for the less risk-averse gamers. On both talent and matchup, the best pitcher on the slate by far is Colorado’s German Marquez, who will be popular on both sites, but not quite as much as the starters in the other game. Those options are Oakland’s Cole Irvin and Seattle’s Chris Flexen, neither of whom is a prime option for major point-scoring upside. The fourth starter on the slate is Washington’s Josiah Gray, who doubles as the most interesting player available. The gap between Gray’s ownership and the others on the slate is dramatic, but he will be pitching in Coors Field, and he has yet to find his footing at the Major League level. There is both significant upside and significant risk in going to the young righty.
Marquez has been typically solid through 2021. He has a 23.5% strikeout rate and a 3.64 xFIP with a 1.26 WHIP, considering that he makes half his starts in Coors, those are good marks across the board. Marquez induces a 12.3% swinging-strike rate and has yielded just a 5.4% barrel rate this season with a 38.1% hard-hit percentage. There is plenty of reason to believe in a starter who has a demonstrable ability to pitch in this ballpark while maintaining, or in some cases exceeding, his usual quality. No pitcher is truly safe in this ballpark, but Marquez is one of the closest things to it, for the price and upside facing a bad Nationals team, it makes sense to roster the Rockies righty. The Nationals’ active roster has a .149 ISO and a 3.19% home run rate against right-handed pitching this season, both far below league average. They create runs at a pace 8% behind the curve, but they do have the ability to limit strikeouts, coming in at just a 22.4% rate in the split. Some of that acumen is based on small-sample players, but the Nationals’ lineup does feature Juan Soto, who is simply one of the best pure hitters in the game. Soto leads qualified hitters with a 22% walk rate and has just a 13.6% strikeout rate. His strikeout mark ranks 11th-best in the league, but it is remarkable for the power and run creation he delivers at the same time. The highest ISO among the hitters ranked above him in the category is Jean Segura with a .149, while Soto pulls in a hefty .230 mark. If Marquez can get past Soto three times, he is very likely to post the night’s strongest outing.
Cole Irvin has a 16.1% strikeout rate and a 5.2% walk rate over 169.1 innings in 30 starts this season. He has pitched to a 4.85 xFIP and has a 1.31 WHIP while inducing an 8.8% swinging-strike rate and a 24.8% CSW. Chris Flexen has made 29 starts and has also thrown 169.1 innings. He has a 4.56 xFIP and a 1.24 WHIP with a 17% strikeout rate. He induces an 8.4% swinging-strike rate and has a 23.7% CSW this season. Flexen has given up a 6.3% barrel rate and a 38.2% hard-hit percentage, Irvin’s contact profile shows a 7.1% barrel rate and a 38.8% hard-hit percentage. These two pitchers are at the exact same level of mediocrity, they just throw with opposite hands. They will both be owned at nearly 70% by the DraftKings community, and nearly 40% on FanDuel. Irvin will be facing a Mariners roster that has a 3.90% home run rate that is above-average against lefties, but they have just an average .163 ISO in the split and they have created runs 7% worse than average while striking out at an aggressive 24.7% rate when southpaws are on the mound. The Athletics’ active roster has a 3.24% home run rate and .162 ISO against right-handed pitching this season, both rank around the middle of the league, but Oakland has inched ahead with just a 21.1% strikeout rate and a WRC+ that sits 6% above average against right-handed pitching. By a nose, Irvin has the better matchup in this contest. Again, it is worthwhile to go into these games assuming that each of these pitchers will give up three to five runs on a good night.
