Saturday’s slate of playoff MLB DFS action features two excellent-looking National League games. The Brewers and Braves square off in the afternoon game with a 5:07 ET start for the main slate and the Dodgers battle the Giants four hours later in the second game of the night. With the Braves and Dodgers fighting to even their series after two tight well-played games yesterday, and close low-scoring Vegas vibes once again, anything can happen, but expectations have to be leaning toward lower-scoring pitching duels once again. As always, the tournament strategy article breaks down some of the best MLB DFS lineup picks today for DraftKings and FanDuel.
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
Atlanta Braves: Jorge Soler — 7.35
Los Angeles Dodgers: Justin Turner — 6.29
Milwaukee Brewers: Eduardo Escobar — 4.70
San Francisco Giants: Darin Ruf — 6.46
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 Saturday slate sees four excellent pitching options toe the rubber for their respective teams, creating a bit of a balanced look to the Top Pitchers Tool for this slate. With every starter pulling in around 40% ownership or more, there are no hiding spots and no easy solutions for distancing one’s lineup from the crowd. Fortunately, all of the options are top-notch and they all face similarly stiff competition, such is the nature of playoff baseball and MLB DFS in the postseason. On both DraftKings and FanDuel it makes a fair amount of sense to get to a spread of all four pitching options in various combinations. Simply taking the approach of flipping the public ownership upside-down on the pitching pool and rostering the pitchers in that order is a simple and viable approach to deciding on ownership shares.
Max Fried had an extremely high-quality season for the Braves. The southpaw made 28 starts and threw 165.2 innings, striking out 23.7% and pitching to a 3.45 xFIP with a 1.09 WHIP. Fried induced an 11.1% swinging-strike rate but compiled only a 27.9% CSW% on the season, he is able to get himself out of jams but he is not the apex strikeout option when compared with others on this slate. The starter was very good at managing quality contact as well, he yielded just a 6.3% barrel rate and a 34.3% hard-hit percentage this season, coming at a 6.1-degree average launch angle that is good for power suppression. Fried could reasonably be called the bottom option on the slate, but he is a high-quality pitcher who is facing what could reasonably be called the lowest-end lineup on the slate. Milwaukee is a playoff team based on their excellent pitching staff, their lineup leaves much to be desired. The Brewers’ active roster had a .167 ISO that was around the middle of the league against left-handed pitching this season. The team was good for home run power, they had a 4.01% home run rate that is in the top half of baseball, but they struck out at a 23.3% clip that falls below the average and they were eight percent behind the curve for run creation in the split, coming in with a collective 92 WRC+ against lefties. There is plenty of upside on the table for Fried and he is pulling in positive leverage despite the obvious popularity. He makes for a strong play in MLB DFS tournaments on both sites.
On the other side of the contest, righty Brandon Woodruff has been mostly outstanding, pitching to a 3.05 xFIP and a 0.96 WHIP over 179.1 innings in 30 starts this season. Woodruff induced swinging strikes at a 12.9% clip and had a 30% CSW% while minimizing quality contact to excellent degrees. The righty yielded just a 5.8% barrel rate and a 32.4% hard-hit percentage, even the mighty Braves are failing to reach better than average heights in my home run model in this one. Atlanta’s active roster led all of baseball with a 4.80% home run rate against right-handed pitching and a .202 ISO. The home run mark was tops in the league against pitchers of either hand, but somehow the Braves managed to create runs at just the league average, coming into the postseason with a collective WRC+ of just 100. The team also struck out at an aggressive 24.4% rate in the split, which is pushing strikeout upside in Woodruff’s direction. The Milwaukee righty is drawing the most ownership on the slate, despite carrying the highest price on both DraftKings and FanDuel. He deserves to be rostered heavily and he is easy to get to on the two-pitcher site, with DraftKings lowering all salaries for the small format playoffs. Undercutting the field and spreading shares to the under-owned pitchers on the board is the recommended approach, but Woodruff is a spectacular option who should absolutely be included in a great number of lineups.
