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

Terry McBride



MLB DFS lineup picks today DraftKings FanDuel fantasy baseball rankings projections ownership tournament strategy advice tips home run predictions stacks astros braves blue jays dodgers rockies coors field best MLB bets lines today

Tuesday’s packed MLB DFS slate features both a ton of pitching and a wealth of bats. The slate is fairly evenly distributed on both sides of the game, with popular and offbeat selections that could deliver value on both sides. Outside of the game at Coors Field, Vegas totals remain mostly down across the league as fall baseball arrives. The Top Stacks Tool is steep at the top but falls to a plateau of evenly ranked teams quickly. Spreading ownership shares among the lower-owned high-upside teams with full stacks is the approach for MLB DFS tournaments on both sites. There should be plenty of pitching at all ranges of salary to help with any desired MLB DFS roster construction. The Top Pitchers Tool reveals several significant opportunities for leverage around quality arms, particularly for the less risk averse.

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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: David Peralta — 7.00

Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman — 11.79

Baltimore Orioles: Austin Hays — 10.83

Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 7.15

Chicago Cubs: Patrick Wisdom — 16.84

Colorado Rockies: Ryan McMahon — 6.40

Houston Astros: Carlos Correa — 12.01

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 10.92

Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager — 6.89

Milwaukee Brewers: Christian Yelich — 13.23

Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano — 11.63

New York Mets: Pete Alonso — 12.49

New York Yankees: Joey Gallo — 9.07

Oakland Athletics: Matt Chapman — 10.25

Philadelphia Phillies: Brad Miller — 9.50

San Diego Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr. — 10.34

San Francisco Giants: Kris Bryant — 5.72

Seattle Mariners: Jarred Kelenic — 7.18

St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado — 6.36

Tampa Bay Rays: Brandon Lowe — 10.56

Texas Rangers: D.J. Peters — 6.24

Toronto Blue Jays: Bo Bichette — 7.11

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 obvious name at the top of the pitching board on Tuesday is Milwaukee’s Brandon Woodruff, who comes in with the highest price on both sites in what should be at worst a safe matchup against the Cardinals. Woodruff is trailed by a handful of solid starters, including Kevin Gausman who will be facing the Padres, Alek Manoah against the dangerous Rays, Jordan Montgomery at a fair price facing the pushover Rangers and Julio Urias in a wild dice roll of a spot pitching in Coors Field at significantly positive leverage. Additional quality can be picked up with Eduardo Rodriguez facing the Mets and, assuming he takes the mound, Joe Musgrove on the other side of the Giants-Padres game. In the discount bin, Dane Dunning is capable of putting up a reasonable DraftKings SP2 start against the Yankees but is far more likely to get tattooed, while Griffin Jax is yielding major home run upside to a lousy Cubs lineup and seems shaky even for $6,400, particularly when he appears over-owned on the Top Pitchers Tool.

Woodruff has a 29.6% strikeout rate and is pitching to a 3.04 xFIP over his 169.1 innings in 28 starts this season. He has a 0.96 WHIP and a 12.8% swinging-strike rate and has been excellent at limiting quality contact. Woodruff has allowed just a 5.9% barrel rate and a 31.3% hard-hit percentage with 85.8 mph average exit velocity. He has been sharp at limiting the free pass as well, coming in with just a 6.3% walk rate that helps maintain the excellent line across the board. The opposing Cardinals have been weak against right-handed pitching, though they strike out at just a collective 22.2%. St. Louis has a .155 ISO and a 3.37% home run rate in the split, and they create runs 7% worse than average. Woodruff will be extremely popular on the DraftKings slate for just $10,400 and he is appearing frequently in FanDuel lineups as well for $10,200. He is unmistakably one of the top pitchers on the slate and the most likely to put up the top pitching score, but he will also be owned by the public at a rate double that of his probability of success on both sites. Undercutting the field’s hefty ownership marks and spreading pitching shares around, while still rostering a significant portion of Woodruff is a good approach.

