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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 8/11/21

Terry McBride

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Awesemo's FREE MLB FanDuel Picks Daily Fantasy Baseball and DFS cheat sheet based on Alex Baker's expert DFS projections for Sept. 26.

The Wednesday MLB DFS slate features a 10-game affair with one premium starting pitcher and a relatively short mid-range of quality second and third starters before quickly giving way to the dregs of the league. This lends itself to what should be a high-scoring, offensively focused slate, with a number of premium opportunities for team stacks and power upside to take over the scoring. Getting to a broad range of highly ranked MLB DFS stacks today with a mix of the top end of the pitching board is the approach for GPPs tonight.

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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 own design, based on a blend of several predictive statistics for the batter-pitcher matchup, I will give one of the top choices from each team. However, it will not always be the absolute top-ranked player, particularly when there is an obvious star in that spot every day.

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Home Run Ratings

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Scale: 5-10 Average; 10-20 Good; 20-25 Very Good; 25+ Great

Arizona Diamondbacks: Kole Calhoun — 5.93

Atlanta Braves: Austin Riley — 5.36

Baltimore Orioles: Cedric Mullins — 11.57

Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 10.66

Chicago Cubs: Patrick Wisdom — 2.67

Cincinnati Reds: Mike Moustakas — 16.86

Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes — 12.40

Detroit Tigers: Robbie Grossman — 6.72

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani — 15.04

Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager — 7.33

Milwaukee Brewers: Eduardo Escobar — 11.51

Oakland Athletics: Seth Brown — 4.80

Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper — 7.56

Pittsburgh Pirates: Bryan Reynolds — 6.60

San Francisco Giants: Mike Yastrzemski — 6.19

Seattle Mariners: Kyle Seager — 8.62

St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill — 17.96

Tampa Bay Rays: Ji-man Choi — 5.01

Texas Rangers: Nate Lowe — 7.24

Toronto Blue Jays: Randal Grichuk — 10.20


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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 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.

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On the Hill

The pitching slate today features one no-brainer ace in Corbin Burnes, who is in an amazing spot for upside against the lame Cubs offense. After Burnes, the reliable quality drops precipitously, with Kevin Gausman, Adam Wainwright and Frankie Montas making up the next tier. All three veterans have provided good scores through the season, but none are the most comfortable to roster. All three will be in plus matchups however, which should lend credulity to at least an idea of safety. Alek Manoah draws the Angels in a somewhat intriguing spot, while Nathan Eovaldi and Tyler Anderson are at least capable in the right matchups and where SP2s are needed.

Burnes has been lights out all season. He has a 35% strikeout rate and a 2.35 xFIP over 113 innings in 19 starts. He has induced a spectacular 15.9% swinging strike rate with a 33.8% CSW on the season, while allowing a microscopic 2.6% barrel rate with an 8.5-degree average launch angle and just a 27.8% hard-hit rate. Burnes has excelled at every aspect of pitching throughout the season, and he is a leading contender for the National League Cy Young Award. The matchup against one of baseball’s worst offenses only adds to the appeal tonight. Burnes draws a Cubs team that has the second-worst strikeout rate in the league against righties at 25.8%. The Cubs active roster has a collective .145 ISO and a 3.12% home run rate in the split, and they have created runs 16% behind the average this season. Burnes is justifiably at an extremely high ownership projection on the DraftKings slate, where he costs $10,300. For $11,000 on FanDuel, the ownership is somewhat more restricted, though Burnes will be a wildly popular choice. He is easily the best option for a massive pitching score on both sites tonight.