Julio Urias made 32 starts and threw 185.2 innings for the Dodgers this season, both career highs. The southpaw posted a 26.2% strikeout rate and had a terrific 5.2% walk percentage this season. He pitched to a 3.73 xFIP and a 1.02 WHIP, allowing just a 5.3% barrel rate and a 30.3% hard-hit percentage. The southpaw had a .356 xSLG that was a 71st percentile mark, while his .279 xWOBA was a sturdy 86th percentile number. Urias brings a strong three-pitch mix to the mound, featuring a quality fastball with a nasty curveball and changeup backing it. Interestingly, the starter’s xSLG on his fastball was an unsightly .455, while his offspeed and breaking pitches were both in the .270s. Urias will deploy his quality arsenal against a Giants team that was third in baseball with a 4.72% home run rate against lefties this season. San Francisco was above average across the board in the split this season, posting a .188 collective ISO and limiting strikeouts to just 21.4%. The team created runs 10% better than average against southpaws this season, racking up wins and defying expectations in the process. Urias ranks second on the Top Pitchers tool for his probability of success, despite the performance of his opponent, but he is drawing negative leverage which suggests that an undercut to the field’s number would be in order. Again, spreading shares of the undercut to both Fried and Urias’ opponent is a strong tournament play.
Taking up residence at the bottom of our four-man list of pitchers, Kevin Gausman is not drawing the public ownership that he probably deserves on this slate. Gausman was a rock for the Giants all season, the righty headed the rotation, making 33 starts and throwing 192 innings. He posted a 29.3% strikeout rate and had a 2.81 ERA with a 3.28 xFIP. The righty allowed some quality contact through the season, he yielded just an average barrel rate of 7.1% and had a sub-par 40.9% hard-hit percentage, but his excellent 15.3% swinging-strike rate and 31% CSW% mean that those contact marks come in infrequent batted ball events. Gausman is an underappreciated option on this slate despite facing an excellent Dodgers lineup. The active roster for Los Angeles was above average across the board against righties this season. The team had a collective WRC+ that was six percent above average in the split and they struck out at just a 22.2% clip. The Dodgers had a .181 ISO with a 4.20% home run rate and they play like an All-Star team from top to bottom. Gausman will be challenged on this slate but he has an equal chance at posting a strong start and should be owned in greater proportions than where we have the field. Gausman is the top tournament pitcher on the slate today.
The Braves are the most positively leveraged stack on the DraftKings slate but they come in at a negative mark across town on the blue site. The team has fantastic power up and down the lineup, four of the projected starters hit 30 home runs, with two others landing at 27. As documented in the Woodruff section above, they created runs at just the league average against righties and have a bit of a heavy strikeout rate in the split, they are not the best team for sequencing when they are not hitting the ball out of the yard. Still, particularly where leverage is in play, Atlanta’s bats deserve some attention on this slate. The lineup plays from one through eight, there are easily more quality combinations of Braves hitters than Brewers hitters, despite landing on the worse side of the pitching matchup. Jorge Soler finished the season with 27 home runs and a .209 ISO, with a massive power surge in the season’s second half. Over the first 314 plate appearances and 82 games of his season, Soler had just seven home runs and a lowly .134 ISO. In 288 plate appearances over 67 games in the second half, largely following his trade to Atlanta, Soler mashed 20 long balls and had a .291 ISO. Freddie Freeman had another stellar campaign and is perhaps underrated in the grand scheme, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley fill the team’s infield with quality hitters, while Adam Duvall provides massive power and run creation from the five-hole. The outfielder led the National League with 113 RBIs while hitting 38 home runs and posting a .263 ISO, yet somehow he was only three percent better than average for run creation. Duvall slashed .228/.281/.491, which helps explain the low run creation marks, if he could manage a better on-base percentage he would be deadly, as it is he is a frightening power bat. The lineup rounds out with three quality options that could even be stacked together as an inexpensive secondary option. Eddie Rosario, Dansby Swanson, and Travis d’Arnaud all deserve consideration, both together and separately as parts of Braves stacks.