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Urias has had a strong season by any measure. He has made 29 starts and has a 26.6% strikeout rate with a 3.70 xFIP and just a 5.2% walk rate. He has a 1.03 WHIP, induces swinging strikes at an 11.4% rate and has a solid 30.1% CSW for the year. Urias has allowed barrels in just 5.7% of batted ball events, yields just 86.1 mph average exit velocity and has limited hard hits to a sparkling 29.5%. Despite all of that quality and a friendly price at $9,900 on DraftKings and just $9,000 on the blue site, he will be owned at less than 1% by the field across the industry tonight. The reason is that he is pitching in Coors Field. Urias will be facing a Rockies active roster that is better across the board against lefties as well. For the full season, Colorado’s active roster has a .183 ISO and a 20.9% strikeout rate against lefties, both marks stand well above average. Their 3.84% home run rate lands more toward the middle of the league and their 96 WRC+ still falls 4% short of the league average for run creation, but they are not a terrible lineup in the split, particularly when playing at home. Urias is in no way a safe play in this situation, but he comes into the night ranked fourth on the pitching slate with an 18% probability of being a top-two option on DraftKings and a 7.9% chance of being the best option on FanDuel, which simply warrants more aggressive ownership. Getting to Urias in spite of the awful pitching environment is a sharp tournament play.

Montgomery will be crushingly popular on DraftKings. He costs just $8,300 and is facing a Rangers team that creates runs 21% worse than average against southpaws. Texas has a good 21.5% strikeout rate in the split but a lame 2.30% home run rate and a .123 ISO, they are a powerless offense that makes weak contact. Montgomery has been solid over 144 innings in 27 starts this season. He has a 24.8% strikeout rate and a 3.91 xFIP. He has limited quality contact, coming into the night with a 35.9% hard-hit percentage and a 7.2% barrel rate, and he has generated a significant 14% swinging-strike rate on the season. Montgomery will be owned at nearly a 50% rate on the DraftKings slate, however, making him a difficult proposition. He will be owned at a rate that is double his probability of being the top FanDuel pitcher as well. Looking for other options at SP2 and undercutting the field on the Yankees hurler seems like a good idea, there are comparable options for similar salaries.

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At roughly half the ownership of Montgomery, Eduardo Rodriguez makes for an intriguing option for those willing to embrace some risk, pairing him with Urias is a sharp play for those who like to ride in the very front car of the MLB DFS roller coaster. Rodriguez has had major well-documented problems with earned runs this season, there is no way around it. However, his underlying metrics are still quite good. He has a 3.48 xFIP and a 3.46 FIP with a 27.1% strikeout rate and has yielded just a 34.6% hard-hit rate with a 7.5% barrel rate. He has walked 6.6% and induces an 11.5% swinging-strike rate but is suffering from an ugly .358 batting average on balls in play, a miserable 67.1% strand rate. Rodriguez is a good pitcher who has been very unlucky with happenstance on balls in play, particularly with runners on base. He faces a Mets active roster that has mostly underperformed all season. Against lefties the Mets have a .150 ISO and a 3.56% home run rate while striking out 23.6% of the time, all below-average marks in the split. They create runs 1% ahead of the curve, the lone bright spot in their stat-line against southpaws. Rodriguez comes at negative leverage when looking at his public ownership projection compared to his probability of hitting a top score, but for a price that aligns with Montgomery, he makes for an interesting pivot at far less total ownership.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Coors Field always draws significant attention, but the Dodgers come into the afternoon ranked atop the board in the Top Stacks Tool, while still pulling in positive leverage. The loaded lineup is not popular enough in their matchup against Antonio Senzatela, who continues to masquerade as a major league starter. Senzatela has a 16.4% strikeout rate and a 4.05 xFIP. He has a quality 4.8% walk percentage but a 1.29 WHIP. He induces just an 8.7% swinging-strike rate and has a 25.1% CSW. A pitcher in Coors Field who yields a 43.7% hard-hit rate for the season is extremely targetable. The Dodgers stand an excellent chance of exploding for a bonanza of MLB DFS points tonight. On DraftKings in particular, there are simply ownership holes in the lineup that can be exploited in constructions. Justin Turner is projected for less than 10% ownership at his $5,800 price tag, Mookie Betts and Max Muncy will be under 15% popularity from the top of the lineup, and all three of Will Smith, Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger will be in the 15% range for relatively inexpensive prices. Corey Seager comes in at $4,600, which is ridiculous, and Trea Turner at second base is a luxury. Both players are worth the cost and ownership and should be in stacks that focus on unique constructions with lower-owned teammates.

