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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 8/12/21

Terry McBride

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MLB DFS picks DraftKings FanDUel fantasy baseball deep dive strategy advice tips cheat sheet fantasy baseball rankings projections free optimal lineup optimizer generator rockies nationals

Thursday night’s main slate is perhaps the strangest of the season. The afternoon is loaded with eight games, while the evening features just four and only three included in DraftKings contests. The FanDuel slate will include the spectacle between the Yankees and White Sox that is being played in an Iowa corn field. The Field of Dreams Game is a nightmare for projections, with completely unknown park factors at play. Naturally, FanDuel decided it had to be included in their slate. The added game puts two fantastic lineups on the board on FanDuel, and both starting pitchers can be considered for roster shares as well. The three games that appear on both sites provide quality options on the mound across the board, with no team truly standing out for power, run scoring and MLB DFS stacks upside. Vegas agrees — all three games are totaled at nine runs or fewer.

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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: Asdrubal Cabrera — 4.91

Chicago White Sox: Eloy Jimenez — 13.42

Colorado Rockies: Brendan Rodgers — 4.21

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 8.57

New York Yankees: Joey Gallo — 11.72

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 16.65

San Francisco Giants: Mike Yastrzemski — 3.62

Toronto Blue Jays: Bo Bichette — 4.66


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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.

MLB DFS Picks Fantasy Baseball Yahoo ESPN CBS DraftKings FanDuel free expert rankings projections predictions home run calls padres white sox yankees blue jays angels giants Shohei Ohtani Field of Dreams Game las vegas betting odds Best MLB bets today

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.

On the Hill

With Lance Lynn and Andrew Heaney dueling on the Field of Dreams, the FanDuel slate has a bonus pair of playable pitchers. The dimensions of the park are similar to those of the White Sox home stadium in Chicago, which is a hitter’s park, but to what degree they play similarly is anyone’s guess. The remaining six pitchers are all at least playable on this slate, with Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani leading the way. German Marquez and Jose Berrios are both strong options for their clubs as well, though they face somewhat challenging opponents and don’t quite reach the lofty heights of the two aces.

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Darvish has thrown 128.2 innings in 22 starts this season. He has a 30% strikeout rate and keeps additional runners off the bases by walking just 5.6% of hitters. He has a 3.68 xFIP with a 0.99 WHIP, induces a 12.8% swinging strike rate and allows just a 34.1% hard-hit rate. There is significant upside in the spot as well, Darvish faces a lousy Diamondbacks team that is bad at everything. Arizona has a 24.9% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season and the team has a .124 collective ISO with a 2.01% home run rate. The Diamondbacks create runs 20% behind the league average, against a starter with Darvish’s talent they stand little chance of doing any damage. He costs $9,200 on the FanDuel slate and $9,500 on DraftKings, which is too cheap for this pitcher in this situation.

Ohtani faces a Blue Jays team that ranks third in baseball with a 21.1% strikeout rate against righties and has a 4.75% home run rate in the split that ranks second in the league. Toronto’s active roster has a collective .203 ISO and creates runs 19% better than average in the split, they are capable of getting to even a pitcher as good as Ohtani. He has a 29.9% strikeout rate over his 86 innings in 16 starts this year. He has pitched to a 3.69 xFIP with a 1.09 WHIP and induces a 13.4% swinging strike rate. Ohtani has a 41% hard-hit rate, and he walks too many at 10.2%, which can create opportunities for an offense like this one. In a direct either-or decision, Darvish stands well ahead of Ohtani, but the latter has upside to post a premium score, particularly for his $8,200 DraftKings price.


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Marquez leads the Rockies into a contest in San Francisco where he will be facing a Giants team that has been top notch all season. The active roster is third best in baseball with a 4.68% home run rate against righties this season, they have a .206 ISO that is tied for the league lead in the split and they create runs 12% better than average. The lone weakness is their 24.9% strikeout rate that lands well below average. He has a 25.4% strikeout rate over 136.2 quality innings in 23 starts this season. He has excellent numbers across the board despite pitching his home games at Coors Field. Marquez allows just a 3.9% barrel rate with a 36.1% hard-hit rate and 88 mph average exit velocity. He holds opposing hitters to a 4.7-degree average launch angle. Marquez induces a 13.2% swinging strike rate, though he does walk a few too many at 8.8%. Overall, there is upside in the combination of Marquez’ strikeout acumen and the nature of the Giants’ swing for the fences approach. For $9,000 on FanDuel and somehow just $6,900 on the DraftKings slate, Marquez is a dynamite option.

