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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 9/25/21

Terry McBride



MLB DFS Lineup picks today DraftKings FanDuel fantasy baseball free expert rankings tournament strategy advice tips cheat sheet home run prediction top stacks white sox braves twins Dodgers rockies ESPN CBS Yahoo Justin Turner

The Saturday MLB DFS Main Slate features a sturdy selection of pitching at the top end before things rapidly slide down the quality slope. The bottom end of the available arms are all targetable with hitting and several teams are popping in the power index for home run upside as well as projecting well for run creation and sequencing. The nine-game slate should provide a robust set of options for those willing to stray from the extreme popularity of some of the most expensive plays of the day. Utilizing the Top Stacks Tool to help parse through the available options at the plate should help find the underappreciated MLB DFS picks on the Saturday MLB slate on DraftKings and FanDuel.

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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: Christian Walker — 6.33

Atlanta Braves: Adam Duvall — 13.58

Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle — 13.43

Chicago White Sox: Eloy Jimenez — 24.71

Cincinnati Reds: Eugenio Suarez — 10.74

Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes — 10.21

Colorado Rockies: Brendan Rodgers — 8.16

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 9.35

Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy — 10.20

Milwaukee Brewers: Eduardo Escobar — 7.67

Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano — 14.76

New York Mets: Pete Alonso — 3.46

San Diego Padres: Tommy Pham — 5.48

San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt — 7.40

Seattle Mariners: Kyle Seager — 6.23

Texas Rangers: Adolis Garcia — 13.42

Toronto Blue Jays: George Springer — 5.04

Washington Nationals: Josh Bell — 12.57

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 tournament strategy advice tips cheat sheet home run prediction top stacks white sox braves twins Dodgers rockies ESPN CBS Yahoo Justin Turner

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 pitching selections for Saturday’s slate are a tale of haves and have nots. There are several premium starters available, with high name recognition and talent factors surrounding all of Corbin BurnesLance LynnClayton Kershaw, and Robbie Ray. Quad aces is always a solid hand, but for our purposes, we can only choose at most two of the four apex starters, so looking for details like potential innings limitations for teams with locked-in playoff spots could be critical. Of those four teams, the White Sox and Brewers both put away their divisions weeks ago, while the Dodgers are firmly in a Wildcard position but trail the Giants for the division by just one game, and the Blue Jays are two games out of the playoffs. Further down the pitching board, Atlanta’s Huascar Ynoa has been solid through the season and is facing an overrated Padres team that has fallen out of contention and may rest star players, and Tyler Anderson will be facing a weak Angels lineup. The balance of the available options are questionable plays at best. Anthony DeSclafani is objectively a capable starter who is worth more than $7,000 in a DraftKings vacuum, but he will be pitching in Coors Field. Similarly, Zac Gallen has talent and costs just $8,600 and $7,000 from site to site, but he will be facing a deadly Dodgers lineup.

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Lynn seems the most likely of the prime starters to see restrictions, Chicago has been aggressively managing their pitch counts in recent outings, although teammate Dylan Ceaseshort Friday start was caused by getting struck by a comebacker, not necessarily due to strategy. The White Sox have already been managing Lynn’s workload, however, he has gotten just a lone sixth inning out in his last three starts, going 5.1 against Texas in his most recent outing. Between injury stints and general management, Lynn has pitched 146 innings in 26 starts this season, behind his pace from last year when he threw 84 innings in 13 starts and well off the pace of 2019 when he threw 208.1 in 33 outings. The righty has a 27.8% strikeout rate and a 3.83 xFIP in those starts, posting a 7.4% walk rate with an 11.9% swinging-strike rate and 25.9% CSW%. Lynn has been typically excellent for contact, yielding just a 5.7% barrel rate and 34.7% hard-hit percentage on the season. His .302 xSLG ranks in the 92nd percentile in baseball and his .190 expected batting average against is a 91st percentile mark. Lynn will be facing a Cleveland team that has a .165 ISO and a 3.69% home run rate with a 24.3% strikeout rate against righties this season. The active roster creates runs 12% below average in the split, there should be strikeout upside and a chance at a win and quality start in a normal outing, if Lynn is managed to just five innings he can still deliver an effective outing, but his ceiling will be capped for the price and popularity.