Gray was one of the primary returns in the trade for superstar Trea Turner, that is the degree to which he is regarded around baseball. Over his first 59.1 innings in 11 starts this season, Gray has posted a 24.9% strikeout rate with a 14.7% swinging-strike rate in his short career. Unfortunately, that is where the good news ends. Gray has yielded a 10.7% walk rate and has a 5.04 xFIP with a 1.42 WHIP this season. He has allowed a 12.6% barrel rate and an average launch angle of 22.3 degrees, though his hard-hit percentage is just 35.9% and his average exit velocity is a reasonable 88 mph. Gray’s HR/9 sits at an ungodly 2.73 for the season, he has allowed 18 home runs at a wildly unsustainable 6.89% home run rate. This is part of what leads to the massive numbers for the opposing Rockies in my power index, which measures home run upside. Still, for the price and the lack of popularity on a three-game slate, Gray deserves consideration in large-field tournaments. Multi-entry players should absolutely consider buying additional shares beyond the low exposures that the public is currently taking on, against a Rockies team that still sits 24% below average creating runs in the split, despite playing at Coors half the time, there is reason to believe.
Of course, there are clear reasons to also not believe at all in Josiah Gray, which seems to be the position that the field is taking. The Rockies lineup is currently a list of eight names that answers who will be owned at 35% or more across the MLB DFS industry tonight. Colorado does feature good individual hitters; they have just been an incapable baseball team throughout the season. Getting to their bats is not easy with the amount of public weight on every hitter, but making decisions like rostering a shortstop from the other game instead of the 50%- owned Trevor Story will help immediately differentiate lineups. Of course, that also skips the best player on the Rockies, Story is slashing .245/.322/.465 with a .222 ISO, 23 home runs and 19 stolen bases this season. The rest of the lineup sees Raimel Tapia underperforming by 23% in terms of run creation from the leadoff spot, but a quality second hitter in Brendan Rodgers, who is establishing himself at this level with a .284/.329/.470 slash and 15 home runs in 392 plate appearances. Charlie Blackmon has struggled through most of the year but brings a solid track record to the three spot, while C.J. Cron is a major power hitter who has 28 long balls and a .253 ISO. Ryan McMahon, Elias Dias, and Sam Hilliard will all be popular from the end of the lineup. Any of that trio can add upside, there is power in all three bats, but they are also mostly owned at 35% or higher across both sites, with the only gap coming on Diaz who is pulling in just a 20% share where catchers are not required on the blue site.
The virtues of the Nationals lineup were mostly summarized when discussing Soto above in the Marquez section. This team simply lacks major options besides the superstar. Cleanup hitter Josh Bell has a .221 ISO and has 27 home runs over 544 plate appearances this season and is slashing .256/.338/.477 while creating runs 15% better than average. Leadoff man Lane Thomas and likely two-hitter Alcides Escobar are at least somewhat capable at the top of the lineup, with Thomas putting up the stronger season, creating runs 9% ahead of the league average compared to Escobar’s 7% below. Yadiel Hernandez, Keibert Ruiz, Carter Kieboom, and Luis Garcia round out the bottom of the lineup. All of the Nationals’ bats will be owned at least into the high teens, but they are not as popular as their opponents. Washington is facing the day’s best pitcher, but they benefit from the hitting conditions and should be rostered.
The Athletics have the best lineup out of these four teams. They feature two prominent stars in Starling Marte and Matt Olson, as well as a former MVP candidate in Matt Chapman. There are quality pieces up and down the Oakland lineup as well, their complementary hitters are all better than counterparts from the other game. Marte has 45 stolen bases and 12 home runs this season and is creating runs 34% better than average. Olson has 38 home runs and has a .274 ISO while creating runs 49% better than average and slashing .272/.376/.546. Leadoff man Josh Harrison has a 13.4% strikeout rate and has created runs 7% ahead of the average by WRC+. Chapman is slashing .214/.316/.412 but is up to 27 home runs and a .198 ISO while creating runs 3% better than average. Quality bats like Mark Canha, Jed Lowrie, Tony Kemp, and Sean Murphy round out the lineup. Even in wanting to pivot away from heavy ownership on a player like Story, there is little reason to go to shortstop Elvis Andrus, who is a shell of his former self. Andrus has a .076 ISO this season, and his .294 on-base percentage does not support the idea of him as a speed play, despite his 12 stolen bases in 541 plate appearances. The Athletics are lower owned by comparison.
