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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 9/7/21

Terry McBride

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MLB DFS Picks, top stacks and pitchers for Yahoo, DraftKings & FanDuel daily fantasy baseball lineups, including the Dodgers | Wednesday, 9/15

Twelve-game Tuesday brings a juicy slate of MLB DFS action to the table. The slate appears to be ripe with choice and somewhat balanced on both sides, with top-end pitching options and a solid mid-range leading into a few targetable pitchers. All of that can be completely overridden by the game at Coors Field connecting for a significant score and delivering points to a gigantic portion of the field. A brief glance at the Top Pitchers Tool reveals a heavy concentration of popularity around a few of the lower-cost names, while there are exploitable ownership situations on several of the best pitchers in baseball. The leverage gained by pivoting to one of these pitchers is significant on a slate of this size. Getting to the right combinations of bats from among the highly ranked teams in the Top Stacks Tool is the approach for GPP play. Navigating that situation and angling shares toward the positively leveraged teams in the broad middle is a good approach to making MLB DFS stacks today and getting away from the field.

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

Arizona Diamondbacks: Carson Kelly — 5.59

Atlanta Braves: Adam Duvall — 10.46

Baltimore Orioles: Cedric Mullins — 6.34

Boston Red Sox: Kyle Schwarber — 11.29

Chicago Cubs: Frank Schwindel — 4.23

Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu — 11.75

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto — 12.15

Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron — 5.03

Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker — 6.71

Kansas City Royals: Sal Perez — 13.69

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 11.91

Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager — 11.68

Milwaukee Brewers: Rowdy Tellez — 8.00

New York Yankees: Luke Voit — 12.07

Oakland Athletics: Matt Chapman — 5.55

Philadelphia Phillies: Andrew McCutchen — 8.67

San Diego Padres: Wil Myers — 10.19

San Francisco Giants: Kris Bryant — 9.16

Seattle Mariners: Abraham Toro — 8.64

St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill — 7.55

Tampa Bay Rays: Jordan Luplow — 7.39

Texas Rangers: Nate Lowe — 7.29

Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — 14.08

Washington Nationals: Josh Bell — 5.73


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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 lineup picks today DraftKings FanDuel fantasy baseball free expert rankings ownership projections optimal lineup optimizer tournament strategy advice tips cheat sheet home run predictions yahoo espn cbs Best MLB bets today betting picks lines predictions odds yankees dodgers blue jays padres reds braves white sox giants rays brewers

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

Today’s pitching slate has a fair amount of quality and includes several premium aces at high prices. The board is topped by the extremely expensive Gerrit Cole, who will be at low ownership given the inflated price tag and relatively difficult matchup against the Blue Jays. Blake Snell appears to have put his struggles behind him and stands near the top of the board in a game against the Angels, while Aaron Nola will bring his typical quality to face the Brewers in Milwaukee. The mid-range is bolstered by Max Fried, who is far too cheap on the DraftKings slate, Zac Gallen who will be extremely popular and massively over-owned for his potential upside, Eduardo Rodriguez in a challenging spot against the Rays, and James Kaprielian who draws the difficult White Sox. Those looking to roll the dice can turn to Logan Webb, who will be facing the lousy Rockies offense, but doing so in their ridiculous home park; Webb is in no way safe, but he has pitched extremely well through the season and will be entirely unowned.

Cole is difficult to roster at $11,800 on DraftKings. The $11,300 price tag on FanDuel seems somewhat easier, given the requirement for just one pitcher, not to mention the starter’s single-digit ownership projection. Cole is one of baseball’s best. He has thrown 155 innings in 25 starts this season, pitching to a 2.72 xFIP with a 0.97 WHIP and a gargantuan 35.4% strikeout rate. Cole induces a 15.1% swinging-strike rate and generates a 33% CSW, both excellent marks. As always, he comes with a slight warning about the potential for one to get away from him. Cole has allowed a 9.2% barrel rate and a 37.5% hard-hit percentage with a 12.7-degree average launch angle, not problematic marks for contact for a pitcher like him, but indicative of why hitters can occasionally drive the ball out of the park against him. Cole’s ability to keep runners off the bases limits the damage in this situation to the point where it is merely a blip on his game log when it happens. Cole does not have an easy path ahead, however. The opposing Blue Jays have overtaken the Astros as baseball’s stingiest team against right-handed pitching, with just a 20.6% rate in the split. They are fantastic with the bats, coming into tonight with a .197 ISO and a 4.65% home run rate that are fourth and third in the game respectively against righties. The Blue Jays active roster creates runs 13% better than average and they will be playing in a stadium that is extremely conducive to offense. This is not a great matchup, but Cole is an apex predator who simply does not worry about what might be waiting in the jungle to devour him.

