A short slate of Thursday MLB DFS action takes a different shape from site to site today. One of the uglier offerings of the entire season, coinciding with the opening game of the NFL season, will see a five-game affair start at 6:40 p.m. ET on DraftKings, while FanDuel is including only the evening games in their four-game contests. The slate is extremely thin on quality pitching, and there are a few lousy lineups in play as well. Mashing together uncomfortable combinations is going to be the approach for GPP play tonight. Using the Top Pitchers Tool to navigate the murky mound mess is a major advantage on a mess of an MLB DFS slate such as this.
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
Atlanta Braves: Jorge Soler — 12.33
Baltimore Orioles: Austin Hays — 7.23
Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron — 5.85
Kansas City Royals: Salvador Perez — 16.81
Miami Marlins: Lewin Diaz — 5.30
New York Mets: Javier Baez — 13.13
New York Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton — 10.15
Philadelphia Phillies: Didi Gregorius — 5.05
Toronto Blue Jays: Kevin Smith — 8.33
Washington Nationals: Yadiel Hernandez — 6.31
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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
DraftKings players rejoice, you get the benefit of being able to roster Marcus Stroman and Jesus Luzardo among your pitching selections. With FanDuel skipping the earlier game the choices on the blue site are absurdly thin this evening. Huascar Ynoa leads the way on the single pitcher site, he is facing a lousy Nationals team and has significant upside, but he will be carrying the weight of his quality in his public ownership shares. Jose Berrios faces a tough task in the Yankees, but the matchup has strikeout upside if he can work his way through the lineup cleanly. That John Means is probably the next-best option on this slate says a lot about the overall quality of today’s pitching options. This is a slate to spread mound shares around liberally, none of the options are great and there is not a strong contrarian option when everyone is lousy. Essentially of the pitchers are in play, including Carlos Hernandez and Ranger Suarez, who both have strikeout rates that rival the top options.
Ynoa has thrown a solid 67.2 innings in 12 starts this season. He has a 26.4% strikeout rate and a 6.3% walk rate while pitching to a 3.42 xFIP and a 1.00 WHIP. He induces a 12.5% swinging strike rate with a 31% CSW but has issues with quality contact when batters do connect. Ynoa has yielded a 9% barrel rate with an ugly 43.8% hard-hit percentage and 90.9 mph average exit velocity. He has an expected slugging percentage allowed of .436, a 27th-percentile mark that betrays the underlying concerns about this pitcher. Ynoa has a relatively limited arsenal, relying on his quality four-seam fastball and a plus slider nearly 90% of the time. He is a 23-year-old still finding his footing as a major league starter, but the strikeout rate is more than enough to latch onto for a slate of this nature. Ynoa also will benefit from facing a Nationals team with an active roster that creates 11% worse than average against right-handed pitching this season. Washington has a 23.1% collective strikeout rate in the split that is above average, currently 11th best in baseball, but the team has a lowly .141 ISO and a 2.98% home run rate in the split, which should allow Ynoa to work deep into the game with relative safety. For $8,600 on DraftKings and $8,800 on FanDuel, Ynoa is likely the best option who appears on both slates, but he will be very popular for it.
Berrios draws a Yankees lineup that has a 24.5% strikeout rate against righties, the ninth-worst mark in the league on this side of the split. New York has a .164 collective ISO and a 3.93% home run rate while creating runs 3% worse than average against righties this year. They are currently a below-average lineup when not facing a lefty. He has thrown 159.2 innings in 27 starts this season and has pitched to a quality 25.8% strikeout rate with a 3.62 xFIP and a 1.11 WHIP. Berrios induces a 9.8% swinging-strike rate and has just a 28.6% CSW while allowing an 8.5% barrel rate. His 38.2% hard-hit rate and 88.5 mph average exit velocity allowed are average. He does not present an overly attractive target for Yankees bats, but it is not a lock that he will shut them down either. On a slate where he is the second-best available option, Berrios must be played when he falls at such low ownership. He is inexpensive at $9,200 on DraftKings and $9,100 on FanDuel and comes with positive leverage marks on both sites.
Stroman offers a major pressure release valve for DraftKings gamers. He is the top-ranked option in the Top Pitchers Tool for the slate and he looks to be in an excellent situation against the Marlins. Stroman has has a 21.3% strikeout rate that does not impress. He is not typically a go-to option for MLB DFS purposes, but it is just an ugly slate. With a 6.6% barrel rate and an average launch angle allowed of just 7.4 degrees, Stroman is reasonably good at limiting premium contact, though he does allow a 43% hard-hit rate. Overall this is a pitcher who should provide depth and quality in this start. He faces a Marlins team that is carrying a .126 ISO with a 2.55% home run rate against right-handed pitching while creating runs 20% worse than average. Miami is fourth worst in baseball with a 25.2% strikeout rate in the split as well, adding a bit of upside even to a low-level strikeout pitcher like Stroman. He will be highly popular but seems worthwhile where he is available on a truncated pitching slate.
