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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 9/13/21

Terry McBride



MLB DFS Lineup PIcks today DraftKings FanDuel optimal lineup optimizer tournament strategy free expert rankings projections ownership home run predictions yahoo espn cbs best baseball bets MLB odds lines picks parlay rays Astros Blue Jays Dodgers Padres

Monday MLB DFS features a seven-game slate that is rich with quality pitching options but may lack a true apex option. The slate is short on extremely targetable pitching, however, which leads to a relatively flat board on the Top Stacks Tool. When everyone stands a similar chance of success it makes sense to capture as much of the range of outcomes as possible. There are one or two stacks that will be drawing a significant portion of the slate’s public ownership, creating a leverage imbalance near the top of the board that can be exploited for differentiation of lineup combinations. With the Top Pitchers Tool also revealing a relatively even probability of success, the trend of spreading out options and hunting for leverage continues on the mound. Using the MLB DFS projections, let’s find some of the best picks for DraftKings and FanDuel lineups tonight.

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 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: Christian Walker — 6.72

Boston Red Sox: Kyle Schwarber — 10.71

Houston Astros: Alex Bregman — 9.24

Los Angeles Dodgers: Cody Bellinger — 9.18

Miami Marlins: Lewis Brinson — 6.28

New York Mets: Michael Conforto — 8.40

San Diego Padres: Wil Myers — 7.53

San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt — 6.90

Seattle Mariners: Abraham Toro — 6.55

St. Louis Cardinals: Dylan Carlson — 5.24

Tampa Bay Rays: Nelson Cruz — 13.11

Texas Rangers: Nate Lowe — 9.70

Toronto Blue Jays: George Springer — 10.33

Washington Nationals: Juan Soto — 7.42

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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 optimal lineup optimizer tournament strategy free expert rankings projections ownership home run predictions yahoo espn cbs best baseball bets MLB odds lines picks parlay rays Astros Blue Jays Dodgers Padres

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

The top option by name recognition and salary on both sites is unlikely to be among the highest-scoring pitchers of the night. The Dodgers are expected to limit Clayton Kershaw to around 60 pitches this evening in his first start back from injury. Kershaw is one of the league’s top talents, but he is unlikely to pay off his extreme salary in such a short game. Yu Darvish will have some strikeout upside but is facing a difficult lineup in San Francisco. Miami’s Sandy Alcantara stands a strong chance of posting an excellent start in a battle of the dregs of the league, as his club is in Washington to face the Nationals. Adam Wainwright and Eduardo Rodriguez both have underpriced upside in decent spots, while Logan Gilbert, Alek Manoah and Zac Gallen are all talented but in challenging situations.

Alcantara has thrown 180.2 innings in 29 starts this season, pitching to a 3.50 xFIP with a 1.10 WHIP and a sharp 24.3% strikeout rate. He induces a 13.4% swinging-strike rate but has just a 27.8% CSW, though he does not walk more than the average, coming in at a 6.5% rate on the season. Alcantara has a 6% barrel rate on the season with a 4.9-degree average launch angle that keeps the ball in the park reliably. He will be facing a Nationals lineup with an active roster that has several small-sample outliers helping the overall number, yet still sits with just a .144 ISO and a 3.07% home run rate against right-handed pitching this season. The Nationals have a 22.8% strikeout rate against righties that actually sits better than average, but they create runs 11% behind the curve and are largely powerless. A starter of Alcantara’s caliber should have little difficulty carving up this lineup, if he can get around Juan Soto a few times he stands a strong chance of putting up the best start of the night.

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Wainwright brings his veteran knowledge and ability to pitch deep into games to Queens to face the Mets this evening. He has been terrific this year, though he is not a premium strikeout option on most nights with his 22.2% strikeout rate. Wainwright’s 184.1 innings are among the league leaders, and he is a strong option for a win and a quality start bonus every time he toes the rubber. He has a 5.9% walk rate with a 3.75 xFIP and a 1.03 WHIP this season. He induces just an 8.3% swinging-strike rate but has a 30.3% CSW on the season, and he is strong with contact metrics, including a 6.4% barrel rate and a 36% hard-hit percentage on the season. Wainwright faces a Mets active roster that is average at best. New York has a .158 collective ISO and a 3.65% home run rate in the split, both sit in the middle of the league. New York creates runs 5% worse than average and they have a 24.6% swinging-strike rate that ranks eighth worst in baseball this season against right-handed pitching. Wainwright has made standout starts throughout the season at low ownership and he seems like a good bet to do so again this evening,