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Snell has worked deep into several of his most recent starts, completing at least seven innings in three of his five most recent turns. He has been sharp over the sample as well, striking out 48 hitters in 31.2 innings in those five games. Three of the outings came against the lowly Diamondbacks, but perhaps the best start of the bunch was against the All-Star team that is the Dodgers, supporting the notion that the pitcher has found it and is being allowed to work deep into games once again. He has also managed to cut his walks to just 7.78% over the run of quality. For the season, Snell is at a 3.79 xFIP with a 30.3% strikeout rate but an awful 12.8% walk rate. He has allowed an 11.2% barrel rate with 41.4% hard-hit and an average launch angle of 11.9 degrees that plays well for power. He induces a 12.7% swinging strike rate but has just a 29% CSW on the year. The season-long numbers are on the targetable side for run creation, but they are not necessarily true to who the pitcher is when on-form. Snell is facing an Angels team that has a very strong 4.32% home run rate and a .183 ISO against southpaws this season. The Angels come in with a league-average 23.2% strikeout rate and create runs 3% ahead of the curve against lefties this year. The biggest problem with rostering Snell is that the entire field seems to be making the same decision. Snell is explosively popular for his $9,200 salary on DraftKings, and he will be in more than a quarter of FanDuel lineups for $10,100. Given the lingering notions of struggles with walks, the contact profile and the quality on the other side of the matchup, it makes sense to consider an undercut to Snell’s extreme ownership across the industry, despite the clear upside.

Nola comes up as a different play depending on where the action is. On the blue site he costs just $9,000, while he comes in at a whopping $10,600 across town. Nola has been better than his baseball card numbers this season. He has a 4.54 ERA but a sharp 3.45 xFIP on the season. He is striking out hitters at a 29.4% clip and walks a mere 5.5% while inducing a 12.9% swinging-strike rate and compiling a 31% CSW. He has allowed a few too many home runs this season, part of which can be written off to happenstance, but the 7.7% barrel rate and 13.9-degree average launch angle play well for power if he makes a mistake. Nola is affordable and low-owned in a matchup against a Brewers active roster that is 19th in baseball with a 24.4% strikeout rate against righties. Milwaukee is average for power and run creation, coming in with a .169 ISO and a 3.70% home run rate but a WRC+ that slips 6% below average. Nola should be somewhat safe and has the potential to hit an upside score against this team. The Brewers may continue to be without one of their best bats as well, as Avisail Garcia has missed the last four games with back pain. Nola has significant positive leverage on the DraftKings slate and will be at worst owned where he should be on FanDuel.

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Max Fried stands a strong chance of having the day’s best outing. He is facing a Nationals team that has been one of the better spots to attack with pitching in the season’s second half. Surprisingly, however, the current Nationals active roster currently sits in the exact middle of the league with a 22.8% strikeout rate against lefties this season and they are above average in other team metrics including a 3.95% home run rate that sits 11th and a .178 collective ISO that is 10th best in baseball in the split. The team creates runs 3% better than average against lefties, a mark that could arguably be higher given the qualities in the other metrics. The projected starting lineup for the Nationals has an average of fewer than 300 plate appearances this season. Fried has been largely excellent through 2021. He has missed a little time and comes in with 130.2 innings in 23 starts, pitching to a 3.51 xFIP with a 24.3% strikeout rate and a 1.18 WHIP. Fried allows a 7.1% barrel rate with a 35.1% hard-hit percentage and just 86.9 mph average exit velocity on a 6.6-degree average launch angle. There is potential for Fried in this start, but he will be very popular on both sites. He costs just $8,600 on DraftKings and $9,300 on FanDuel but seems a better play for more money on the single pitcher site.