The start length for Burnes is less clear, the excellent righty threw six innings last time out and eight in the start before that, but there is little reason for the team to push him outside of his personal chase for the NL Cy Young Award, which should be a secondary concern that does not factor into decisions about how he is utilized, but probably will. Burnes has already thrown roughly three times as many innings this season as he ever has in a single year in his career, there is little reason to run him into the ground tonight when he is so much more valuable in October. Burnes has been terrific this season, he has a 35.5% strikeout rate with a 5.1% walk percentage and a 2.31 xFIP. The righty has a sparkling 0.94 WHIP, he induces a massive 16.9% swinging-strike rate, and has compiled an excellent 33.9% CSW%. Burnes allows a ludicrously low 3.0% barrel rate and just a 30.9% hard-hit percentage. The Brewers ace will be facing a Mets active roster that has a below-average 24.5% strikeout rate and a 3.61% home run rate in the split this season. New York has a .157 ISO and creates runs five percent worse than average against right-handed pitching as well, the pitcher has a good chance of blowing through this lineup several times before he sits down for the night. Despite a hefty price on both sites, Burnes is pulling in spectacularly high ownership. Burnes’ ownership tracks closer to his top-two probability on DraftKings, he will be owned at a rate nearly double his chances of landing in the top overall spot on the single-pitcher slate on the blue site.

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Kershaw is in a somewhat different situation than the other pitchers. The Dodgers lefty ace missed more than two months with an elbow injury and the team is actively looking to get him ramped up fully before the playoffs begin. Kershaw has made two September starts so far, throwing 50 pitches over 4.1 innings while striking out five Diamondbacks then following that with a 74-pitch five-inning outing in which he struck out eight Reds. The plan is for Kershaw to approach the 90 pitch range this evening so that he can be counted upon for his usual depth when the playoffs arrive. The Dodgers are also still chasing the Giants for the NL West crown and the opportunity to avoid the single-elimination Wildcard round, so it is in their best interests to see Kershaw pitch into the sixth or beyond in an excellent matchup against Arizona. Over 20 starts this season, Kershaw has a 30.6% strikeout rate and a 2.81 xFIP with a 4.4% walk percentage and a terrific 16.8% swinging-strike rate. The southpaw’s opponent has an average .168 ISO and a lowly 2.87% home run rate against lefties this season while creating runs two percent above average and striking out just 21.6% of the time in the split. Kershaw is expensive on FanDuel, where he will see positive leverage and ownership in the low single-digits. The story is different for just $9,800 on DraftKings, where the pitcher is more popular and owned slightly more than his probability of landing in the night’s top-two.

Ray’s most recent outing did not go entirely to plan, the lefty struck out five but yielded three runs on seven hits and a home run while lasting just 4.2 innings. Prior to that outing, Ray had not failed to reach at least eight strikeouts in a start since early August. The southpaw has been mostly excellent in his chase for an AL Cy Young Award this season, he has a 32.8% strikeout rate and a 6.3% walk percentage that has been the primary talking point for the starter this year. Over 182 innings and 30 starts, Ray has a 3.15 xFIP and a 1.04 WHIP. He always comes with a warning about the quality of the minimal contact he does yield, hitters have barreled the ball 8.9% of the time and Ray has allowed a 42.8% hard-hit percentage, but with bat rarely meeting ball this season, it is less of a concern. Ray will be facing a Twins lineup that has underperformed against lefties this season. Minnesota’s active roster has a below-average 24% strikeout rate and just average power with a .166 ISO and 3.82% home run rate in the split. The Twins create runs eight percent worse than average, Ray has a good chance to dominate once again, he will be efficiently owned on both sites and makes for a highly playable option.

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The Padres have a collective .162 ISO and a 3.43% home run rate against right-handed pitching this season, ranking 19th and 21st in baseball respectively. The team has a very good 20.8% strikeout rate in the split but they create runs just one percent ahead of the league average by collective WRC+. Atlanta’s Huascar Ynoa has been effective over his 81.1 innings in 15 starts this season. The young righty has a strong 26.8% strikeout rate and a 3.38 xFIP with a 1.06 WHIP. Ynoa has walked seven percent of hitters and induces a 12.6% swinging-strike rate with a 30.2% CSW%. He has allowed a degree of premium contact, coming in at an 8.4% barrel rate and a 42.1% hard-hit percentage, but he gets that contact at an average launch angle of just 6.8 degrees, helping keep the ball in the yard and limiting damage. Ynoa will be owned in the low-to-mid single-digits on both sites tonight, despite just an $8,800 salary on DraftKings and a bargain-basement $7,600 price tag on FanDuel, he makes for a fantastic tournament play across the industry.

