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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 8/13/21

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 projections for today's slate 9/22.

Friday MLB DFS action returns to form with a whopping 14-game fantasy baseball slate on both DraftKings and FanDuel. With every team but the White Sox and Yankees in action, there are plenty of bats and arms to combine in high-end constructions. A slate this large provides the opportunity to spread out ownership shares of our MLB DFS picks to capture the broad range of potential outcomes. The slate features a number of high-end arms to help concentrate the pool of pitching, while several targetable starters make up the bottom of the pitching board and point toward quality stacking opportunities.

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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: Carson Kelly — 6.34

Atlanta Braves: Adam Duvall — 18.21

Baltimore Orioles: Austin Hays — 9.25

Boston Red Sox: Hunter Renfroe — 5.71

Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ — 10.97

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto — 3.85

Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes — 17.40

Colorado Rockies: Ryan McMahon — 8.26

Detroit Tigers: Robbie Grossman — 7.34

Houston Astros: Carlos Correa — 11.49

Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana — 7.01

Los Angeles Angels: Max Stassi — 7.17

Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy — 10.49

Miami Marlins: Brian Anderson — 8.37

Milwaukee Brewers: Christian Yelich — 9.28

Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano — 9.80

New York Mets: Pete Alonso — 11.51

Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson — 9.64

Philadelphia Phillies: Brad Miller — 7.66

Pittsburgh Pirates: Bryan Reynolds — 5.86

San Diego Padres: Wil Myers — 10.21

San Francisco Giants: Darin Ruf — 6.35

Seattle Mariners: Kyle Seager — 12.30

St. Louis Cardinals: Harrison Bader — 7.70

Tampa Bay Rays: Austin Meadows — 7.49

Texas Rangers: Nate Lowe — 4.69

Toronto Blue Jays: George Springer — 8.17

Washington Nationals: Juan Soto — 7.83


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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 Picks Fantasy baseball free expert lineup today rankings ownership projections DraftKings FanDUel ESPN Yahoo CBS tournament strategy tips advice GPP braves dodgers astros padres cubs cardinals rockies rays angels mets blue jays las vegas betting odds lines best MLB bets today FRiday AUgust 14

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

The high-quality pitching slate includes several good options, with premium starters facing lousy offenses. There is a quality mid-range on the board as well, before giving way to a raging inferno of gas cans at the bottom of the board that can be targeted for major offensive upside. Robbie Ray is rarely a comfortable option, but he has been largely excellent this season and is in a terrific spot against the Mariners. The pitcher who has been in the best form all season is Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler, though he is in a challenging situation against the Reds. Julio Urias projects for quality against the Mets, as does Charlie Morton against the dramatically diminished Nationals squad. Jesus Luzardo is an upside arm who is still finding his way at this level, but he is inexpensive and facing a terrible Cubs lineup. Tyler Mahle remains underpriced and is in perhaps an undervalued matchup against the Phillies, Mahle ranks well and carries a strong positive leverage number on both sites on today’s Top Pitchers Tool.

Ray has thrown 130.1 innings for the Blue Jays this season. He has a 30.2% strikeout rate and has carried a career outlier walk rate through the season at just 6.8%. Ray has induced a sharp 14.9% swinging strike rate and has a 29.7% CSW though he continues to allow premium contact. He has yielded a 9.4% barrel rate and a 44.2% hard-hit rate with an average exit velocity of 90.7 mph. Ray draws a Mariners team that is above average for power against lefties with a 4.09% home run rate and a .167 ISO in the split. Seattle still creates runs at a pace 6% behind the average and strikes out 26.2% of the time against lefties, the second-worst mark in the league. Ray has a hefty $10,700 price tag on FanDuel, which is serving to keep the public at bay. He projects for less than 7% ownership and looks like a spectacular option on the blue site. Across town on DraftKings, Ray is mispriced at $9,200, which renders him one of the most popular options on the slate, and somewhat over-owned for his probability of landing as one of the top two options.

Wheeler went into his last start leading the league in innings pitched and promptly crafted a fantastic two hit complete game shutout with 11 strikeouts. He has been fantastic all season, he is one of baseball’s safest bets for reliable depth and the opportunity for quality start and win bonuses. Wheeler has a 29.4% strikeout rate in his 156 innings over 23 starts. He is terrific at limiting free passes, walking just 5.5% of hitters and posting a 0.99 WHIP with his 2.77 xFIP. Opposing hitters are able to barrel the ball just 4.5% of the time and Wheeler limits hard hits to just 29.8%, an excellent combination for limiting run creation opportunities. The opposing Reds are the only true issue with getting to Wheeler. Cincinnati’s active roster is above average across the board against right-handed pitching, though not all righties are created equal. The Red have a .189 ISO and a 4.20% home run rate with a 23.1% strikeout rate, while creating runs 9% better than average by collective WRC+. Wheeler is not entirely safe, but he has solid upside for $10,300 and 20% ownership on DraftKings. He is priced up to $11,200 on FanDuel, which is suppressing his ownership projection in a similar manner to Ray’s. Simply paying up to roster two of the best pitchers on the slate seems like a good way to make differentiated lineups in a hurry on the site.