San Francisco Giants

The Coors game is going to have a major impact on this slate. The Giants profile as the best option for offense, appearing at the top of the Stacks tool on both sites, but they are pulling far too much ownership to be playable. San Francisco’s bats are inexplicably affordable in a game against Chi Chi Gonzalez, a gas can’s gas can. Gonzalez has a 5.10 xFIP with a 1.46 WHIP and a laughable 12.9% strikeout rate over 98.1 innings this season. He allows a 9.4% barrel rate and a 44% hard-hit percentage. The Giants create runs 8% better than average against righties for the season. The Giants have a .199 ISO and a 4.49% home run rate in the split, their 24.6% strikeout rate is unlikely to be a problem against this pitcher. Despite the obvious quality, the average bat in the Giants’ projected lineup costs just $3,300 on FanDuel and $4,100 on DraftKings. Only Kris Bryant lands at a correct price on FanDuel, where he is $4,100, and DraftKings where he costs $5,300. Bryant is dealing with a wrist issue and may sit this game out, which would only lower the average prices. If he plays, he is a major part of this team stack. Other bats would include Brandon Belt, LaMonte Wade Jr., Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Mike Yastrzemski, while Darin Ruf and Tommy La Stella can provide additional low-cost quality. The major problem with going to any of those hitters is that they will all be owned in the 20-30% range across both sites.

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Cincinnati Reds

With a large portion of the field playing the Coors game, there are several interesting opportunities around highly ranked stacks in other contests. The Reds are drawing significant positive leverage on the DraftKings slate, and they come in at a targetable number that is closer to where they should be on FanDuel. Cincinnati is facing Adrian Sampson, a right-handed “Quad-A” type of pitcher who has bounced around the league and as far as the KBO in recent seasons. Sampson threw 81.2 innings in Triple-A this season, pitching to a 5.56 xFIP with a 4.96 ERA and a 16.9% strikeout rate with a 9.1% walk rate, extremely targetable numbers in the minor leagues that should yield major upside for a quality offense like the Reds. Go-to bats from this team include Jonathan India, Tyler Naquin, Nick Castellanos, Joey Votto, and Mike Moustakas as a straight-line five-man stack. Additional quality can be added in Kyle Farmer, who is slashing .254/.309/.400 with 13 home runs and a .146 ISO but has struggled for run creation, coming in 12% below average and is on the decline over the last month. Farmer is joined at the bottom of the lineup by Tucker Barnhart and Max Schrock, both of whom provide low-cost low-owned potential as positional price and popularity offsets if needed.

New York Yankees

The Yankees disappointed MLB DFS gamers yesterday but they appear to be going underappreciated in a matchup against Steven Matz, a lefty who has struggled with home runs throughout his career. Matz has done better with the long ball this season, allowing just a 1.02 HR/9, which can likely be attributed to a 6.7% barrel rate with 36.4% hard-hit and a 9.4-degree average launch angle allowed. Matz strikes out just 21.8% of hitters and walks 6.8%, both slightly below-average marks that lead to opportunities for balls in play and sequential hitting, though those are not Yankees’ specialties. Go-to bats include Joey Gallo, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo and Luke Voit through the middle of the projected lineup. D.J. LeMahieu is an excellent hitter trapped in a season-long slump. He is slashing just .268/.349/.366 with a .098 ISO and nine home runs, nowhere near the quality he has shown over the last few years. This alone is reason to roster LeMahieu when he is cheap and unpopular atop this loaded lineup. Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela are back on the left side of the Yankees infield, they can both be included in stacks from the bottom of the lineup as necessary, Torres has far more offensive pedigree though neither has been impressive this season. Either Gary Sanchez or Kyle Higashioka would be rosterable at catcher, Sanchez offers more power upside, but Higashioka is likely to start with Cole on the hill.

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Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are highly ranked in their matchup against J.A. Happ, and they are coming up with positive leverage on the FanDuel slate. Los Angeles will be owned around level with their probability of success, perhaps slightly negatively leveraged, on the DraftKings slate. Happ has thrown 127.2 innings this season and has a 5.29 xFIP with a limited 17.6% strikeout rate and an inflated 7.4% walk rate. He allows an 11.3% barrel rate and 42.1% hard-hit with a 90.4 mph average exit velocity and 16.9-degree average launch angle. He is extraordinarily targetable for both power and sequential hitting.