New York Yankees

The Yankees are only an option on the FanDuel slate and are in a challenging matchup against Lynn. Lynn has thrown 114.2 innings in 20 starts this season, striking out 27.9% with a 12% swinging strike rate. He has a 3.83 xFIP with a 1.05 WHIP and allows a 35.5% hard-hit rate with a 6.4% barrel rate. Lynn is a flyball pitcher, opposing hitters have a 16.7-degree average launch angle against him, but he is a high-quality option who keeps opponents off the scoreboard and the ball in the park. In an unpredictable park with favorable hitting dimensions and with the Yankees lineup going under-owned on the slate there are good reasons to throw shares of Yankee bats at Lynn tonight. New York is loaded with obvious names on the top end, they are the focus. Each of D.J. LeMahieu, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo are in play, with Gallo standing as the only one with more than 10% projected ownership. The rest of the lineup has upside ability in spots but is less premium. Luke Voit has obvious power, as does Rougned Odor, though both are highly flawed hitters. Kyle Higashioka flashes power in big spots from time to time, earning him more of a reputation for quality than he may deserve at .185/.261/.411. Jonathan Davis and Andrew Velazquez can provide speed upside from the back end of the lineup. Velazquez is particularly interesting at third base for just $2,100. He hits from both sides of the plate and has upside for mid-range power and good speed. In 277 plate appearances in Triple-A Velazquez hit seven home runs and stole 26 bases. He had a 29 stolen base season in Triple-A in 2018 and he had a monster 50 stolen base year in A ball in 2014. Velazquez is not a major upside play, but on a small slate a cheap unowned player who can get on base, steal a bag and score a run might be a difference maker.


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Colorado Rockies

The Rockies are not a good baseball team. Collectively, Colorado compiled a WRC+ that stands 23% below average against right-handed pitching this season, although that represents a major uptick from where they were earlier in the year. The Rockies have a .156 ISO and a 3.13% home run rate in the split that both sit below average. They are above average with just a 22.9% strikeout rate however, and they are drawing virtually no ownership in a game against Logan Webb. He has a 25.2% strikeout rate with a 3.06 xFIP and a 1.16 WHIP, inducing an 11% swinging strike rate and allowing just a 0.2-degree average launch angle. Webb suppresses opposing offenses and is difficult to target for major upside with bats, but on a small slate single-digit ownership for hitters can have significant value as well, particularly when options like the Padres will be in nearly half of all lineups.

Connor Joe costs just $2,900 on DraftKings and $2,700 on the FanDuel slate. He is slashing a healthy .290/.358/.477 over his 120 plate appearances this season and has a .187 ISO with five home runs. Joe creates runs 11% better than average, has a 38.1% hard-hit rate and 10.7% barrel rate, strikes out 20% of the time and walks 10%. As an option to do individual damage or get on base ahead of the team’s power, Joe makes a quality starting point for a Colorado stack.

Brendan Rodgers slots in at both second base and shortstop on the blue site; he is a shortstop only on DraftKings. Rodgers has come on strong over 227 plate appearances this year. He is slashing .286/.348/.485 with nine home runs and a .199 ISO. He has created runs 10% ahead of the average for the season and will be owned under 5% for just $3,000 on the FanDuel slate.

Charlie Blackmon is slashing .271/.357/.395 with just seven home runs, a 93 WRC+ and .123 ISO. He costs just $3,400 on FanDuel and $4,500 on DraftKings, which is appropriate for this year’s numbers but low for the version of Blackmon who hit 32 home runs in 634 plate appearances in 2019 while slashing .314/.364/.576.

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Trevor Story has hit 15 home runs and stolen 17 bases on the season, slashing .257/.333/.461 with a .203 ISO, though he is creating runs 3% behind the average. He has a 41.4% hard-hit rate with a 9.6% barrel rate and is one of the team’s best options.

Ryan McMahon hits from the left side of the plate and has good power but strikes out 26% of the time. McMahon is slashing .267/.341/.477 this season with 18 home runs and a .210 ISO. He slots in at second and third base for just $3,400 on FanDuel and he is a $4,700 third baseman on the DraftKings slate. McMahon leads the team with a 46.6% hard-hit rate and has a 104 WRC+.

C.J. Cron has also hit 18 home runs this season, doing so in 358 plate appearances that have also seen him slash .255/.366/.487 with a .232 ISO. He has created runs 16% better than average for the season.

Elias Diaz fills out the catcher role on DraftKings and provides a touch of quality. He is not a great hitter, coming in slashing .225/.294/.441, but Diaz has hit 13 home runs and has a .216 ISO for the season. He posted a .353 ISO with two home runs in a limited 73 plate appearance season last year, but the power seems like an outlier.

Sam Hilliard has made 110 plate appearances and is slashing .218/.282/.515 with eight home runs. He packs a powerful punch but is an unreliable hitter, Hilliard has a .297 ISO and barrels the ball 17.7% of the time in the small sample, but he is unreliable for getting on base or creating runs, coming into tonight 9% below average by WRC+. Hilliard is a boom/bust tournament option on both sites tonight.

HR Call: Manny Machado — San Diego Padres

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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