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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 9/18/21

Terry McBride



MLB DFS Lineup Picks Today DraftKings FanDuel Home Runs Tournament Strategy

Saturday’s main slate is a sturdy eight-game affair with an excellent crop of top-end pitching from which to make our MLB DFS picks on the mound. There are a few highly targetable pitchers that the entire field will be attacking with stacks this evening, so considering lineup differentiation will be paramount for tournament play. Utilizing the Ownership Projections to find less popular plays even within the chalkiest of stacks is a powerful approach to making lineups unique from the field.

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 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: Kole Calhoun — 4.22

Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman — 8.52

Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ — 2.31

Chicago White Sox: Eloy Jimenez — 11.48

Houston Astros: Alex Bregman — 7.07

Kansas City Royals: Sal Perez — 10.88

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 28.45

Milwaukee Brewers: Avisail Garcia — 8.03

New York Mets: Javier Baez — 7.88

Oakland Athletics: Khris Davis — 10.15

Philadelphia Phillies: Andrew McCutchen — 7.11

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 10.51

San Francisco Giants: Kris Bryant — 5.17

Seattle Mariners: Abraham Toro — 8.70

St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill — 9.87

Texas Rangers: Adolis Garcia — 8.45

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: 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

Saturday’s slate falls firmly on the “better pitching” side of the fence. Several ace caliber starters and a broad mid-range are available for a slate that sees only 16 teams in action. The apparent top of the heap is Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes, who will look to nail down his NL Cy Young Award bid with a start against the Cubs. Burnes is projected for an excellent chance at the highest score of the night, but he will be popular for the spot. The next tier of starters includes Aaron Nola in a reasonably good spot against the Mets, Lance Lynn in a major upside opportunity against his former Rangers teammates, Yu Darvish taking on the Cardinals with Adam Wainwright on the hill in opposition, Lance McCullers against a low-rent Diamondbacks lineup and Charlie Morton facing a dangerous but strikeout-prone Giants team.

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Burnes has been spectacular this season. The Brewers righty has thrown 152 innings in 25 starts, pitching to a sparkling 2.31 xFIP and a 0.91 WHIP. He walks just 4.9% of hitters and strikes out a whopping 35.4%. The excellent righty is great at limiting quality contact. This season, he has allowed just a 2.6% barrel rate and a 30.3% hard-hit percentage with 85.2 mph average exit velocity and an eight-degree average launch angle. It is challenging to hit a home run or generate power against him on contact. Burnes is facing a Cubs team that is one of the worst in baseball. The active roster for Chicago has just a .161 ISO and a 3.70% home run rate against right-handed pitching this season, and they create runs 12% worse than average in the split. Burnes has a significant opportunity, given the Cubs’ league-worst 26.2% strikeout rate against righties. At $11,200 on FanDuel and $10,500 on DraftKings, Burnes is deservedly the highest-priced pitcher on both sites. He will be owned in nearly half of all lineups on DraftKings, which is appropriate for this pitcher in this spot. On FanDuel, Burnes will be in a quarter of public lineups, which is a negatively leveraged position.

Lynn will face the lowly Rangers lineup in a strong spot, but we have to be somewhat aware of a potential innings limitation as the White Sox have the opportunity to manage the end of the season for their pitching staff given a double-digit lead in the division. Lynn has thrown five innings in each of his last two starts, with two weeks off between the outings. The righty was sharp in his return from the IL. He struck out nine Red Sox hitters while allowing just two hits over the five innings. Lynn is a pitcher who typically does work deep into games. He has thrown 140.2 innings in 25 starts in 2021, pitching to a 3.84 xFIP with a 28% strikeout rate and a 1.05 WHIP. Lynn limits hard hits to just 34.4% and barrels to a six percent rate. He is an expensive option on FanDuel, where he costs $10,300 but is drawing no ownership. On DraftKings, the righty is priced at just $8,700, which is drawing popularity given the start against a Rangers active roster with a .142 ISO and a 3.03% home run rate and creates runs 18% worse than average against righties this year.

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Darvish draws a Cardinals team that is good at avoiding strikeouts against righties. The active roster has a 22.2% rate in the split, but they create runs eight percent worse than average and have just a .154 ISO with a 3.40% home run rate, making them targetable for at least the idea of safety, despite the starter’s recent struggles. Overall, Darvish is a premium pitcher. This season, he has a 28.8% strikeout rate and has pitched to a 3.80 xFIP over his 150 innings in 27 starts. The righty walks 5.9% of hitters and induces a solid 12.3% swinging-strike rate, and allows just a 34.4% hard-hit rate. Over the season’s second half – a 45-inning sample – Darvish has an inflated 7.20 ERA and just a 26.7% strikeout rate, but his xFIP is 3.85, and he has seen only a tiny uptick in walks. Any notions of struggles are likely happenstance. The Padres righty is a strong option at $9,100 on both sites. He is owned efficiently but not aggressively by the public.