Trea Turner leads off for the Dodgers, slotting in at second base on DraftKings and filling that spot while retaining his shortstop eligibility on the blue site. Turner is slashing a terrific .319/.366/.512 with 21 home runs and 26 stolen bases this season. He has a .193 ISO and creates runs 34% better than average from the top of this lineup. Turner strikes out just 17.2% of the time and has a terrific 45.7% hard-hit rate. There will be heavy ownership on him for the DraftKings discount.

Justin Turner is slashing .279/.369/.460 with a .181 ISO and 21 home runs in 523 plate appearances. He has a .181 ISO and creates runs 29% better than average and strikes out just 16.6% of the time. Turner is affordable and under-owned on FanDuel but popular on DraftKings.

Mookie Betts costs $5,000 on DraftKings and is only projected for 10% ownership. Across the industry, he comes up as a $4,000 play with single-digit popularity. He is slashing .266/.373/.503 with a .237 ISO and 19 home runs with nine stolen bases this season. Betts briefly had second base eligibility on one site, but he has been relegated back to an outfield-only play. He has a 44.6% hard-hit rate with a 16.5% strikeout rate and excellent 13.1% walk percentage this season and he creates runs 38% better than average.

Max Muncy is in one projected lineup and absent from another. It seems unlikely that he would sit in this situation, particularly with A.J. Pollock going down with a hamstring injury and removing one of the go-to platoon bats, albeit one that does not impact Muncy positionally. Far more to the point, Muncy is slashing .283/.407/.583 with a .300 ISO against fellow southpaws this season. His absence from projected lineups is likely a mistake regardless of any lingering concerns about finding him rest for his ailing back. Muncy is slashing .255/.382/.533 with a .277 ISO and 30 home runs in 500 plate appearances this season. If he is in the lineup, play him.

Albert Pujols will be in this spot if Muncy sits. He costs a ridiculous $2,700 on the DraftKings slate and $2,100 on FanDuel. Over 270 plate appearances, Pujols is slashing .239/.285/.442. He has 16 home runs in the limited opportunities this season and is carrying a solid .203 ISO. He creates runs 6% behind the average. but given his lack of hitting quality, that is a solid mark carried only by the power.

Corey Seager comes in with low single-digit ownership projections across the industry despite a $4,700 price on DraftKings and a $3,700 mark on FanDuel. He is slashing .280/.375/.455 with a .174 ISO, and he creates runs 28% better than average for the season. Seager has an above-average mark in the home run model for the day, and he projects as one of the leading Dodgers bats on this slate.

Chris Taylor provides multi-position eligibility on FanDuel but is only an outfielder on DraftKings. He has been solid for this team all season, slashing .264/.353/.461 and creating runs 23% better than average. Taylor has hit 20 home runs and stolen 13 bases, but he is the first bat in the lineup with an inflated strikeout rate, coming in at 28.4%. He is still extremely playable given the low prices and low ownership projections.

Catcher Will Smith costs just $4,200 and will be below 10% ownership on DraftKings, where the position is mandatory. Smith is slashing .265/.385/504 with 22 home runs and a .239 ISO while creating runs 38% better than average this season. He has a 43.8% hard-hit rate and a 10.9% barrel rate with a 19.9% strikeout percentage, and he walks 12.2% of the time. Smith can and should be rostered on the FanDuel slate with enthusiasm.

With Pollock out, Cody Bellinger will likely be thrust into action against a lefty. He has been in a platoon situation in recent weeks, following 304 plate appearances of significant struggles. He is slashing just .165/.240/.304 with an anemic .139 ISO this season. Worst of all, Bellinger is creating runs 49% worse than average for the year. He has a 27.6% strikeout rate and is making hard contact just 34.4% of the time. Against lefties Bellinger is slashing .118/.221/.184 with a .066 ISO this season. It is anyone’s guess what is wrong with him, but it is worth rostering him at an extremely low price.

HR Call: Cody Bellinger — Los Angeles Dodgers

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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