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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 8/28/21

Terry McBride

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FanDuel MLB DFS picks daily fantasy baseball cheat sheet today optimal lineups optimizer Nelson Cruz top stacks MLB playoffs

The Saturday main slate features solid nine-game contests on DraftKings and FanDuel. With several solid starting pitchers taking the mound for their teams, there are various quality daily fantasy baseball combinations between bats and stacks, though overall, the slate seems to offer more of the latter. With several highly targetable arms on the bump as well, there should be a handful of MLB DFS picks and games that pop for large point totals.

Daily Fantasy 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

Atlanta Braves: Austin Riley — 5.22

Baltimore Orioles: Anthony Santander — 11.37

Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ — 7.37

Chicago White Sox: Eloy Jimenez — 12.61

Colorado Rockies: CJ Cron — 6.95

Houston Astros: Carlos Correa — 10.31

Los Angeles Angels: Jo Adell — 6.44

Los Angeles Dodgers: Mookie Betts — 8.44

Milwaukee Brewers: Avisail Garcia — 12.20

Minnesota Twins: Josh Donaldson — 8.52

New York Mets: Francisco Lindor — 12.02

Pittsburgh Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes — 5.41

San Diego Padres: Jake Cronenworth — 5.20

San Francisco Giants: Kris Bryant — 6.74

St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado — 3.17

Tampa Bay Rays: Randy Arozarena — 16.22

Texas Rangers: Nate Lowe — 4.35

Washington Nationals: Yadiel Hernandez — 4.30


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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: 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 starter on today’s slate is fairly clear-cut. With the White Sox taking on their cross-town rivals, Lance Lynn will take the mound against a largely pathetic Chicago Cubs team. Groundball specialist Framber Valdez is in a strong situation facing the Rangers, but he comes in at a much higher price than Lynn on the DraftKings slate. The two are more evenly priced on FanDuel. Ageless Adam Wainwright is another excellent option. He will be looking to continue his strong season against the lousy Pirates lineup, while Huascar Ynoa and Logan Webb will be dueling on opposite sides of the Giants – Braves game.

This season, Lynn has thrown 130.2 innings in 23 starts, pitching to a 3.95 xFIP with a 1.05 WHIP. The righty has a solid 27.2% strikeout rate, coming in with an 11.7% induced swinging strike rate but just a 25.9% CSW%. Lynn is excellent at avoiding premium contact. He allows just a 5.8% barrel rate and has a 34.4% hard-hit rate with an 88.2 mph average exit velocity. Taking on a team like this current version of the Cubs should not be challenging in the least for a pitcher of this caliber. Chicago ranks last in baseball with a 25.9% strikeout rate against righties, and the team has just a 3.24% home run rate and a .146 ISO in the split, both well below average. With a collective WRC+ that sits 15% behind the league average, the Cubs present nothing but upside for Lynn’s probable point total. The righty will be spectacularly popular on both sites. The ownership and leverage challenge is the only mark in the negative column for MLB DFS purposes.

Over 162.2 innings and 25 starts this season, Adam Wainwright has turned back the clock. The veteran right-hander has a 3.74 xFIP on the season with a 1.05 WHIP and has struck out 22.9% of opposing hitters. Wainwright provides excellent depth of start every time he takes the mound, and he seems likely to push for both a win and quality start bonus on this slate. He also tends to stay safe by limiting quality contact, coming in with a 6.4% barrel rate and a 37.1% hard hit. Against a Pirates team that ranks poorly across the board, this should be an excellent spot for Wainwright. Pittsburgh’s active roster has a .136 ISO and a 2.71% home run rate in the split. Their strikeouts have climbed throughout the season, sitting in the middle of the league at 23.5%, and they create runs 18% behind the curve. Wainwright is inexpensive and under-owned on FanDuel. On DraftKings, he will be far more popular for an even lower price.