Nola has struck out 29.9% of opposing hitters while walking just 5.2% this season. The righty has a 3.38 xFIP and a 1.12 WHIP while inducing a 12.9% swinging-strike rate and a 31.1% CSW% over 163 innings in 29 starts. Nola has a 4.58 ERA that is knocking his price and public perception down a bit from what those numbers warrant. He has been mostly excellent this season. The righty has a 3.44 xERA against that inflated actual ERA. Nola has a fair amount of public popularity on this slate. However, he is inexpensive at $9,800 on DraftKings and mispriced badly at $8,300 on FanDuel. The righty ace faces a Mets team with an active roster with a 24.5% strikeout rate and creates runs six percent worse than average against righties with just a .156 ISO and a 3.58% home run rate, all below-average marks. Nola deserves to be in lineups, but a slight undercut to the significant popularity seems worthwhile.

Chicago White Sox

Yesterday’s featured stack appears to be in the pole position on both sites once again, leading the board in the Top Stacks Tool while pulling in positive leverage across the industry. The team faces Spencer Howard, who has been minimally effective at the Major League level so far. Howard is a high-end prospect who came over from the Phillies at the trade deadline. This season, the righty has thrown 39 innings in 12 starts, pitching to a 24% strikeout rate with a 4.91 xFIP and a 1.59 WHIP. He induces a healthy 11.4% swinging-strike rate but has just a 28.8% CSW% for the year. Howard has been reasonably good for contact. He has a 6.3% barrel rate and a 34.8% hard-hit rate this season. The loaded White Sox are reasonably inexpensive, particularly for the quality of stars like Eloy Jimenez and Jose Abreu, who should both be priced at $5,000 or more on the site but fall well short of that price today. Tim Anderson is projected to be in the lineup but may sit. If he plays, he should be in the majority of stacks. Yoan MoncadaYasmani GrandalLuis Robert, and Gavin Sheets make substantial additions to a full-stack. At the same time, Brian GoodwinLeury Garcia, and Cesar Hernandez can provide low-priced production depending on the final batting order.

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Oakland Athletics

The Athletics are featured in this space frequently. They make for a fascinating site-to-site comparison on today’s slate, with extreme price discrepancies creating wildly different ownership situations. The highest-priced player on the team on the blue site is, unsurprisingly, Matt Olson at $4,200. Speedy Starling Marte is a $3,800 outfield option after whom no one in the projected Oakland lineup is priced over $3,200 on FanDuel. The team is negatively leveraged on the site, but their ownership is not at unplayable levels, and they can be combined in unique constructions easily enough. On DraftKings, Olson costs $5,700, and Marte is priced at a massive $6,600 tag. Josh HarrisonMatt ChapmanYan Gomes, and Mark Canha join them with prices above $5,000. The overall cost of the lineup is keeping ownership in the low single-digits across everyone but Olson, who climbs to just 5.3% popularity, on the DraftKings slate. The Athletics are difficult to roster with the premium pitchers, but they are worth the effort. Chad PinderKhris Davis, and Elvis Andrus make up the back-end of the lineup. Pinder is the most playable of the trio, Davis has a vague recollection of hitting home runs at a steady clip, and Andrus is washed up.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners are very much like the Athletics from site to site this evening. On FanDuel, the highest priced Mariners bat is Mitch Haniger at $3,700. Kyle Seager costs $3,200, and no other hitter reaches the $3,000 mark. The team has four hitters priced at $2,300 or less at the end of the projected lineup and two hitters with multi-position eligibility for just $2,700 and $2,600 on the four and five spots. The top four hitters in the lineup are projected for more than 20% ownership on the FanDuel slate, with the entire lineup projected for more than 10% popularity. They are ridiculously different on DraftKings. The reason for the overall lack of popularity for the primary hitters is an average salary of nearly $5,300 across the first five spots in the lineup. The Mariners are in a good spot, facing lefty Kris Bubic. The southpaw has just a 21% strikeout rate over 110 innings this season. He walks 11.2% of hitters and has pitched to a 4.60 xFIP with a 1.49 WHIP, a nine-percent barrel rate, and a 39.9% hard-hit percentage. Bubic is highly targetable. The Mariners make for a strong play on DraftKings but are significantly over-owned on FanDuel.

