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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 9/20/21

Terry McBride

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FanDuel MLB DFS Picks daily fantasy baseball free expert cheat sheet Marcus Semien Friday October 1 optimal lineup optimizer home run free expert projections

Monday MLB DFS action features an interesting seven-game slate with a variety of pitching options from all ranges of the salary spectrum. The slate features a high-end rookie making his debut against one of the best lineups in the league, as well as major question marks about a premium ace option. There are several standout arms to add to a lineup and a series of excellent-looking stacks that are aggressively over-owned, while some of the best bats in the game are drawing no popularity. This makes for a perfect slate to attack across a large pool of entries for MLB DFS tournament play. Let’s dive into the best MLB DFS picks for DraftKings and FanDuel lineups today.

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 — 6.71

Atlanta Braves: Adam Duvall — 19.41

Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle — 5.71

Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker — 6.28

Los Angeles Angels: Jack Mayfield — 3.25

Milwaukee Brewers: Eduardo Escobar — 13.26

New York Yankees: Aaron Judge — 16.12

Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson — 11.46

Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper — 16.90

Seattle Mariners: Ty France — 5.47

St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill — 6.99

Tampa Bay Rays: Nelson Cruz — 15.55

Texas Rangers: Nate Lowe — 10.27

Toronto Blue Jays: George Springer — 15.00

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 lineup picks today DraftKings FanDUel Fantasy baseball free expert rankings projections ownership Braves Yankees blue jays brewers rays astros home run predictions best bets MLB lines

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.

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On the Hill

Monday features a very interesting pitching slate. The overall leaders in talent are Robbie Ray and Freddy Peralta, but they are in very different situations. Ray will be facing a Tampa Bay team that is far less competent against lefties. Peralta, on the other hand, is facing a Cardinals team that has not been great for run creation but is stingy for strikeouts against righties, and he comes with a significant risk of a short start as the Brewers are looking to rest up for the playoff run, given an 11-game lead in the division. Sean Manaea draws a good matchup against the Mariners and comes at a price that is pushing ownership in other directions on the blue site. The slate features a dramatically under-owned Huascar Ynoa, an arguably over-owned Ranger Suarez at a still-discounted salary on the DraftKings slate but a possibly inflated $9,000 on FanDuel and rookie Shane Baz, who will be debuting his triple-digit heat at the major league level in a very challenging matchup against the Blue Jays.

Ray has been terrific all season. He cut his walk rate from an average of more than 13% over the last few seasons to just 6.3% this year while maintaining his ability to be one of the best strikeout arms in the league. Ray has a terrific 33.1% strikeout rate with a 15.8% swinging-strike rate and 30% CSW this season. He has yielded a 9.2% barrel rate and a 42.4% hard-hit percentage this season, while allowing a 17.2-degree average launch angle and 90.2 mph average exit velocity that is an ideal shape for a home run. Ray still has an inflated HR/9 of 1.42, but he has pitched so much more efficiently and stayed out of trouble. He stands an excellent chance to post the night’s highest pitching score and he is tracking to be popular but under-owned in early projections in a matchup against a Tampa Bay team that has a 24.2% strikeout rate against lefties this year. Tampa does create runs 10% better than average in the split, but their power marks are merely average at a 3.73% home run rate and a .172 ISO.

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Manaea is drawing limited popularity on FanDuel at $9,600 but he will be in more than a quarter of pitching shares for $8,900 on the DraftKings slate. Manaea has pitched to a 3.54 xFIP with a 26.1% strikeout rate and just a 5.6% walk rate. He induces a 12.4% swinging-strike rate and is largely effective and good at staying out of trouble. Manaea does have quality-of-contact concerns, however, his .412 expected slugging percentage against is a 36th percentile mark and he yields an 8.1% barrel rate with a 42.2% hard-hit percentage. He faces a Mariners team that has a 25.1% strikeout rate with a .160 ISO and a 3.87% home run rate against lefties this season. The Mariners create runs 9% worse than average in the split, though the probable lineup has a reasonable amount of talent despite the strikeouts. Manaea is projected for efficient ownership on the blue site, but he will be somewhat negatively leveraged on DraftKings for the cheap price

Ynoa has a 27.7% strikeout rate with a 6.8% walk rate and a 1.02 WHIP this season. He has an excellent 3.29 xFIP over 77.1 innings in 14 starts and has induced a 12.9% swinging-strike rate with a 30.5% CSW. He has allowed an 8.5% barrel rate with 42.5% hard-hit but just a 6.5-degree average launch angle on the season, and he faces a Diamondbacks team that has a lousy .133 collective ISO with a 2.25% home run rate against right-handed pitching this season. Arizona has a below-average 24.8% strikeout rate and creates runs 21% worse than average in the split by collective WRC+. This is a great spot for Ynoa to pitch through the game cleanly while racking up strikeouts. He is affordable at a $9,100 price tag and under 10% ownership on DraftKings. On FanDuel he is inexplicably owned at just a 6% projection, despite just an $8,400 price. Ynoa is a fantastic tournament option if those numbers hold.