Gausman brings a 30.2% strikeout rate and a 3.37 xFIP to the mound in a home start against the lowly Diamondbacks. He has been solid through the season, though he has hit some bumps in recent weeks. Gausman still has a 0.94 WHIP with a 14.9% swinging strike rate and a 31.3% CSW on the season. He draws a Diamondbacks lineup that is marginally better than the Cubs at avoiding strikeouts, coming in at an even 25% rate that lands them fifth worst in the league. Arizona is quite a bit worse across the board in other categories, coming in with a 2.03% home run rate and a .125 collective ISO that are both the bottom of the league in the split, and they create runs a full 20% behind the average against right-handed pitchers. Gausman drops to a $9,900 price on DraftKings and $10,300 on FanDuel. On the blue site they are closer together in popularity, suggesting the potential for opportunity cost in simply paying up to Burnes for minimal ownership increase.

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Manoah leads the Blue Jays into Anaheim to face the flawed but dangerous Angels lineup. Manoah has been sharp through the first 52.1 innings and 10 starts of his major league career. He has a 28.2% strikeout rate on the season, though he has issued too many free passes, coming into action with an 8.9% walk rate. He has a 4.13 xFIP with a 1.01 WHIP on the season, while inducing a 12.9% swinging strike rate but compiling just a 27.8% CSW. Manoah has yielded a 7.7% barrel rate with a 36.2% hard-hit rate and 87.7 mph average exit velocity. The Angels active roster has a 23.7% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season, and they create runs 3% ahead of the curve by collective WRC+. Manoah has upside in the situation, and he will be owned at only around 10% on FanDuel and 25% on DraftKings for a reasonable salary industrywide. Manoah stands among the top pitchers on the board on both sites, though he is at slightly negative leverage for his probability of being the top option on FanDuel.

Montas has pitched well through most of the season. He has a 26.3% strikeout rate over 125 innings in 22 starts. He has induced a 13.5% swinging strike rate and has a 3.67 xFIP with a 1.26 WHIP and a 6.2% walk percentage. Montas allows a bit of uncomfortable opportunity in the form of baserunners, and his quality contact profile is concerning when men reach base. Montas has yielded a 9.3% barrel rate with a 12.1-degree average launch angle and a very large 43.9% hard-hit rate with 90.1 mph average exit velocity. A mistake in the wrong spot can cost Montas dearly, but he has largely pitched through cleanly all season, and there is little reason to doubt him against this Cleveland lineup. The active roster is 8% worse than average at creating runs against righties, though they do have a 3.84% home run rate and .169 ISO that stand above average in the split, and their 23.8% strikeout rate ranks 15th out of 30. Montas is inexpensive and under-owned on both sites.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers lineup is healthy once again and their offensive machine should be firing on all cylinders in short order. The Los Angeles lineup is jammed with talent from one through eight and can be rostered in almost any situation. In a game in Philadelphia’s hitter-friendly ballpark against Kyle Gibson, the Dodgers have significant appeal but are going under-owned. They are expensive on both DraftKings and FanDuel, but not prohibitively so, compared to where we have seen pricing on other premium bats. The Dodgers have several players with multi-position eligibility in the projected lineup, which adds to their overall utility in stacking for MLB DFS lineups. The matchup against Gibson should play well for run creation and sequential hitting at a minimum, with some thought to power upside. For the season, he has just a 19.9% strikeout rate and he has walked 9.2% of hitters. Gibson is spared the indignity of trending into negative numbers on our sequential hitting metric, but only just barely and only because of a very good 3.3% barrel rate allowed. He is a targetable pitcher for key Dodgers hitters, including Trea Turner, Max Muncy, Will Smith, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger. A.J. Pollock and Billy McKinney round out the projected lineup with respectable quality, as would any other option the Dodgers place into the batting order.


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Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays lineup looks to be in an excellent spot to provide the firepower needed to get their young pitcher to a win bonus on this slate, adding to his appeal and making them one of the go-to stacks of the night. Toronto is taking on whatever alternate universe version of Dylan Bundy has been pitching so poorly for the Angels this season. He has just a 21.5% strikeout rate with a 4.55 xFIP and a 1.36 WHIP this season. He has walked 8.2% of hitters and allows a 10.3% barrel rate with a 38.7% hard-hit rate. The Blue Jays lineup is far too good for those kinds of numbers, they are in an excellent situation for run creation and power. Toronto’s active roster could be considered baseball’s very best against right-handed pitching. Toronto has a .205 collective ISO and a 4.74% home run rate in the split, both marks are league leading. Toronto creates runs 16% better than average and strikes out just 21.1% of the time, the third-lowest mark in baseball. The Blue Jays are expensive and challenging to roster, but their ownership is far lower than it should be for the opportunity for MLB DFS point scoring.