The Brewers have the worst offense on this slate by a wide margin. The team is below average for run creation against left-handed pitching, though they do have home run upside in the split. Milwaukee projects for negative leverage on both FanDuel and DraftKings the lineup is best considered as an undercut, though there are a few premium bats available. Kolten Wong posted a 14 home run 12 stolen base season while creating runs nine percent better than average from the leadoff spot, he is followed by Willy Adames, who solidified this lineup on his arrival from Tampa Bay early in the season. Adames finished with 25 home runs and a .219 ISO, he created runs 19% better than average and slashed .262/.337/.481 for the season, flying slightly below the radar on many MLB DFS slates. The shortstop had an 11.4% barrel rate and a 44.7% hard-hit percentage, though he did strike out at an aggressive 28.1% rate. The former superstar brought low, Christian Yelich has had a difficult year. The lefty hitter slashed just .248/.362/.373 with nine home runs and a .125 ISO while creating runs a mere one percent ahead of the curve. Yelich is loaded with talent, but something has clearly been off for more than a season. He did manage a 48.4% hard-hit percentage despite just a 7.8% barrel rate this year, and he walks at an excellent 14.7% rate, which supports his minimal run creation in this form. The outfielder who has been worth rostering from this lineup all season is Avisail Garcia. The righty slugger had a 12.2% barrel rate and a 46.1% hard-hit percentage that translated to 29 home runs and a .228 ISO in 515 plate appearances. Garcia was very good against pitchers of either hand this season, but he has always excelled against lefties. He had a .250 ISO and created runs 43% better than average in the split this season. Switch-hitting Eduardo Escobar adds pop to the middle of the lineup, while Luis Urias, Lorenzo Cain, and Manny Pina round out the projected lineup.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Facing Gausman will be no easy task for the Dodgers, but the team is absolutely loaded and they make for an obvious and popular roster target on both sites this evening. Los Angeles is an All-Star team, they have an embarrassment of riches on their roster and can be deployed in a number of different configurations, with several excellent options who can play all over the diamond. The projected lineup leads off with Mookie Betts, who underperformed expectations but still managed to hit 23 home runs and steal 10 bases while creating runs 31% better than average. Betts is followed by the dynamic duo in the middle of the infield, with lefty shortstop Corey Seager and right-handed shortstop masquerading as a second baseman Trea Turner following him. Seager slashed .306/.394/.521 with 16 home runs and a .215 ISO in 409 plate appearances this season, creating runs 47% better than average. Turner contributed a .328/.375/.536 with 28 home runs and 32 stolen bases while creating runs 42% better than average. There is not a better infield duo in baseball, let alone on this slate. Justin Turner slots in at the hot corner, the veteran finished this season as a .278/.361/.471 hitter with 27 home runs and a 127 WRC+, he is followed by powerful Will Smith, outfielder A.J. Pollock, and Chris “Swiss Army Knife” Taylor, who provides quality at multiple positions. Taylor slashed .254/.344/.438 with 20 home runs and 13 stolen bases while creating runs 14% better than average this year, he will be a lower-owned lower-cost option at the back of this lineup. Struggling Cody Bellinger rounds out the projected batting order. Bellinger had an awful season at the plate, but he managed to involve himself significantly in the Dodgers Wildcard round victory over the Cardinals. Despite going 1-5 in the game, Bellinger stole two bases and scored one of the Dodgers’ three runs in the game. There is upside from one through eight in this lineup, regardless of who is on the mound, but they are very difficult to get to in unique combinations as a full team stack.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants are squeezing out a modicum of positive leverage on both sites today. As one of baseball’s best lineups all season, they make for a strong option in GPPs across the industry. The projected lineup kicks off with Austin Slater, who hit 12 home runs and stole 15 bases in just 306 plate appearances this season. Darin Ruf or Kris Bryant will end up in the second spot in the lineup, with the other likely in the cleanup role. Ruf hit 16 home runs and had a .248 ISO in his 312 plate appearances this season, creating runs 44% better than average along the way. The underrated outfielder had a massive 54.5% hard-hit percentage and a 14.2% barrel rate this year, but he is a heavy strikeout option at 27.9% which makes it more likely that Bryant will see this spot. With Slater striking out 27.5% of the time, it would be a tough ask to pair the two at the top of the lineup against a pitcher of Urias’ quality. Bryant slashed .265/.353/.481 with a .216 ISO and 25 home runs this season, creating runs 23% better than average and even adding 10 stolen bases along the way. Veterans Buster Posey and Evan Longoria will take up residence in the middle of the lineup as well. Posey had a full renaissance, seeing 454 plate appearances and slashing .304/.390/.499 while creating runs 40% better than average. Longoria saw another season in and out of the lineup, but he was outstanding when he played. Over 291 plate appearances, the veteran mashed 13 home runs and created runs 23% better than average. He posted a 54.5% hard-hit percentage and had a 13.4% barrel rate while walking 12% of the time. At the back of the run of terrific veteran hitters is stellar shortstop Brandon Crawford, a player no one expected to post a monster .298/.373/.522 line with 24 home runs and a .224 ISO this season. Crawford created runs 39% better than average, though he was just a .244/.300/.422 hitter with a .178 ISO who created runs five percent behind the curve and hit just six home runs against fellow southpaws this season. Wilmer Flores had documented power against left-handed pitching throughout his career. For the season Flores managed a quality .262/.335/.447 triple-slash and created runs 13% better than average while minimizing strikeouts to an excellent 12.8% clip. One projected lineup includes infielder Donovan Solano, with Mike Yastrzemski as the other option despite the lefty-lefty matchup.
HR Call: Darin Ruf — San Francisco Giants
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