The Orioles are not a bad lineup, particularly against left-handed pitching. The team’s active roster has a .178 ISO and a 4% home run rate while creating runs 4% ahead of the average by WRC+ against southpaws this year, though they do strike out at a 23.7% clip. The team’s splits are relevant in a matchup against Suarez. He has thrown 84 innings while pitching out of the bullpen then transitioning to the rotation for nine starts. Suarez has a 25.4% strikeout rate and a 9.2% walk rate overall and has pitched to a 3.52 xFIP with a 1.04 WHIP. He has been excellent at limiting premium contact, coming in with just a 2.8% barrel rate and a 30.4% hard-hit percentage with 86.1 mph average exit velocity and a 3.6-degree average launch angle. Suarez is a very popular choice on DraftKings because he costs just $6,500. He is a $9,000 pitcher on FanDuel and will be owned at around 15%. For less money, Ynoa is in a better spot and a far better ownership situation across both sites. Suarez is talented but over-owned by comparison to his probability of being a top-two scoring pitcher, but his price does help close the production gap.

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New York Yankees

The Yankees are extremely popular and negatively leveraged on both sites. The team is facing righty A.J. Alexy, who has a 24.1% strikeout rate in his 14.2 innings over two starts but has also posted a 15.5% walk rate. Alexy has a 5.84 xFIP and a 26% CSW over those two outings. He allows significantly struck fly balls far too frequently to stand a chance of getting through this outing without giving up a few “Yankee Stadium home runs,” and with New York’s legitimate power bats, they could be hit quite a bit further than that. The Yankees projected lineup includes D.J. LeMahieu, Anthony Rizzo, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo. Gallo left Saturday’s game early with a neck strain and is day to day. The lineup continues with underachieving Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez before arriving at the less interesting Brett Gardner and Gio Urshela, who are both still pulling in significant ownership projections. The Yankees are very difficult to roster in unique combinations for MLB DFS purposes tonight, but they stand an excellent chance of putting up big scores.

Houston Astros

The Astros are under-owned on both sites once again, and once again they appear atop the board when ranked by probability of being the top scoring stack. Houston is one of baseball’s best lineups against pitchers of either hand, tonight they will be facing Jamie Barria, who is bad against hitters of either hand. Houston’s lineup is pulling in significant ownership on a few hitters, but several excellent bats remain unpopular, and they can be combined in interesting ways. Yuli Gurriel warrants mention once again in this space. He is projected for 10% ownership or less across the industry despite an excellent price for a hitter who creates runs 33% better than average and is slashing .314/.380/.460 at age 37. Gurriel reliably hits fifth in a loaded lineup that includes Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Yordan Alvarez in what could easily be mistaken as an All-Star Team top four hitters. With Kyle Tucker following Gurriel, the top six hitters in the Astros lineup have created runs at an average of 35% better than league average this season. Jake Meyers will be owned in single digits despite cheap pricing. He has made 127 plate appearances and has a 41.3% hard-hit rate with a 10.7% barrel rate and a .276/.331/.466 triple slash, a .190 ISO and a 107 WRC+. Meyers has five home runs and two stolen bases. Joining him in the underrated portion of the lineup is Chas McCormick, an outfielder who costs just $2,200 on FanDuel and somehow lands at the dead minimum $2,000 on DraftKings. McCormick has made 284 plate appearances and is slashing .250/.310/.452 and he has 13 home runs with a .207 ISO while creating runs 7% better than average. He has a terrific 49.7% hard-hit rate with an 11.2% barrel rate this season. Martin Maldonado is a playable catcher who has 10 home runs but is slashing .172/.276/.293 over 399 plate appearances.

