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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 9/28/21

Terry McBride



MLB DFS Picks, top stacks and pitchers for Yahoo, DraftKings & FanDuel daily fantasy baseball lineups, including the Rays | Friday, 10/8

The final full Tuesday of the regular season features a solid 13-game slate across both DraftKings and FanDuel. The board is loaded with top-notch pitching selections, and the power index has a few teams with significant average ratings for home run pop. On a slate of this size, with numerous interesting options around the league and a Coors Field game on tap, it makes sense to spread shares around to several of the value-oriented positions that have positive leverage, particularly when looking to roster some of the more obviously popular spots. Finding the team stacks with the best leverage and then using Ownership Projections to parse the individual popularity always reveals plays that are going underappreciated by the public. So, using all of the Awesemo MLB DFS projections, let’s find the best 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

Arizona Diamondbacks: Kole Calhoun — 3.81

Atlanta Braves: Jorge Soler — 4.43

Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle — 12.09

Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 17.09

Chicago White Sox: Yasmani Grandal — 10.64

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto — 17.01

Cleveland Indians: Bobby Bradley — 7.79

Colorado Rockies: Charlie Blackmon — 8.64

Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera — 5.69

Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker — 12.31

Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana — 7.82

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani — 19.20

Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy — 9.23

Milwaukee Brewers: Avisail Garcia — 7.16

Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano — 13.72

New York Yankees: Joey Gallo — 17.79

Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson — 12.00

Philadelphia Phillies: Brad Miller — 5.50

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 9.58

San Francisco Giants: Wilmer Flores — 8.01

Seattle Mariners: Mitch Haniger — 6.46

St. Louis Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt — 5.87

Tampa Bay Rays: Nelson Cruz — 12.83

Texas Rangers: Nate Lowe — 10.12

Toronto Blue Jays: George Springer — 12.35

Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman — 9.18

Power Index

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.

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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

Today’s slate features one of the deeper pitching selections in recent weeks. Without the Top Pitchers Tool on their side, the public is going to have a difficult time landing on the correct distributions of the positively leveraged pitchers most likely to be the top performer. The slate is led by several genuine aces, with Zack Wheeler, Brandon Woodruff, Chris Sale, Walker Buehler and Yu Darvish. Add in excellent options like Logan Webb, Charlie Morton and Adam Wainwright, and there is a cornucopia of premium pitching. The mid-range and value options on the slate continue through a few reasonable names, including Aaron Civale, Tyler Anderson and Jameson Taillon.

Woodruff has made 29 starts this season, throwing 175.1 mostly excellent innings. He has a 30.2% strikeout rate and has walked 6.2% of hitters. He has pitched to a 2.99 xFIP with a 0.95 WHIP, induces a 13% swinging-strike rate and has a 30% CSW. On the other side of the game, Wainwright comes in having made 31 mostly remarkable starts at the back end of his career. He is not the premium strikeout option, but he reliably pitches deep into games and chases the win and quality start bonuses every time out. Wainwright has a 3.85 xFIP with a 21.2% strikeout rate with a 1.04 WHIP. He has induced an 8.3% swinging-strike rate and has a 29.8% CSW for the season. Between the two, Woodruff has been better with contact, but not by much. He has a 5.8% barrel rate with a 31.3% hard-hit percentage and 85.9 mph average exit velocity, while Wainwright has yielded a 6.3% barrel rate and 34.5% hard-hit percentage but gives up an 88.3 mph average exit velocity. Wainwright is less expensive and comes in with positive leverage at a low overall ownership mark on the slate, Woodruff costs more but has a generally much higher ceiling, though he is coming up with somewhat negative leverage marks across the industry. He deserves to be rostered, but spreading shares with this many quality options seems the better play.

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In Atlanta, Wheeler will be on the mound for the visiting Phillies, while Morton toes the rubber for the Braves. Wheeler has been one of baseball’s best through most of the season. He has made 31 starts and thrown 206.1 innings, striking out 29.2% of hitters and walking just 5.5%. He has an excellent 2.86 xFIP and a 1.02 WHIP while inducing a 12.4% swinging-strike rate. Wheeler is an excellent option even against a team like the Braves, but their pitcher is no slouch either. Morton has struck out 28.2% of opposing hitters over 176 innings in his 31 starts. He has a 3.36 xFIP and a 1.07 WHIP, has induced a 12.2% swinging-strike rate and has compiled a 31% CSW. Both pitchers are good for contact as well, Morton has a 5.2% barrel rate and 32.4% hard-hit percentage on the season, while Wheeler sits at just a 4.7% barrel rate allowed with a 28.3% hard-hit percentage. Of the two, Wheeler has the more difficult matchup. The Braves’ 4.84% home run rate against right-handed pitching is baseball’s best against either hand (tied with the Dodgers bats against lefties). The team’s active roster has a .203 ISO and creates runs at the league average in the split, though their 24.3% strikeout rate should be a bit of a bonus, it falls slightly below average. The Phillies active roster has a .172 ISO and a 3.75% home run rate that sit around the middle of the league. They strike out at a 22.2% clip that is above average, but they have created runs five percent behind the curve for the season. Both pitchers are in play across the industry, though Wheeler appears under-owned on the FanDuel slate and somewhat efficiently owned on DraftKings, while Morton comes up negatively leveraged across both sites.