The Top Stacks Tool

A funny thing happened on the way to the peak of the Top Stacks Tool today, the public is completely missing from the best overall teams. Three of the four teams ranked at the top of the board on DraftKings are listed at a 4.7 leverage score or higher, and the fourth is at worst efficiently owned. On FanDuel the top three teams come at significant positive leverage, with the fourth team, the White Sox on both sites, coming in at even ownership. If memory serves, this is unprecedented throughout the season. Typically when we see the top-ranked team falling off the pace in ownership the next few stacks will all be negatively leveraged, or the reverse is true. For the public to be so far afield from the top plays is a rare and targetable occurrence. There is a massive concentration of popularity around terrible teams like the Rockies and Rangers, the public is chasing value bats and looking to roster apex arms where this fascinating slate does not necessarily dictate that requirement.

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San Francisco Giants

We won’t be moving this one until Monday. The Giants road trip to Coors Field has one of baseball’s best offenses facing one if the game’s worst pitching staff in the best hitting environment. When we add the dramatic positive leverage numbers on both sites into the equation, the Giants are an easy go-to that should be far more obvious and be drawing more popularity. The team is arguably underpriced for the situation yet the public is looking in other directions. The Giants are excellent down the middle of the lineup, they feature reliable power and solid on-base and run creation skills from top to bottom. Getting to any combination of their lineup is advisable in this situation. Getting well overweight to the field while mixing and matching Giants hitters and the pitchers and secondary stacks with which they are combined looks like a terrific tournament play on both sites.

Toronto Blue Jays

Another frequently featured team in this space, the Blue Jays land near the top of the board and are coming up with positive leverage across the industry. Toronto will be backing Robbie Ray with their excellent bats in a game against John Gant, who has just a 19.3% strikeout rate and a 14.7% walk percentage this season. Gant is pitching to a 4.98 xFIP and he has allowed a 39.7% hard-hit percentage this year. He does not throw enough strikes and he issues far too many free passes, creating significant opportunities for a great offense like the Blue Jays. The team has just a 20.1% strikeout rate against righties this season and they create runs 13% better than average in the split. Go-to bats include George SpringerMarcus SemienVladimir Guerrero Jr.Bo BichetteTeoscar Hernandez, and Lourdes Gurriel, as well as Danny Jansen who provides power from the bottom of the lineup in the catcher spot. Additional Blue Jays filling out the lineup are secondary considerations who can help with salary as needed.

Atlanta Braves

Skipping the efficiently owned White Sox, who should be rostered at or around the field, we find the Braves a few spots further down the board and also at positive leverage on both sites. This seems ridiculous, considering the team is slated to face Vince Velasquez, who has a 5.03 xFIP, a 1.48 WHIP and a 4.94% home run rate on the season. The Padres righty walks far too many at a 12% rate and he allows far too much premium contact with an 11.9% barrel rate and a 42.4% hard-hit percentage at a 20.2-degree average launch angle with 90.5 mph average exit velocity. Velasquez is a home run waiting to happen, in the interim he tends to put men on base so that maximum damage can be extracted. He does have a 23.7% strikeout rate on the season, but the Braves mighty offense should have no problem tattooing the stater in this matchup. Atlanta’s 4.86% home run rate leads baseball against either hand. The team has a .203 ISO and a 24.3% strikeout rate in the split and they create runs at one percent behind the league average overall against righties. Atlanta stands an excellent chance to put up slate-breaking scores, every hitter from one through six in the projected lineup has an above-average probability of hitting a home run in my model, and the team will be owned at less than 10% from top to bottom. Go-to Braves include the entire lineup, though the power standouts are Jorge Soler, Freddie Freeman, Ozzie AlbiesAustin Riley, and Adam Duvall, with Eddie Rosario also landing at an above-average mark. The two hitters at the back of the lineup are under-owned, underpriced, and underrated. Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson both provide power upside at premium positions and never draw the popularity they warrant. Swanson has hit 27 home runs and has a .205 ISO this season, he costs just $2,800 at shortstop on FanDuel and $3,900 on DraftKings.

