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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 9/10/21

Terry McBride

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MLB DFS lineup picks today DraftKings FanDuel Fantasy Baseball optimal lineup optimizer tournament strategy advice tips cheat sheet free expert rankings projections ownership home run predictions top stacks blue jays brewers rockies yankees Dodgers Padres Astros yahoo espn cbs Freddie Freeman Braves

Friday features a fully loaded MLB DFS slate that is packed with mid-range pitching quality and numerous excellent-looking opportunities for stacking offenses. With 13 games on the slate, getting to full stacks of teams is the approach on both sites. Building to capture the upside of lower-owned, high-upside teams as ranked on the Top Stacks Tool should be the goal day after day. Combining a spread of those stacks with pitchers who rank well in the MLB DFS projections should yield a consistent pool of high-quality lineups that are projected for success, particularly for large-field tournaments on a deep slate like this one.

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.

Home Run Ratings

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

Arizona Diamondbacks: Ketel Marte — 8.20

Atlanta Braves: Adam Duvall — 5.27

Baltimore Orioles: Anthony Santander — 10.61

Boston Red Sox: Hunter Renfroe — 8.20

Chicago White Sox: Eloy Jimenez — 4.28

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto — 10.92

Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes — 10.05

Colorado Rockies: Ryan McMahon — 11.72

Detroit Tigers: Eric Haase — 11.35

Houston Astros: Yordan Alvarez — 6.30

Kansas City Royals: Adalberto Mondesi — 11.55

Los Angeles Angels: Jo Adell — 3.51

Los Angeles Dodgers: Cody Bellinger — 7.56

Miami Marlins: Jazz Chisholm — 4.19

Milwaukee Brewers: Rowdy Tellez — 18.67

Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton — 6.80

New York Mets: Javier Baez — 7.48

New York Yankees: Joey Gallo — 12.29

Oakland Athletics: Matt Chapman — 10.67

Philadelphia Phillies: Andrew McCutchen — 4.42

San Diego Padres: Wil Myers — 6.62

Seattle Mariners: Mitch Haniger — 12.76

St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado — 8.56

Tampa Bay Rays: Nelson Cruz — 13.03

Texas Rangers: Adolis Garcia — 13.12

Toronto Blue Jays: George Springer — 15.66


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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.

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MLB DFS lineup picks today DraftKings FanDuel Fantasy Baseball optimal lineup optimizer tournament strategy advice tips cheat sheet free expert rankings projections ownership home run predictions top stacks blue jays brewers rockies yankees Dodgers Padres Astros yahoo espn cbs Freddie Freeman Braves

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 pitching slate is, at worst, far more enjoyable to deploy than some recent options. With several teams throwing their number one or number two starter in their rotation, there are a few high-quality options in interesting situations, while premium starters in more difficult situations stand a good chance of going under-owned. The Top Pitchers Tool is invaluable in navigating a pitching slate of this size and shape. With a number of options landing at similar price points and projections, leverage is an excellent method for determining player distributions. The top of the board features several top starters, with Robbie Ray taking on the Orioles and Tyler Mahle facing the Cardinals. Carlos Rodon will have his work cut out for him in a start against the powerful Red Sox lineup, while Framber Valdez draws a home start against the Angels but lacks what the other aces have in strikeout upside. Julio Urias faces a Padres offense that has been weak against left-handed pitching overall this season but comes up as one of the more positively leveraged plays on the board. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s Ian Anderson is mispriced on DraftKings at $6,600 in a matchup against the lowly Marlins. Anderson is drawing a massive ownership share and will be in nearly half of all lineups on that site. He is more expensive but will still be pushing 30% popularity on the blue site. The slate features under-owned quality further down the board as well, Joe Musgrove would rank out quite a bit better on many slates, but he faces the Dodgers tonight and has a hefty price tag by comparison to the other available options. Still, he will only be owned at about a quarter of his probability of being a top-two starter on FanDuel and is essentially untouched on DraftKings. Other talented pitchers buried somewhat on the board include Shohei Ohtani, German Marquez and Jordan Montgomery.

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Ray yielded three walks in his most recent outing but otherwise pitched an absolute gem over 6.2 innings. He struck out 10 Oakland batters while yielding just one hit, another in a run of terrific starts. Ray has completed at least six innings in eight straight, pitching through the seventh in the four outings prior to his last start. He has a fantastic 32.3% strikeout rate with a 3.21 xFIP and a 1.00 WHIP on the season. Ray induces a 15.5% swinging-strike rate and has a 30% CSW. His astounding improvement with walks is clear in a 6.4% rate that is half of what he averaged over the last four seasons. Ray allows a 42.1% hard-hit rate with an 8.7% barrel rate on a 16.8-degree average launch angle and 90.2 mph average exit velocity, when hitters manage to make contact they can drive the ball against this pitcher, he has just been very good at preventing them from making that contact all season. The limited walks make Ray a far more efficient pitcher who can be relied upon to chase win and quality start bonuses while racking up significant strikeout totals. He faces an Orioles team that is not the league doormat that their record may indicate. The active roster for Baltimore has a .175 ISO and a 3.86% home run rate with a 23.1% strikeout rate against lefties this season, all at or around league average. Baltimore creates runs 7% better than league average in the split, they are capable of putting up runs, but the strong odds are with Ray in this start.