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JP Crawford hits from the left side of the plate but has respectable numbers in the split. The shortstop is slashing .279/.329/.387 with a .108 ISO against same-handed pitching while creating runs two percent better than average by WRC+, better than he has hit against righties this season. Overall, Crawford has hit eight home runs and stolen three bases in 617 plate appearances while creating runs just one percent behind the curve. Crawford is slashing .267/.333/.366, he is not an ideal leadoff bat, but he strikes out just 17% of the time and keeps the ball in play reliably. Crawford plays a premium position and can be included or skipped in DraftKings stacks at the gamer’s discretion.

Haniger has blasted 33 home runs and has a .219 ISO this season. The outfielder has made 625 plate appearances, and he is slashing .253/.318/.472 while creating runs 17% better than average. Haniger has a 44.2% hard-hit rate and a 12% barrel rate this season. The slugger strikes out at a 24.3% rate and walks just 7.8% of the time, but his excellent contact profile and significant power demand attention. He should be in most Mariners stacks.

Seager is at third base for $5,600 on the DraftKings slate. This season, he has a career-high 34 home runs while slashing .209/.288/.441 and creating runs at exactly league average. Seager has become something of a power-only option. His hit tool and on-base acumen are hurting the overall run creation numbers. He strikes out at an aggressive 23.9% rate but walks at a 9.6% clip and makes steady quality contact when he does connect. Seager has a 40.6% hard-hit rate and a 12.4% barrel rate this year. The lefty bat will be owned by less than two percent of the field. He deserves to be more popular.

Ty France is a solid hitter who strikes out just 17.3% of the time this season. France is slashing .289/.362/.439 and leads the team with a WRC+ 25% better than average. He does not make a significant amount of hard contact, coming in roughly average at a 38.3% rate with a 6.9% barrel rate. Still, his excellent hit tool and on-base skills keep him highly relevant in the middle of the Mariners lineup. France is a solid but trendy MLB DFS pick at just $2,700 with multi-position eligibility on the blue site and $5,100 at first base with no popularity on the DraftKings slate.

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Abraham Toro has hit 10 home runs and has a .144 ISO while creating runs six percent better than average this season. He is slashing .254/.329/.398 over his 319 plate appearances and is another excellent contact bat who strikes out at just a 14.1% clip. Toro has a bit more power upside and a touch of speed. He has swiped five bases on the season so far. The infielder will be unpopular and is accessible to roster outside of his $4,900 DraftKings salary. He is at a significant discount of $2,600 on FanDuel, which is rendering him immensely popular.

Luis Torrens is projected to be the most popular Mariners bat on DraftKings, coming in with a 6.1% projection. Torrens is the first hitter on the FanDuel slate who falls to less than 15% projected ownership, making him moderately playable. Torrens has major power. He has hit 14 home runs and has a .192 ISO in 333 plate appearances this season. This year, Torrens has a 44% hard-hit rate and an 11.6% barrel rate, though he is a prominent strikeout candidate at a 26.4% rate.

Outfielder Jake Fraley slots into the seven spot at just $3,900 on DraftKings. He will be extremely popular at just $2,100 on FanDuel. This season, the outfielder has hit nine home runs in 232 plate appearances, and he is creating runs 11% better than average in the small sample. Fraley is slashing .213/.353/.383 overall and has added nine stolen bases in the limited number of opportunities. He has gotten on base reliably when called upon with a spectacular 17.7% walk rate and is a potentially underrated contributor from the bottom of the lineup.

Tom Murphy lands as the second catcher-eligible player in the projected lineup. Murphy has hit 11 home runs and has a .165 ISO over 289 plate appearances this season. He is a three-true-outcomes hitter with a 27.2% strikeout rate and a solid 12.1% walk rate that has him slashing .206/.303/.371 on the season. Murphy has a 10.1% barrel rate and a 39% hard-hit percentage this season. He is an interesting way to offset salary on both sites.

Dylan Moore is a $3,800 outfielder on DraftKings and just a $2,200 option from the outfield to second base on FanDuel. Moore has hit 12 home runs and stolen 20 bases this season but is slashing just .174/.271/.336. He strikes out at a 30.1% rate and walks 10.6% of the time. He needs to get better at making reliable contact. Moore has just a 31.5% hard-hit rate but a 9.6% barrel rate this season. He is a genuinely baffling hitter who seems like he should be much better. For MLB DFS purposes, there are frequent enough bursts of upside that we can play him at these salary and popularity marks.

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HR Call: Mitch Haniger — Seattle Mariners

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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