The Braves powerful lineup will back up the top pitcher of the day with an effort to crush weak right-handed starter Erick Fedde. The Braves will be facing a pitcher who has just a 21.2% strikeout rate over 111 innings in 23 starts this season. Fedde has a reasonably good 4.14 xFIP but an inflated 8.9% walk rate with an ugly 1.48 WHIP. Fedde does not throw enough strikes either, coming in with just an 8.4% swinging-strike rate and a 24.6% CSW. The Braves have a 4.76% home run rate against right-handed pitching this season, the third-highest mark in the league against either hand. The team will be extremely popular tonight, they come into the slate carrying negative leverage marks, but they are a major source of quality on a very short slate. Scouring Ownership Projections for the less popular options in a lineup that can be played from one through eight is a strong approach. Popular bats from the top of the lineup include Ozzie Albies, Jorge Soler, Freddie Freeman, and Austin Riley. The ownership begins to thin out around Travis d’Arnaud on the blue site, but the catcher will be a popular play on DraftKings. High-quality options that are less popular at the end of the lineup should include Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, and Dansby Swanson. That excellent trio of hitters has an average hard-hit rate of 44.4% and an average barrel rate of 12.1%, they would be the heart of most lineups in the league.
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto is pulling slate-leading marks in the power index based on the home run model, they stand an excellent chance of sending several balls into the stands at Yankee Stadium, with the overall damage from runners on base standing as the one question for how much damage they do to starter Nestor Cortes. He has a 26.1% strikeout rate on the season and has yielded just a 5.1% barrel rate with a 33.7% hard-hit percentage over 67.1 solid innings. He has limited power upside so far this season, coming in with just a 1.07 HR/9, but it has been an issue throughout his career, including this year’s quality his career HR/9 still sits at a 1.97 with a 5% home run rate allowed. This is ultimately a targetable pitcher, and he is facing a loaded lineup. The Blue Jays are above average across the board against southpaws, they have a 4.13% home run rate with a .183 ISO in the split while creating runs 11% better than average. Toronto strikes out just 21.2% of the time against lefties to boot, putting the ball in play with regularity. The stack is coming in with positive leverage in the Top Stacks Tool on FanDuel but a highly negative mark on the DraftKings slate.
George Springer has just 241 plate appearances, but he has been a very productive hitter in the small sample. Springer has hit 16 home runs and has a monster .308 ISO this season. He is slashing .260/.354/.567 and creates runs 45% better than average by WRC+. He is one of many Blue Jays bats with an above-average contact profile, coming in at a 15.1% barrel rate and 42.8% hard-hit. Springer is an excellent option for $3,900 on FanDuel ,and he is too cheap at $4,900 on DraftKings.
Marcus Semien has 38 home runs this season, second on a power-packed team. He has a 5.29% home run rate and a .242 ISO against left-handed pitching and is slashing .242/.318/.484 in the split. Semien provides eligibility at both second base and shortstop on the blue site, and he is exclusively a second baseman on DraftKings. He will be a very popular bat across the industry on a short slate lacking in quality options at the position.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is slashing .320/.411/.605 with a .285 ISO and 41 home runs on the season. He has a 55.4% hard-hit rate and a 14.9% barrel rate and strikes out merely 16.3% of the time while walking at a 12.6% clip. He is creating runs 71% better than average by WRC+ for the season. Guerrero is expensive and popular but should not be skipped in many Blue Jays stacks.
Bo Bichette is slashing .286/.337/.451 with 21 home runs and a .165 ISO while creating runs 14% better than average on the season. He has a terrific 47.2% hard-hit percentage and a good-not-great 9.3% barrel rate. He strikes out just 19.8% of the time but does not walk like his teammate ahead of him in the lineup, which is clear from his low on-base percentage. Bichette can and should be included in Blue Jays stacks where he can be afforded in combination with the rest of the featured hitters.
Teoscar Hernandez has a 14.5% barrel rate with a 48.5% hard-hit that he has translated into 25 home runs with a .505 slugging percentage and a .214 ISO. He creates runs 28% better than average on the season and he flashes a quality hit tool, coming in slashing .292/.341/.505 overall. Hernandez is too cheap at $4,500 on the DraftKings slate, which is pulling in ownership attention. For $4,100 on FanDuel, he is slipping into single-digit ownership projections.
With a lefty on the mound, Randal Grichuk will slot into the lineup, while Corey Dickerson takes a seat to exploit platoon splits. Grichuk is generally the better bat for MLB DFS purposes anyway. He comes in slashing .240/.281/.428 with 21 home runs and a .188 ISO on the season, though he creates runs 12% behind the curve given the low on-base percentage. Grichuk is a fine option for his power and home run upside against this pitcher in this park, however.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has 16 home runs and has a .176 ISO while creating runs 5% better than average over 466 plate appearances this season. He is slashing .276/.316/.452 and has a 39.9% hard-hit rate with an 8.5% barrel rate, somewhat average numbers that are bolstered to a degree by his quality 18.7% strikeout rate. Gurriel is a fine option to help offset some of the popularity and pricing of his teammates in this stack.
Kevin Smith has made 34 plate appearances and is slashing .100/.206/.200 with a .100 ISO while creating runs 85% worse than average in the microscopic sample. Smith has hit one home run while barreling the ball 15% of the time and striking out at a 29.4% rate so far in the majors. He made 352 plate appearances at Triple-A this season, slashing .286/.371/.576 with 19 home runs and 16 stolen bases. He is an underappreciated asset from late in the Blue Jays lineup.
Danny Jansen is slashing just .191//.281/.397 over 154 plate appearances this season. He has hit seven home runs and has a solid .206 ISO, however, showing the upside in including him in an occasional stack. Jansen is a playable catcher option where the position is required.
HR Call: Carlos Santana — Kansas City Royals
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