The disappointing Padres are packing it in for the season, but they have a chance to play spoilers for the division-rival Dodgers in their chase for the NL West crown. Darvish will lead the Friars into Los Angeles to face Buehler, both right-handed pitchers are in play from site to site this evening. Darvish has a 29.2% strikeout rate and a 3.73 xFIP with a 1.07 WHIP for the year. Buehler has 195.2 innings over 31 outings, leads the league in quality starts, has a 25.4% strikeout rate and an 11.3% swinging-strike rate. He has a 3.65 xFIP and a 0.98 WHIP. Darvish will be facing a Dodgers active roster that has a 3.99% home run rate and a .175 ISO against righties while creating runs five percent better than average and striking out at just a 22.1% clip in the split this season. The Padres, on the other hand, have a .163 collective ISO and a 3.45% home run rate this season, though they still manage to create runs one percent better than average and have an excellent 20.8% strikeout rate. Both pitchers will be challenged, but they have more than enough talent between them to post the top two scores of the night, despite facing one another. Both pitchers are under-owned and pulling in positive leverage marks, they make excellent GPP plays this evening.

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Webb will be facing an Arizona roster that has a .134 ISO and a 2.27% home run rate against righties this season. The Diamondbacks create runs 22% percent worse than average in the split and have a 24.9% strikeout rate that falls well below par. They lack power, they cannot create runs, and they strike out too much, a pitcher of Webb’s quality should have little trouble with that profile. He has been excellent all season, making 24 starts and throwing 136.1 innings. He has a 2.83 xFIP, 1.11 WHIP, 26.2% strikeout rate, 6% barrel rate and a 37.9% hard-hit percentage. Webb isuppresses power and run creation and is facing a team that is already lacking in both departments. He is inexpensive by comparison to the other aces on the slate, but he is drawing attention on both sites and will be somewhat over-owned when weighed against his probability of success. Webb belongs in lineups, but this is another case where a slight undercut to the field and distribution toward some of the positively leveraged arms could pay dividends.

Coors Field

Two of baseball’s worst teams square off at Coors Field once again tonight. However, with the Nationals and Rockies both throwing hittable lefties in Patrick Corbin and Kyle Freeland and the ballpark factors in play, there should be significant scoring. The Rockies are pulling in gigantic ownership numbers, and they are deep into negative leverage territory, to the point that their popularity negates most of the upside in the play. The team has few gaps in individual ownership through underperforming Charlie Blackmon is lower-owned in a lefty-lefty matchup. Getting to unique combinations of the Rockies is very difficult, they will dictate specific roster constructions that will be extremely popular across both sites. On the other side of the game, the Nationals rank near the top of the board on both sites, but they are coming up as a positive leverage play. The team is going to have popularity on their best hitters, but the field is trailing on many reasonable plays in this ballpark against this pitcher. Go-to Nationals include the obvious, superstar Juan Soto, as well as Josh Bell and arguably Ryan Zimmerman. Additional quality can be found in Lane Thomas and Alcides Escobar from the top of the lineup, though Luis Garcia, Riley Adams and Carter Kieboom are purely ballpark and correlation plays from the bottom of the batting order.

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Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox are buried in negative leverage on both DraftKings and the blue site for tonight’s slate because of both their general appeal and a spectacular hitting spot in Baltimore against Bruce Zimmerman. He has thrown 59.2 innings this season and has a 4.28 xFIP but a 1.47 WHIP and just a 20.2% strikeout rate. He has allowed a 9.6% barrel rate and a whopping 44.9% hard-hit percentage on the season. Against one of baseball’s best lineups, that center simply will not hold. The Red Sox’s crushing popularity makes them a difficult tournament play, however. The team does not feature a hitter below 10% popularity on DraftKings tonight, with most of the quality landing in the 20% and up range. On the blue site, the bottom three in the projected Sox lineup are at playable single-digit ownership marks. These hitters include Alex Verdugo, Christian Vazquez and Jose Iglesias. Mixing those three into stacks along with the obvious go-to hitters like Hunter Renfroe, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Bobby Dalbec.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Raya have played excellent baseball all season, they have a lineup that creates runs from top to bottom, despite lacking the star power of their more expensive rivals. The team will be in Houston to face the Astros. Jose Urquidy has thrown 96 innings in 18 starts this season, pitching to a 4.29 xFIP and a 0.99 WHIP but with just a 21.4% strikeout rate. Urquidy has walked only 4.5% of hitters and he allows just a 35.5% hard-hit percentage, though he has yielded an 8.6% barrel rate that will play to Tampa strengths. The active roster for the Rays has a 4.55% home run rate with a .203 ISO against right-handed pitching. The team strikes out at a 23.9% clip but creates runs 14% above average, they are a terrific offense against most any pitcher, they should have no problem creating runs in this spot.