Mahle will be facing a Cardinals team that is good at limiting strikeouts against righties, coming in with a 22.1% rate that ranks in the top third of the league. St. Louis is below average at everything else, however. They have a .151 ISO and a 3.29% home run rate while creating runs 9% behind the curve against righties this season. There is reason to believe that Mahle can work cleanly through the lineup a few times, while finding a bonus strikeout or two, given his talent. He has a 28.2% strikeout rate with a 3.75 xFIP and a 1.21 WHIP this season. He walks too many at 8.4% but induces a solid 11.9% swinging-strike rate and limits hard hits to just 33.5%. Mahle allows a 7.3% barrel rate and just 88.2 mph average exit velocity, helping him limit expecting slugging to .394, a 61st percentile mark. Mahle is projected for single-digit ownership for a $9,900 price tag on both sites.

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Rodon is a conundrum on this slate. He is making just his second start in September, having sat out the last 10 days with shoulder soreness, which is typically a major red flag for a pitcher’s likely depth in his first few starts back. Prior to taking a breather, Rodon had thrown just five innings in each of his previous three starts and only four innings in each of two starts prior to that stretch. It is very difficult to believe that Rodon will be asked to go more than five in this outing. Adding in that he is facing a Red Sox lineup that has some of the best power bats in the league and this becomes concerning. The Red Sox active roster actually cools facing lefties, they are far better against right-handed pitching, but the team still creates runs 3% better than average and only strikes out 21.3% of the time in the split. Rodon has a 34.7% strikeout rate over 119.2 innings in 21 starts this season. He is also a precious commodity who has an injury track record and is someone that the White Sox treat carefully. He is far more valuable to Chicago in the playoffs than in a Friday start against Boston in September. There is absolutely no reason Chicago would push Rodon in this situation. He costs $10,300 on DraftKings and $10,800 on FanDuel and is projected for more than 20% ownership on DraftKings, but far less on the blue site. Based on the likelihood of a short start, the inflated pricing, difficult opponent and lingering popularity, Rodon is a difficult play.

Anderson has a 22.2% strikeout rate and a 4.00 xFIP over his 104.2 innings in 20 starts this season. He has an inflated 10.2% walk rate and yields a 9.7% barrel rate with 39.9% hard-hit. Anderson induces a steady 11.5% swinging-strike rate but has a low 26.8% CSW. Anderson has had a number of solid outings this season. He is a quality pitcher, but his numbers have been at or below the league average overall. He lacks major strikeout upside in this spot and could be limited in just his third start back after an extended injury absence through July and August. Anderson threw 5.2 innings on the 29th in a strong start against the Giants but failed to get an out in the fourth against the Rockies at Coors Field last week while pitching inefficiently and yielding four walks, five hits and two home runs. Concerningly, Anderson did not strike out a hitter in either of the two starts since his return. He will likely see five or six if he is pitching well, but the lingering issues and lack of major upside do not dovetail well with his massive ownership projections, even in a cakewalk against a lousy Marlins active roster that has a .126 ISO and a 2.56% home run rate with a 25.2% strikeout rate while creating runs 20% worse than average in the split this season. Anderson is not a strong consideration for tournament play but should absolutely be a go-to in cash games.

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Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays stand at the top of the board on the Top Stacks Tool, and they are one of the best options in the power index. Toronto is loaded from top to bottom, they have been featured in this space on nearly a weekly basis throughout the season. The Blue Jays face Chris Ellis, a righty with a 21.2% strikeout rate and a 46.7% hard-hit rate over a limited 16.2-inning sample. Over 57 innings in Triple-A this season, Ellis had a 6.32 ERA and a 4.82 xFIP with a 2.21 HR/9 and a 22.7% strikeout rate with a 10.9% walk rate. Again, those numbers came at Triple-A. Getting to back-end options like Corey Dickerson, Lourdes Gurriel, Jake Lamb and others will be critical in differentiating Blue Jays stacks.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona makes a rare appearance near the peak of the Top Stacks Tool on both sites today. Arizona is drawing efficient ownership, they will not be an extreme play on either side of the leverage game. The Diamondbacks rank highly for a matchup against likely Seattle starter Marco Gonzales. Anyone else who comes out of the bullpen to take the mound would only provide an uptick for Arizona bats in this situation. Overall they are profiling well in the site’s projections, and they are an inexpensive easy to stack offense. Gonzales has just an 18.3% strikeout rate and a 5.12 xFIP on the season. He yields an 11.1% barrel rate, though hard hits are limited to 35% oddly. Arizona’s lineup is not one of baseball’s best. Arizona’s active roster has shown quality against lefties, however, they come into tonight with a .177 ISO and a 21.2% strikeout rate that are both top-third numbers. The Diamondbacks have just a 3.12% home run rate in the split, a mark that falls below league average, but they have created runs 6% ahead of the curve by collective WRC+, making them an interesting option in a game for which they also add a designated hitter. Go-to bats from Arizona include Ketel Marte, Carson Kelly, Christian Walker, Andy Young and David Peralta through the middle of the lineup. Nick Ahmed, Daulton Varsho and Drew Ellis, while Henry Ramos and his .211 Triple-A ISO will be priced near the minimum at the end of the lineup.