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Toronto Blue Jays

Baz has rocketed through the minor league system to hit the mound at just a $6,900 price tag on both sites tonight. He comes in with a fastball that reliably touches 100 mph. He threw 32.2 innings in seven starts at Double-A this season, posting a 40.8% strikeout rate. In Triple-A he had a 36% rate over an additional 46 innings in 10 starts. Baz had a 2.48 ERA with a 1.96 FIP at Double-A and a 1.76 ERA with a 3.32 FIP in Triple-A. He is a very interesting tournament option that is drawing essentially no ownership on the slate and is worth rostering for pitching shares. However, he will be making his first start against a ridiculously difficult lineup. The Blue Jays active roster is one of baseball’s best, coming in well above average across the board against right-handed pitching. Toronto has a .199 ISO with a 4.70% home run rate and just a 20.3% strikeout rate against righties this season. The team creates runs a whopping 15% above average in the split. At single-digit ownership, they are well worth the investment.

George Springer has a 41.3% hard-hit rate and a 14.5% barrel rate that has translated into 17 home runs in just 282 plate appearances this season. He is slashing .246/.342/.525 with a .279 ISO and has created runs 30% better than average this season. Springer costs just $5,000 on DraftKings and is underpriced at $3,900 on FanDuel, but he will be owned in the 5% range across the industry.

Marcus Semien is slashing .270/.341/.541 with 40 home runs and 15 stolen bases over 666 plate appearances. He has a .271 ISO and has created runs 34% better than average this season. All of that comes with just a 9.7% barrel rate but a 42% hard-hit percentage and a 20.4% strikeout rate. Semien brings a ton of punch at a premium position for a healthy price but no popularity.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is pulling in just 5%% popularity across the industry. He is arguably underpriced at $4,400 on FanDuel and $5,900 on DraftKings. Guerrero has a massive 55.6% hard-hit percentage and a 15.5% barrel rate this year. He is slashing .321/.411/.617 and has a .296 ISO with 46 home runs and four stolen bases. He has a dazzling 16% strikeout rate, 12.6% walk rate and creates runs 73% better than the average player this season. Guerrero slots in at first base on DraftKings and both first and third on FanDuel.

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Bo Bichette will be under 2% popularity on FanDuel and is not much more likely to be owned on DraftKings. He has 26 home runs and 22 stolen bases this year. He has a 47.2% hard-hit percentage and a 9.8% barrel rate while striking out just 19.5% of the time and slashing .294/.341/.472 while creating runs 19% better than average. He is an easy shortstop to roster on both sites despite a healthy price tag.

Teoscar Hernandez has a 13.7% barrel rate, continuing the trend of simply excellent contact through this lineup. He has a 48.4% hard-hit percentage, but he is an aggressive swinger who strikes out 25.5% of the time. Hernandez has 28 home runs and 11 stolen bases this year. He is slashing a robust .303/.354/.525 and has a .222 ISO while creating runs 36% better than average across 542 plate appearances this year. For $3,900 on FanDuel and somehow just $4,300 on DraftKings, this is a spectacular tournament play in Blue Jays stacks.

Corey Dickerson has just a 34.4% hard-hit rate and a lowly 2.4% barrel rate that has led to five home runs. Dickerson falls below average with a 96 WRC+, but he is affordable in the mid $2,000s on both sites and helps offset the significant cost at the top of the lineup.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has 19 home runs and a .187 ISO over 511 plate appearances this year. He is underappreciated with around 2% popularity on DraftKings and less on FanDuel. Gurriel has a 51.9% hard-hit rate and a 9.6% barrel rate this season and he strikes out just 18.4% of the time, keeping the ball in play with decent reliability that gives him added upside and leads to slashing .282/.325/.469 and creating runs 11% better than average.

Danny Jansen has a .222 ISO and eight home runs over 177 plate appearances but is slashing .209/.290/.430 overall. Jansen is a low-cost low-owned high-upside catcher play who should be more popular on this slate.

Jake Lamb has seven home runs and has a .182 ISO overall, coming in with a solid 45.1% hard-hit rate and a 12.1% barrel rate, but he has been dropped in the esteem of both sites, coming in at $2,400 on FanDuel and the dead minimum at $2,000 on DraftKings. It is worth taking a moment to remember that hard-hitting Chas McCormick is likely to be in the Astros lineup at min-salary as well. Putting both in a lineup could be an easy pass to accessing the best of the rest of Astros and Blue Jays bats together.

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HR Call: Teoscar Hernandez — Toronto Blue Jays

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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