Brandon Lowe leads off at a low price on the blue site, where he has eligibility at second base and in the outfield. He has a 43.4% hard-hit percentage and an excellent 13.2% barrel rate this season that he has translated into 34 home runs and a .255 ISO. He has a 27.3% strikeout rate, but he takes a three-true-outcomes approach and has a steady 11.3% walk rate. Lowe is slashing .239/.336/.494 and creates runs 29% better than average for the season.

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Wander Franco is striking out at just a 12.9% clip and walking 8.2% of the time over his first 280 major league plate appearances. The plate discipline is simply astonishing for a player just finding his footing. Franco is slashing .287/.350.476 with a .189 ISO and has created runs 31% better than average for his team. Franco will reach true stardom sometime next season. For now, he costs $3,800 on FanDuel and $5,500 on DraftKings and should be rostered aggressively with the public at just 0.5% on both sites.

Ji-man Choi has 10 home runs with a .174 ISO in 286 plate appearances this season. He is slated to hit third in the projected lineup, where he fits in well for run creation. He has a WRC+ 17% above average for the season, he is slashing .228/.350/.402, and he walks in 15% of his plate appearances. Choi also strikes out 28% of the time, but he comes in with a solid contact profile with a 46% hard-hit percentage and a 9.3% barrel rate. Choi is inexpensive on both sites, and he will be virtually untouched by the public.

Nelson Cruz has 31 home runs and a .238 ISO while creating runs 26% ahead of the curve. He has a titanic 51.4% hard-hit percentage and an excellent 13.6% barrel rate this season. He is slashing .270/.340/.508 and warrants far more attention than he is getting for $5,100 on DraftKings. At $3,400 on FanDuel, he will be more popular, but not nearly to an unplayable degree.

Austin Meadows has 26 home runs and is slashing .233/.315/.455 with a .223 ISO. He has created runs 12% better than average over the course of the season, but he has a surprisingly low 37.2% hard-hit percentage and an 8.9% barrel rate. He strikes out at a 20.1% clip and walks in 10.1% of his plate appearances, supporting the on-base and run creation skills. Meadows is loaded with scoring upside, and he is another under-owned underpriced play in this lineup.

Randy Arozarena has 19 home runs and 16 stolen bases while creating runs 26% better than average. The only comparison that does not look favorably on him is the one to his own playoffs performance last year. Arozarena has a 42% hard-hit percentage but strikes out 27.5% of the time while walking at a 9% clip, areas he can improve as he goes. He is too cheap and is not drawing any attention across the industry.

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Joey Wendle fits in at second base and shortstop on DraftKings, and he is a third baseman or shortstop option on the FanDuel slate. Wendle is inexpensive, but he can provide occasional MLB DFS quality. He has 11 home runs and seven stolen bases this year while creating runs 10% ahead of the curve. Wendle can help offset popularity and price, though neither is overly necessary with this team affordable and unpopular.

Mike Zunino has 32 home runs, a 47.7% hard-hit percentage and a massive 24.9% barrel rate that leads baseball by far when sorting for hitters with more than 350 plate appearances on the season. Zunino strikes out 35.4% of the time, walks 9.2%, slashes .216/.301/.564 and has a .348 ISO and 135 WRC+. Roster Mike Zunino in all formats, particularly where catchers are required.

Kevin Kiermaier’s 97 WRC+ is the lone mark in the projected lineup that falls below average for run creation. Kiermaier is slashing .255/.320/.383 with a .128 ISO and four home runs. He has nine stolen bases but does not make enough quality contact and strikes out at a 25.9% clip that is not supported by his other stats. He is fine as the last man in, but there are better options in this lineup.

HR Call: Joey Gallo — New York Yankees

To get even more action down on tonight’s MLB slate, check out the betting markets and Awesemo’s expert MLB betting picks for today.

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Terry used to do other things, now he writes words on the internet. He hopes his more than 20 years’ experience in season-long and daily fantasy sports and his custom models for MLB, NBA, and NFL don't steer you too wrong when he writes columns and makes picks on A lifetime of experience keeping odd hours make Terry ideal to cover KBO baseball overnight until the world returns to normal. Most of those late night hours have been spent on the couch watching sports, T.V., and movies; just try to shut him up about any of the above. You can find his pop-culture ramblings and more on Sideaction.

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