The Mariners will be our focus stack simply for lack of overall ownership. The team is facing a bad pitcher who will be ludicrously popular, but they are cheap and come up with ownership in single digits to low teens. Seattle features several quality bats overall, and they are still in the wildcard hunt, which may surprise those who have not considered them frequently for MLB DFS purposes this season. The underrated lineup has reasonably good hit tools, some power, and some speed, they make interesting plays on this slate.
J.P. Crawford is the go-to for a shortstop alternative if looking to get away from Coors Field. He is slashing .269/.333/.373 with nine home runs and three stolen bases over 659 plate appearances. Crawford has just a 31% hard-hit percentage with a 2.4% barrel rate this year, but he has created runs 1% better than average through correlation. Crawford strikes out at just a 16.5% rate.
Mitch Haniger has a 12.2% barrel rate and a 44.8% hard-hit percentage, 35 home runs and a .222 ISO this season. Haniger has created runs 17% better than average and is slashing .250/.316/.472. He will be one of the more popular Mariners bats, but he belongs in most full stacks of this team’s lineup.
Kyle Seager has 35 home runs and 100 RBIs this season, slashing .216/.291/.448 with a .232 ISO while creating runs 3% better than average. He has a 12.6% barrel rate but just a 40.8% hard-hit percentage. He strikes out 23.7% of the time but brings obvious pop to the dish. He is less popular on DraftKings than on FanDuel given the two-pitcher requirement forcing gamers to avoid rostering this team against their Irvin shares (one or two hitters against pitcher is viable in this two-game format).
Ty France is slashing .290/.365/.444 with a .155 ISO while creating runs 29% better than average this season. He has quietly delivered quality all year long but has not popped for DFS popularity. He fits in at first base on DraftKings and adds second base eligibility on DraftKings. France strikes out at just a 16.9% clip but has just a 38.3% hard-hit rate. He is a steady bat in the middle of this lineup, and he can be counted on for individual run creation and correlation.
Abraham Toro is a second baseman on DraftKings and adds third base eligibility on the FanDuel slate. Toro is slashing .243/.317/.377 with a .134 ISO, delivering 10 home runs and five stolen bases. Toro as created runs 3% worse than average, but he is a perfectly viable option on this slate who will be owned at under 10% on DraftKings and in the mid-teens across town.
Jarred Kelenic is a low-cost low-popularity option across the industry. He is slashing a terrible .174/.255/.347 this year, but he does have a .174 ISO and is up to 14 home runs in 353 plate appearances, which is not nothing. Kelenic will be under-rostered given the season-long letdown.
Luis Torrens will be owned at less than 10% on FanDuel and not much more on DraftKings. Torrens has 15 home runs and has a .194 ISO over his 352 plate appearances while barreling the ball in 11.3% of his batted-ball-events. Torrens has upside at the position on the short slate and he is likely not quite popular enough in GPPs.
Tommy Murphy drops a second catcher play into the mix when he is in the lineup with Torrens. Murphy also has significant projected power, though it has come through as a .153 ISO and 11 home runs in 311 plate appearances. Murhpy has just a 38.6% hard-hit percentage and a 9.1% barrel rate this year, and he strikes out at an aggressive 31.2% rate. Murphy will not be popular tonight.
Dylan Moore has 12 home runs and 21 stolen bases in just 365 plate appearances despite slashing .180/.274/.335. He strikes out at a 29.3% clip but walks 10.4% of the time while posting just a 33.3% hard-hit percentage on the year. Moore has obvious talent but does not connect with enough frequency to be reliable. For single-night upside, he is interesting at $2,200 on FanDuel and $3,100 on DraftKings. He has multi-position eligibility on both sites but will probably provide a bit more utility on DraftKings where he is lower owned.
HR Call: C.J. Cron — Colorado Rockies
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