Darvish will have to work through a Giants lineup that excels against right-handed pitching. San Francisco’s active roster has a .200 ISO and a 4.46% home run rate against righties, while creating runs 10% better than average, they are a very good offense. Despite that quality, the team does strike out at a 24.5% clip that lands 10th-worst in baseball in the split. Darvish is a true ace and the best overall strikeout option on the board. He has a 29.3% rate over 146 innings this season. He walks just 5.6% of hitters and allows just a 33.6% hard-hit rate with a 7.7% barrel rate. Darvish has a 3.66 xFIP and a 3.95 ERA on the season and he put to rest any concerns over his recent struggles with an outstanding three-hit seven-strikeout performance against the Angels last time out. He is drawing fair ownership for an affordable $9,300 on DraftKings and $9,200 on FanDuel.

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Enigmatic Eduardo continues his odd season with a late-night start against the Mariners in Seattle. He has a 5.15 ERA, but he has pitched to a 3.48 xFIP over his 136.1 innings. Rodriguez has yielded a .358 batting average on balls in play against and has just a 66.9% strand rate on the season, meaning runners who get on base are frequently coming around to score, which is not entirely on the pitcher. He has a crisp 27.2% strikeout rate this season, walks 6.7% of hitters and allows just a 34.5% hard-hit rate, 86.7 mph average exit velocity and a 7.5% barrel rate. The Mariners, meanwhile, have a 4.01% home run rate against left-handed pitching, a top third mark in the league, but they fall well below average across most other categories. The active roster has a .164 collective ISO and a 25.3% strikeout rate that is one of the worst in baseball against lefties, and they create runs 7% worse than average. Rodriguez will be very highly owned on both sites, however. He is an $8,800 option on DraftKings and an $8,500 play on FanDuel and will be in roughly 30% of all lineups across the industry this evening.

Houston Astros

The pricey Astros stand at the top of stacks rankings for both DraftKings and FanDuel in one of the night’s better matchups against young righty Spencer Howard. He has a 4.90 xFIP with a 1.46 WHIP and an inflated 11.9% walk rate over 37.2 innings in 11 starts between Philadelphia and Texas this year. He induces a healthy 11.5% swinging-strike rate and has a quality 24.4% strikeout rate overall but throws too few strikes at a 28.6% CSW and clearly walks far too many. Howard allows just a 34.6% hard-hit rate with a 6.7% barrel rate, however, a quality contact profile for such a young pitcher. Unfortunately for Howard, the Astros have just a 20.9% rate in the split this season and create runs 13% better than average. The loaded lineup will be popular on both sites, but there are popularity gaps that make it possible to roster them in somewhat unique combinations. It will be important to differentiate at other spots if playing full Astros stacks, though the salary requirements may force specific constructions, paying attention to making different decisions than the obvious value plays in conjunction with this stack is critical. Go-to Astros include the obvious Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker. At the back end of the lineup, Martin Maldonado is a playable catcher where they are needed, and Chas McCormick is an underrated bat. Over 265 plate appearances, McCormick is slashing .248/.309/.440 with a .192 ISO and 11 home runs, while creating runs 6% ahead of the average. McCormick has a 49.4% hard-hit rate and an 11.5% barrel rate on the season, though his strikeout rate is meaty enough to drag down the team average at 32.1%.

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San Diego Padres

The Padres are drawing a bit of attention, with most of the DraftKings ownership concentrated around superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado. Outside of those two, the balance of the Padres lineup is projected for less than 10% individual ownership from top to bottom. On the FanDuel slate, several other hitters are cresting double-digits and approaching the mid-teens. This is a different play from site to site, but the matchup with Dominic Leone and the Giants bullpen is a good one. He he has a 23.1% strikeout rate and an 11.6% walk rate while pitching to a 4.60 xFIP and allowing a 39.3% hard-hit percentage. The Padres underperforming lineup has a number of solid bats in addition to the two standouts, consideration should be given to any of Trent Grisham, Adam Frazier, Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers and Tommy Pham, pending the final batting order and how ownership falls in projections closer to lock.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are also facing a bullpen game and solid opener Collin McHugh. He has a 32.4% strikeout rate and a 5.6% walk rate with a 2.88 xFIP and a 0.92 WHIP. McHugh has a terrific 15.2% induced swinging-strike rate and a 35% CSW this season. He allows just a 3.1% barrel rate and a 28.5% hard-hit percentage. Attacking a bullpen game like this one is tricky, McHugh seems highly likely to hold the Blue Jays lineup down over the first two innings, but Tampa Bay’s well-regarded bullpen is actually just 25th in baseball by xFIP and has a middling 25.5% strikeout rate that sits 11th. There is reason to expect the Blue Jays to come through, though after McHugh exits, though it is not a lock. Toronto will be slightly under-owned across both sites though, adding upside to the play.