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New York Mets

Taking up a bit of a “both sides” position on the Rodriguez start is never a bad idea. He has struggled significantly with bad luck on balls in play and has spent the season allowing earned runs to score. Much of that is well out of Rodriguez’ control, of course, but that does not mean the Mets cannot benefit from the potential upside. The team’s active roster has not been great against southpaws this season, but they project to have a top-10 chance at being the highest-scoring stack of the night while coming in with positive leverage, which is more than enough to consider them for tournament shares. Go-to bats on the Mets include Jonathan Villar, Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso and Javier Baez. The lineup has a few struggling hitters who can contribute in any situation, including Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil and James McCann.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants are slated to face Musgrove, though he has not yet been confirmed as the starter. Musgrove has been mostly good through the season, pitching to a 27.1% strikeout rate and a 3.64 xFIP with a 12.7% swinging-strike rate and a 31.7% CSW. He allows just a 36.6% hard-hit percentage and a 6.3% barrel rate but has struggled at times with command and gets rattled somewhat easily when he is not pinpoint. He will be facing a deadly Giants lineup that will be in play regardless of who takes the mound. San Francisco is going under-owned in our stack rankings on both sites, pulling in a 5.0 leverage mark across the industry. San Francisco’s active roster has detonated right-handed pitching this season. The team has a .205 ISO and a 4.57% home run rate in the split while creating runs 12% better than average. They strike out slightly more than average at a 24.3% rate in the split, but there is major upside in getting to Giants bats on this slate.

Tommy La Stella comes into the night slashing just .242/.302/.390 with a .148 ISO and he has created runs 12% behind the league average over his 200 plate appearances this season. La Stella’s career on-base percentage is .343, which is far more in line with expectations for a leadoff hitter. He still has a terrific strikeout rate, coming in at just 11%.

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Brandon Belt has 26 home runs in just 352 plate appearances this season and is slashing .259/.364/.575 with a huge .316 ISO on the season. He has a 45% hard-hit percentage and an excellent 16.8% barrel rate this year. He costs just $3,900 on FanDuel and is pulling in less than 1% ownership on the site. On DraftKings he is similarly unpopular but at least comes at an appropriate $5,600 price.

Buster Posey is priced at $4,200 and is drawing no attention whatsoever where catchers are required. Posey is having a renaissance in his season-long stat line, slashing .297/.386/.499 with 18 home runs and a .202 ISO while creating runs 40% better than average over his 409 plate appearances. He has a 40.2% hard-hit rate and strikes out just 19.8% of the time while walking at a 12.5% clip. He is a terrific option for generating runs and MLB DFS scoring upside from the heart of this lineup.

LaMonte Wade Jr. has 18 home runs in 337 plate appearances this season. He has a .255 ISO with a 43% hard-hit rate and a 10.8% barrel rate and has created runs 30% better than average for the year. Wade is cheap at $2,900 on the blue site. He costs $4,200 on DraftKings and deserves far more than his 0.5% projected popularity across the industry.

Kris Bryant costs $4,400 on DraftKings and $3,800 on FanDuel and provides eligibility at third base and in the outfield on both sites. He is having a strong season at the plate, slashing .272/.360/.502 with 25 home runs over 541 plate appearances this season. Bryant has created runs 30% better than average and has a .230 ISO to go with his 10.6% barrel rate and 39.5% hard-hit percentage. He is a key piece of the puzzle in stacking Giants.

Brandon Crawford has 21 home runs and a .221 ISO while creating runs 39% better than average from a premium position over 498 plate appearances. He has an excellent 11.6% barrel rate and strikes out at just a 19.5% clip while walking 10.4% of the time. He is yet another strong option on both sites, though DraftKings pricing algorithm seems aware of the quality.

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Evan Longoria has struggled to stay in the lineup this season, making just 249 plate appearances while dealing with various ailments. He has been excellent when he has been able to play, however. He is slashing .288/.386/.542 with a .155 ISO and has created runs 47%% better than average this season. Longoria has a massive 54.9% hard-hit percentage and a 14% barrel rate and he walks at a 13.7% clip. This is a terrific option for $3,400 on both sites if he is in the lineup.

Mike Yastrzemski has 23 home runs and a .233 ISO this season, but he has a strikeout rate that sits at a 24.6% mark that is second worst on the team, and he is slashing .221/.308/.454. He still barrels the ball at a 10.1% clip, but his hard-hit rate is down to just 38.9% on the season and he is creating runs just 4% ahead of league average. For the discounted salary and no ownership, it is fine to include him in Giants stacks when necessary.

HR Call: Patrick Wisdom — Chicago Cubs

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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