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Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have the second-highest leverage mark on FanDuel and the highest on DraftKings, despite ranking second by their probability of being the top stack of the night on both sites. Los Angeles is facing Zac Gallen, who has pitched to a 4.00 xFIP and a 26.3% strikeout rate over the course of the 109.1 innings. Gallen has walked 9.5% of hitters and has a 1.32 WHIP that will not play well against a loaded Dodgers lineup, and he allows a 42% hard-hit rate that screams extra-base upside. The Dodgers active roster has created runs five percent better than average and has a 3.94% home run rate and a .174 collective ISO that both stand above average. The team is excellent at keeping the ball in play as well, they strike out at just a 22.2% clip in the split, giving them upside in this spot.

Mookie Betts strikes out just 15.8% of the time and walks in 12.3% of his plate appearances, he has a 42.8% hard-hit rate and a 7.8% barrel rate that result in a .273/.374/.495 triple-slash and a .222 ISO. Betts has hit 21 home runs in his 514 plate appearances this season, adding 10 stolen bases and creating runs 35% better than average. The superstar outfielder is pricey at $5,900 on DraftKings and $4,000 on FanDuel, but he will be under-owned by the public and warrants attention.

Shortstop Corey Seager is priced appropriately across both sites, if not still slightly cheaply. The shortstop is slashing .289/.381/.460 with a .171 ISO and 10 home runs in his 375 plate appearances this season. Seager is striking out just 16% of the time while walking at a 12% clip, he has a solid 48.7% hard-hit rate and an 11.3% barrel rate and has created runs 30% better than average by WRC+. Seager is a terrific option at a premium position on both sites, but he is projected for less than five percent ownership.

Trea Turner has hit 22 home runs and stolen 31 bases this season. The superstar infielder is slashing .320/.368/.503 with a .183 ISO and he has created runs 32% better than average this season. Turner is another excellent contact option, he strikes out just 17.2% of the time, though he walks in just 6.4% of opportunities, while posting a 45.5% hard-hit rate but just a 6.5% barrel rate. Turner has multi-position eligibility on FanDuel, he is a second baseman on DraftKings, while coming in at a heavy price tag and the highest individual ownership on the team on both sites.

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Max Muncy has a .284 ISO that leads the Dodgers lineup by a wide margin. The excellent infielder is another pricey Dodgers bat and the first to crack a 20% strikeout rate, coming in at a still-good 20.3%. He walks at a 13.9% pace and his massive power more than closes the rest of the gap. Muncy has hit 35 home runs and created runs 43% better than average this season. He has a whopping 16.7% barrel rate and a 46.2% hard-hit percentage on the season, yet will be owned in the low single-digits on both sites.

Veteran third baseman Justin Turner costs just $3,200 on FanDuel but is appropriately priced on DraftKings. The major bargain on his salary is doing little for his popularity on the blue site, Turner is projected for just 5.4% ownership and significantly less across town. The third baseman has had another excellent season, he is slashing .276/.359/.464 with 25 home runs and a .188 ISO while creating runs 25% better than average. Turner is a terrific tournament option on FanDuel and a key part of the Dodgers stack in any format.

Outfielder AJ Pollock has made 396 plate appearances this season, he is slashing .297/.351/.516 with 17 home runs and nine stolen bases. Pollock has a .220 ISO and has created runs 32% better than average across his opportunities, delivering major value to the Dodgers when called upon. For just $3,100 on FanDuel and $4,300 on DraftKings, he can provide significant value for MLB DFS lineups as well.

Chris Taylor is the seventh-straight hitter in the projected lineup with a WRC+ well above league-average, though his mark of 15% above average is the lowest of those seven. The average WRC+ for hitters one through seven is a ridiculous 30% above average. Taylor is slashing .257/.343/.446 this season, he has a .189 ISO and has hit 20 home runs while adding 13 stolen bases. He is far too cheap and under-owned from site to site tonight.

Austin Barnes fills out the catcher position for $4,900 on DraftKings but he is a minimum price play on FanDuel. Barnes has hit six home runs and has a .136 ISO this season while slashing .220/.307/.356 but has created runs 16% worse than average. He is too pricey to be an overly functional play on DraftKings, but the value in salary offsets is enough to warrant getting over the field’s 2.2% ownership mark on FanDuel, despite not needing to play the position.

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HR Call: Freddie Freeman — Atlanta Braves

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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