George Springer is up to 193 plate appearances and he has already hit 14 home runs. Springer is slashing .280/.365/.613 with a titanic .333 ISO while creating runs 61% better than league average by WRC+. He has a 41.5% hard-hit rate and an excellent 17.1% barrel rate, and he walks 11.4% of the time. Springer is possibly underpriced at $4,100 on FanDuel, where he will be approaching just 10% ownership. On the other side of the industry he is appropriately at $5,600 and will draw less public attention for it.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is slashing .314/.408/.625 with 35 home runs and a .311 ISO on the season. He has created runs 76% better than average by WRC+, and he is legitimately contending for a Triple Crown. Guerrero has first and third base eligibility on FanDuel. He is just a first baseman on DraftKings, and he will not be owned enough on either site. He is one of baseball’s very best hitters and an excellent option on any MLB DFS slate.

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Marcus Semien retains his shortstop eligibility on the FanDuel slate, providing a unique combination of hitters that can cover every infield position between him and Guerrero. This ability lends major upside to the stack on the FanDuel slate. On DraftKings, Semien is a just a shortstop, but he remains an important and viable part of Blue Jays stacks. Semien is slashing .277/.341/.532 with a .255 ISO and 26 home runs, adding 12 stolen bases in the process and creating runs 35% better than average. He is an easy addition for upside at under 5% ownership on both sites.

Bo Bichette has a 49.4% hard-hit rate with a 10.6% barrel rate, and he keeps strikeouts down to a degree, coming into the night with a 20.6% rate. He is slashing .292/341/.474 with a .182 ISO and creating runs 22% better than average. He has hit 20 home runs and stolen 17 bases this season, providing fantastic MLB DFS point scoring in multiple ways.

Teoscar Hernandez has a 47% hard-hit rate with a 14% barrel rate that he has translated into 17 home runs and a .195 ISO this season. He is slashing an excellent .304/.348/.499 and creates runs 29% better than average, which means he is underpriced when listed at $4,500 on DraftKings and just $3,400 on the blue site. Hernandez is not drawing appropriate popularity for the too-low salary, making him an excellent play in stacks and even as a one-off from this lineup.

Corey Dickerson comes in at just $2,900 on the DraftKings slate and at the dead minimum $2,000 on FanDuel. Dickerson has made 248 plate appearances this year and is slashing .265/.327/.389 with a .124 ISO while creating runs 2% behind the average. He has just a 2.8% barrel rate and a 33.7% hard-hit rate for the season, which he has turned into two home runs. Dickerson has provided more than that through his career. In just 2019 he hit 26 home runs in 464 plate appearances and had a .242 ISO.


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Randal Grichuk has hit 19 home runs in 420 opportunities this season, though his run creation falls 5% behind the curve. He costs just $2,300 on the FanDuel slate and $3,800 on DraftKings, his home run upside is clear and well established, and it is the primary reason to roster the hitter, particularly when he is low owned as on DraftKings. On the FanDuel slate, Grichuk and Dickerson will be the most popular Blue Jays bats.

Santiago Espinal and Reese McGuire are afterthoughts in this lineup. Espinal is slashing .294/.345/.399 over 165 plate appearances and has created runs 5% better than average however, and McGuire fills out catcher requirements. Both players are inexpensive and virtually unowned across the industry, they provide a bit of salary and positional relief where necessary but are not likely for much more than that.

HR Call: Mike Moustakas — Cincinnati Reds

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 Awesemo.com. 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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