George Springer leads off and is drawing popularity across both sites for a bit of a salary discount. He has missed more than half the season, but he has been excellent while on the field. Springer is slashing .262/.354/.566 with a .303 ISO and 17 home runs in just 255 plate appearances with Toronto. He has stolen three bases and creates runs 44% better than average while barreling the ball 14.7% of the time from the top of the lineup. Springer requires some thought toward popularity and lineup combination, but he is well worth the effort.

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Marcus Semien continues to carry multi-position eligibility at both middle infield spots on the blue site. He is only a second baseman on DraftKings, and he comes in as the team’s second-most expensive bat on the site. Semien has launched 39 home runs this season and has a massive .275 ISO while creating runs 37% better than average. He has stolen 15 bases and has immense upside for MLB DFS point scoring on any slate. He is slashing .272/.342/.547 and has a 42.2% hard-hit rate with just a 20.5% strikeout rate. He is a terrific option for under 10% ownership on both sites.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is slashing a fantastic .319/.408/.610 with 44 home runs and a .291 ISO this season. He has a 55.2% hard-hit rate that leads this power-packed team by a wide margin, and he barrels the ball 14.7% of the time. He is one of the league’s most discerning hitters as well, coming into tonight with just a 16.2% strikeout rate and a 12.5% walk rate on the season. Guerrero is well worth the hefty $6,000 salary on DraftKings and comes in at a reasonable $4,500 on FanDuel where he is pulling double-digit ownership. For half the popularity, he is a better play as a pay-up on DraftKings, but Guerrero should absolutely be included in most Blue Jays stacks on either site.

Bo Bichette has a 47.3% hard-hit rate and just a 19.6% strikeout rate this season. Bichette has hit 23 home runs and stolen 22 bases in 612 plate appearances, solid MLB DFS scoring upside at a premium position. He is slashing .293/.343/.463 with a .170 ISO and creates runs 18% better than average on the season. He is a solid option who drops in popularity for a high $4,100 price on FanDuel but climbs to double-digit ownership at $5,000 on DraftKings, where he is the second-most popular Blue Jays bat tonight.

Teoscar Hernandez costs just $4,700 on DraftKings in spite of a 48.4% hard-hit rate and a 14% barrel rate that has translated to 27 home runs and a .224 ISO on the season. He is slashing .301/.353/.525 and creates runs 36% better than average by WRC+. He even adds a minor amount of speed potential, having stolen 11 bases in his 518 plate appearances this season. Hernandez is projected for single-digit ownership.

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Corey Dickerson has hit just five home runs in 322 plate appearances and is creating runs 4% worse than average overall. He has just a 34.6% hard-hit rate and a 2.5% barrel rate this season, but he will likely land in the lineup to get a left-handed bat in place of righty power bat Randal Grichuk, who has been the better of the two in a splits vacuum. Dickerson is inexpensive and unpopular.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is a better option than Dickerson. He has a 40.7% hard-hit rate and an 8.5% barrel rate on the season and sticks out just 18.4% of the time over 489 plate appearances. Gurriel has hit 19 home runs and has a .192 ISO while creating runs 14% ahead of the league average and slashing .283/.328/.474 on the season, but he costs just $3,600 on DraftKings and is pulling merely 2.2% popularity.

Jake Lamb offers first and third base eligibility on FanDuel while adding outfield to his third base eligibility on DraftKings. Lamb is a three-true-outcomes power bat. He has a 29.3% strikeout rate and a 14% walk rate over 157 plate appearances this season, as well as a 44.8% hard-hit rate and an 11.5% barrel rate that has translated into seven home runs and a .183 ISO but just a .206/.325/.389 slash. Lamb is a better hitter than his minimum price on FanDuel and $2,300 on DraftKings would indicate, even for the home run upside alone.

Danny Jansen has a 42.3% hard-hit rate this season and walks 9.5% of the time, leading to a .220/.304/.453 triple-slash with a .233 ISO and eight home runs in just 169 plate appearances. Jansen has quality power, and he will be under-owned across the industry. He costs just $3,100 where catchers are required but is pulling in just a 5.3% ownership projection. Particularly when building full five-man stacks on DraftKings, Jansen is a strong option.

HR Call: Nelson Cruz — Tampa Bay Rays

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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