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Valdez is one of the league’s best groundball specialists. The southpaw starts tonight’s contest with a massive 69.3% groundball rate, yielding just a -5.3 degree average launch angle. Opposing hitters make 42.2% hard contact, but with everything on the ground and just a 5.1% barrel rate allowed, Valdez rarely gets into trouble. The starter has just a 22.1% strikeout rate on the season, and the Rangers have a 21.1% collective strikeout rate against southpaws this year, which may limit the overall upside for the starter, but he remains one of the safest options on the board. Texas has just a 2.24% home run rate and a .123 ISO against lefties this year, and they create runs 20% behind the league average. Valdez is expensive at $10,200 on both sites. He will be fairly owned and is highly playable across the industry.

Webb and Ynoa will both be challenged by strong offenses on either side of the Giants – Braves game. Webb comes in with a 2.84 xFIP and a 1.13 WHIP, striking out 26.4% of hitters and inducing an 11.7% swinging-strike rate. The Giants righty has a 6.6% barrel rate and a 36.7% hard-hit covering 98.1 innings this season. He will face a dangerous Braves lineup with a .196 ISO and a 4.66% home run rate against righties this season. Both marks are among the best in the sport. On the other side, Ynoa will not have it any easier. The righty draws a Giants team with a .202 ISO and a 4.63% home run rate against righties this season. Ynoa has made 10 starts, throwing 56 innings and racking up a 28.4% strikeout rate with a 5.9% walk rate and a sharp 13.2% swinging-strike rate. However, the righty allows too much premium contact coming into the game with a 10.4% barrel rate and a 45.8% hard-hit while allowing a 91.3 mph average exit velocity. At low ownership and low relative salaries, both pitchers are in play across the industry. Either can be deployed as an SP2 on DraftKings or as the primary starter on the blue site.

Houston Astros

Houston lands as one of the best options in today’s Top Stacks Tool, where they appear with regularity. The Astros are simply one of the best offenses in all of baseball. Against left-handed pitching, Houston comes in with an 18.3% strikeout rate, a .179 ISO, and a 3.81% home run rate in the split while creating runs 21% ahead of the average. The team is facing lefty Kolby Allard, who has thrown 100 innings in 15 starts this season. Allard strikes out just 20% of hitters, though he walks only five percent. He has a bumpy 4.52 xFIP with a 1.19 WHIP and an ugly 25.9% CSW%. The southpaw yields a 10.5% barrel rate and a 38.2% hard hit. The Astros should absolutely be able to capitalize on this matchup. Go-to Astros include most of the lineup, beginning with Jose AltuveCarlos CorreaYordan AlvarezAlex BregmanYuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker. Adding Aledmys DiazJake Meyers and Martin Maldonado can help offset cost and ownership concerns. The team will be under-owned for their massive upside, though they are costly on this slate.

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San Francisco Giants

Targeting Ynoa’s contact profile in Atlanta’s ballpark seems like a strong approach to stacks on this slate. The Giants are excellent for home run upside, and the tremendous amount of hard contact that the pitcher yields should play directly into that. Ynoa is not popular enough on the slate for this to be a leverage play against a large portion of the field, but there is upside in just getting to these bats in this situation. Premium Giants hitters include LaMonte WadeTommy LaStellaBuster PoseyBrandon Crawford, and Kris Bryant. Bolting on additional upside from options like Wilmer FloresMike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson will help with pricing, though the Giants are affordable and low-owned.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays stand atop the stacks list on both sites. The team is in Baltimore’s hitter-friendly park facing lefty John Means. The starter comes in with a 4.44 xFIP and a 1.01 WHIP on the season, allowing a 10.6% barrel rate and a 21.5-degree average launch angle, which leads directly to home run potential. Means has allowed just a 35.8% hard-hit rate and an 86.9 mph average exit velocity, but that is doing nothing to suppress the significant upside of Tampa Bay in this spot.