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Under-Owned Quality

Getting to squads like the Astros, Blue Jays, Yankees, Dodgers, Giants and White Sox any time they come with positive leverage throughout the season, almost regardless of matchup, is a play that can consistently deliver. Looking through the Top Stacks Tool for today, several teams that are among the league leaders in both run creation and power marks are projected for significant positive leverage. The slate is also on something of a plateau today, with only four percentage points separating the second-most likely team from the 13th. Scrolling down the board reveals options like the Yankees, who come in with a 3.6% probability of being the top stack but just a .60% ownership share, or the Astros at the same 3.6% probability and a 1.0% ownership share. On a slate that shows relatively flat probability throughout a number of teams, shopping for the best bats in the best leverage situations provides a major advantage. Other teams to consider from this perspective include Oakland, Boston and the Dodgers, while Cleveland and Philadelphia are somewhat lesser lineups in positive situations.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves stand slightly ahead of that pool of teams while providing a similar positive leverage number on both sites. They are due to face the Marlins in a home game with Trevor Rogers taking the mound for the visitors. Rogers is likely to be limited in just his second start back after missing all of August. He threw 4.1 innings last week and will hand the game off to a bad bullpen when he is done. Rogers has a 28% strikeout rate over 114.1 innings this season while inducing a 14.3% swinging-strike rate and allowing just a 5.5% barrel rate. In a full start, he would be a less than the ideal target. In this situation, with these bats, however, this is a strong spot for stacks.

Ozzie Albies leads off for the Braves at $5,000 on DraftKings and $4,300 on FanDuel. He has 27 home runs and 17 stolen bases over 593 plate appearances this season. Albies is slashing .257/.315/.493 with a .235 ISO while creating runs 11% better than average overall for the season. Albies strikes out just 18.4% of the time, keeping the ball in play and making him an excellent leadoff man in this lineup and for MLB DFS purposes.

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Jorge Soler has created runs 1% worse than average by WRC+ for the season, but he has found his power stroke since arriving in Atlanta. Soler now has 23 home runs and a .204 ISO for the year, slashing .220/.315/.424. He has a strong 45.8% hard-hit rate with a 12.6% barrel rate on the season, though he strikes out at a 24.7% clip that is unlikely to ever decrease. Soler profiles well in this matchup and will be owned by less than 5% of the field on both sites.

Freddie Freeman has a 46.4% hard-hit rate and an 11.5% barrel rate this season. He strikes out merely 15.7% of the time while walking at a 12.7% clip. He is slashing .292/.388/.504 with a .212 ISO and a WRC+ 35% better than average for the season, just another excellent year in an outstanding career. Freeman has 29 home runs and even adds eight stolen bases to the tally this year

Austin Riley has 29 home runs and has a .230 ISO but has surprised many with the quality hit and on-base tools. Riley is slashing .300/.374/.530 over his 572 plate appearances and he has created runs 39% better than average by WRC+, leading the team. Riley is inexpensive at $3,600 on the blue site and $5,800 tag on DraftKings.

Adam Duvall has 34 home runs, a team-leading tally this season. As usual, he has a 29.8% strikeout rate and walks just 7.6% of the time, slashing .227/.284/.500 with a .273 ISO while creating runs 8% better than average. Duvall costs just $4,200 on the DraftKings slate but is not drawing attention for the discount.

Catcher Travis d’Arnaud has six home runs and carries a .181 ISO through 158 plate appearances this season. He is a reliable weapon at the position, making steady contact with a 20.3% strikeout rate, though he has just a 38.9% hard-hit percentage and an 8% barrel rate on the season. D’Arnaud is an inexpensive option where the position is required, and he can be deployed for just $2,900 and no popularity on FanDuel.

Dansby Swanson has 26 home runs this season and is slashing .254/.310/.468 with a .214 ISO. He has a 43.2% hard-hit rate and an 11.6% barrel rate this season, though he does strike out at a 24.5% clip while not walking enough. Swanson i is an important piece of the Braves offense providing a threat from late in the lineup. He is underpriced on the FanDuel slate and under-owned across the industry.

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Guillermo Heredia slots into the final spot in the lineup against a lefty starter, though Joc Pederson could get the nod given his uptick in the split this season. This may be a platoon situation that is best left untouched, as a righty out of the bullpen could split these plate appearances. If Heredia draws the start, he is not a particularly strong consideration. He is slashing .227//.313/.368 with a .141 ISO while creating runs 16% behind the curve this season.

HR Call: Christian Yelich — Milwaukee Brewers

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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