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On the other side of Wheeler’s contest, Tyler Mahle will be taking the mound for the Reds, and he will be low owned on both sites despite very affordable pricing. Mahle costs just $8,700 on the FanDuel slate and $7,100 on DraftKings but will be under 10% ownership on both sites if projections hold heading into lock. He has been largely sharp through the season despite a few bumps in the road. Mahle has made 23 starts and thrown 123.2 innings, pitching to a 3.78 xFIP with a 1.22 WHIP. He has a 28.4% strikeout rate and induces a 12.1% swinging strike rate, while compiling a 29.5% CSW. Mahle still walks a few too many and can get himself into jams, but he has the talent to pitch his way out of them for the most part. He allows a slightly high 7.5% barrel rate but just 34.3% hard hits and an 88.4 mph average exit velocity. The Phillies are not the matchup challenge that the Reds are. Against right-handed pitching this season, Philadelphia has a .162 ISO and a 3.53% home run rate. The Phillies strike out 23.1% of the time, which is a respectable mark, but they create runs 10% worse than average in the split. Mahle has upside at these prices and single-digit ownership.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers stand as one of the top ranked stacks on both sites, and they are drawing strong positive leverage marks on DraftKings. On the FanDuel slate Milwaukee is owned around where their probability of being the top offense says they should be, but they remain playable. Milwaukee is in Pittsburgh to face struggling Mitch Keller, who has never put things together sustainably at the Major League level. He has thrown 57.1 innings this season and has a 5.19 xFIP with an atrocious 1.81 WHIP. Keller induces just an 8.1% swinging strike rate with a 24.1% CSW and he allows a 9.4% barrel rate with a gargantuan 50.3% hard-hit rate. Keller allows a 91.9 mph average exit velocity and would be targetable in a high school game. The Brewers’ offense is flawed but was improved at the deadline and features veteran quality from top to bottom. The Brewers have upside when they are under-owned. The go-to options include Kolten Wong, Christian Yelich, Willy Adames, Eduardo Escobar, and Omar Narvaez. The back end of the Brewers lineup is likely to be occupied by veteran bats with reasonable expectation for production, including Avisail Garcia, Rowdy Tellez and Lorenzo Cain.


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Houston Astros

One of baseball’s best offenses has been a go-to option whenever they are low-owned through the season. Houston’s high-quality lineup typically draws premium price tags which keeps ownership light in too many contests. On tonight’s slate Houston is low owned but not overly expensive, with only Jose Altuve cresting the $5,000 mark on DraftKings and the $4,000 price point on FanDuel. With all of the Astros at single digit ownership and low-for-them prices, this is a solid spot despite a quality opponent on the mound. Patrick Sandoval has a 26.7% strikeout rate over 82.1 innings in 13 starts this season. He has pitched to a 3.70 xFIP with a 1.19 WHIP and induces a 15.8% swinging strike rate. He walks a few too many, issuing free passes to 10% of opponents, but he gets through largely clean for contact, coming into the night with a 6.1% barrel rate and a 34.9% hard-hit rate. Houston makes a significant amount of hard contact up and down the lineup, however, and the Astros have been the league’s best at limiting strikeouts against both hands. They look like a terrific option in this situation.

Jose Altuve has just a 15.4% strikeout rate and a solid 10.4% walk rate. He is constantly putting the ball in play or getting on base. Altuve has hit 25 home runs and has a .215 ISO on the season and is slashing .276/.352/.492 while creating runs 34% better than average. He is the most expensive Astros bat across the industry, but he is obviously worth the salary.

Michael Brantley has a .099 career ISO against same-handed pitchers, .164 against righties. Brantley’s career .274/.329/.372 triple slash in the split is not entirely useless, but he creates runs 6% below average against fellow southpaws, compared to a 31% above average run creation against righties. Brantley is playable but he comes in with lower expectations and may hit later in the lineup.

Carlos Correa is slashing .271/.364/.477 with a .206 ISO and 18 home runs this season. He has created runs 36% better than average and is one of the league’s reliable options at a premium position. Correa strikes out just 19.3% of the time and walks 12.4%. He makes 44.4% hard contact and barrels the ball 9.2% of the time, which are quality marks for contact. For $4,000 on DraftKings and $3,700 on FanDuel, Correa should be more popular than his 4.5% and 1.9% ownership projections.

Yordan Alvarez is slashing .297/.357/.493 with a .196 ISO against lefties this season and .284/.350/.525 with a .240 ISO while creating runs 42% better than average overall. He makes hard contact 52.3% of the time, barreling the ball at a 14.4% clip.

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Kyle Tucker is slashing .273/.335/.513 with 21 home runs and 11 stolen bases. He has a .241 ISO and has created runs 33% better than average for the year. Tucker is third in the projected lineup with a 48.4% hard-hit rate, and he has an 11.7% barrel rate that stands out for power upside. He has struck out in just 17.1% of plate appearances this season, casting his power in an even better light by comparison to all-or-nothing types. While he finds a touch more quality against righties, Tucker is fine in the split and is far too cheap at $3,900 on DraftKings and $3,400 on FanDuel.

Aledmys Diaz is a cheap infield option at $2,800 with second base eligibility on FanDuel and a $3,200 price at first and third base on DraftKings. Diaz is slashing .298/.348/.485 with six home runs in his 184 plate appearances. He has a .187 ISO and has created runs 32% better than average. while putting the ball in play frequently. Diaz has struck out just 15.2% of the time this season.

Chas McCormick is second best in the projected lineup with a 49.6% hard-hit rate for the season. He barrels the ball 12.4% of the time and he has hit 11 home runs in just 214 plate appearances, posting a .225 ISO and creating runs 13% better than average. McCormick is an underappreciated option in this lineup. He strikes out at a 31.8% rate, skewing the Astros’ amazing average. He is slashing .251/.304/.476, so he is not particularly reliable.

Taylor Jones has made just 82 plate appearances this season and is slashing .208/.244/.312 with a .104 ISO. Jones adds five home runs in 139 plate appearances at Triple-A this season, but he is largely underwhelming and would be a price offset option only.

Martin Maldonado costs just $2,200 on DraftKings, but he is less relevant on FanDuel at $2,300, as the position is not necessary. Maldonado is slashing just .180/.276/.311 with a .131 ISO and eight home runs in 304 plate appearances.

HR Call: Jorge Soler — Atlanta Braves

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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