The projected Rays lineup begins with Randy Arozarena, who has hit 16 home runs and is slashing .272/.351/.451 with a .178 ISO in 481 plate appearances. Arozarena has a 43% hard-hit rate and an 8.5% barrel rate this season. He has stolen 11 bases and creates runs 24% ahead of the league average this season. The outfielder costs $3,400 on the blue site and $4,200 on the DraftKings slate. He is pulling an above-average home run mark in my personal model and looks to have significant upside. However, a significant portion of the field will be on the hitter in this situation, while several teammates behind him in the batting order are far lower owned.

Nelson Cruz is not one of those lower-owned hitters. The slugging star is now a first baseman on the DraftKings slate and still slots into the outfield on FanDuel. He will be extremely popular across both sites, deservedly so with his .275/.347/.520 triple-slash and 26 home runs this season. Cruz has a .245 ISO and has created runs 31% ahead of the average this season. He belongs in most Rays stacks even with the heavy public popularity.

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Wander Franco has made 216 plate appearances this season. The switch-hitting young shortstop has hit six home runs and stolen two bases in his short season, slashing .274/.333/.457 with a .183 ISO while creating runs 20% ahead of the average. Franco has just a 38.4% hard-hit rate and a 6.1% barrel rate, contact marks that should only trend toward more quality as he finds his footing in the Show. The neophyte is already excellent at avoiding strikeouts. He comes in at a 15.7% rate, though he walks in just 7.4% of plate appearances.

With eligibility at first base and third base, Yandy Diaz is an affordable option at $2,900 on FanDuel and $4,300 on the DraftKings slate. He joins Franco in single-digit ownership projections. Diaz is slashing .255/.361/.371 with a .116 ISO, and he creates runs 10% ahead of the average. This is not a prototypical cleanup hitter, but there is upside in getting to Diaz, where he is low-owned and affordable as a strong correlation play in the middle of the lineup.

Outfielder Austin Meadows has blasted 21 home runs and has a .219 ISO while creating runs 15% ahead of the average by WRC+. The lefty hitter is better on the other side of splits. Against fellow southpaws, he is slashing just .192/.269/.253 this year with a .062 ISO. Meadows can be rostered if he is in the lineup, but we are likely shooting for a situation where he sees plate appearances against bullpen righties to deliver value.

Against a lefty, Manuel Margot is likely to see playing time in this one. Margot is slashing .254/.305/.395 this season and has hit nine home runs with 11 stolen bases in his 365 plate appearances. The outfielder is inexpensive. He costs just $2,700 on DraftKings and $2,500 on FanDuel and will be owned at around 10% on both sites, making him one of the more popular Rays bats. Margot makes limited quality contact. He has a 41.5% hard-hit rate but just a 4.9% barrel rate on the year. Margot is a reasonable option for quality, though he is not a major upside play.

Brandon Lowe is another Rays lefty bat who finds most of his quality on the opposite-handed side of platoon splits. Lowe has hit 30 home runs this season, but only seven against fellow lefties. Lowe is slashing .235/.339/.502 with a .268 ISO overall, but just .178/.258/.363 with a .185 ISO against same-handed pitching. Lowe creates runs 26% behind the average in the split but 32% above overall. He makes a solid play given a 44.4% hard-hit rate and a 15.5% barrel rate this year.

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Catcher Mike Zunino has a massive 26.7% barrel rate with a 48% hard hit. He strikes out at a ridiculous 37.5% clip while walking 9.3% of the time. In 291 plate appearances, the catcher has translated the quality contact into 26 home runs and a titanic .345 ISO. Zunino creates runs 30% better than average this season. He is a highly underrated bat due to the low batting average and heavy strikeout totals. He should be included in Rays stacks.

Infielder Joey Wendle has eligibility at third base and shortstop, though he may sit against a lefty. Wendle is slashing .272/.321/.421 this season and creates runs five percent ahead of the average. He has hit seven home runs this year and has six stolen bases. He provides minimal off-brand quality from the bottom of the lineup.

Daily Fantasy Baseball HR Call: Trey Mancini — Baltimore Orioles

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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