“It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Baseball legend and philosopher Yogi Berra said that, and I really felt it in MLB DFS today. All in all it was a bumpy roller coaster of a weekend that didn’t end up as well as I feel like it should have.
This early in the season, the sample size is too small to really tell you everything about the quality of your process and your game but you should at least have a feel for how you’re handling things for the season by now. Stopping to take stock and consider every step of what you’re doing and how you’re parsing and weaponizing the data that the site provides is an important task from time to time. MLB DFS in particular can be cruel to even a perfect process. Utilize the tools at your disposal, Fantasy Cruncher Rewind and Lineup Study give you tremendous access to the slate after the fact to tinker with the approach to see if you can unlock the paths to the top of certain slates. Reviewing the lineups of pros like Awesemo is also a great way to get a feel for what you “should” have been doing on a particular slate and for how the best in the world approaches the sport in general.
Catch up on everything with me and Jason Floyd on the Early Bird Podcast and stay tuned through the day tomorrow for everything up to the minute.
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MLB DFS Quick Hits: Top HR Options, Stacks and Pitchers
Home Run Ratings
Home runs are our 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’m going to give one of the top choices from each team.
Scale: 5-10 Average; 10-20 Good; 20-25 Very Good; 25+ Great
Arizona Diamondbacks: n/a
Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman – 5.56
Boston Red Sox: n/a
Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez – 9.51
Chicago White Sox: Edwin Encarnacion – 7.73
Cincinnati Reds: n/a
Cleveland Indians: n/a
Colorado Rockies: Nolan Arenado – 13.01
Detroit Tigers: n/a
Houston Astros: n/a
Kansas City Royals: Jorge Soler – 9.35
Los Angeles Angels: n/a
Los Angeles Dodgers: Cody Bellinger – 12.92
Miami Marlins: n/a
Milwaukee Brewers: Christian Yelich – 7.08
Minnesota Twins: Nelson Cruz – 16.14
New York Mets: Pete Alonso – 6.64
Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson – 8.92
Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper – 10.92
Pittsburgh Pirates: Josh Bell – 6.64
San Diego Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr. – 6.83
San Francisco Giants: Evan Longoria – 7.88
Seattle Mariners: Kyle Seager – 3.95
St. Louis Cardinals: n/a
Tampa Bay Rays:n/a
Texas Rangers: n/a
Toronto Blue Jays: n/a
Washington Nationals: n/a
MLB DFS Picks: Stacks & Ownership Plays
(Quick note: if it says 1-5 it means hitters 1-2-3-4-5, otherwise I’ll specify spots)
We’re picking a few standout spots and teams to look at for potential plays here. Make sure to check out the ownership projections for critical updates and monitor the top stacks tool throughout the day for changes.
New York Yankees at Philadelphia Phillies – Can we roster Phillies?
Should we roster Phillies bats more than the field tomorrow? Should we roster Phillies bats at all tomorrow? Gerrit Cole is obviously an absolute ace pitcher and should be treated as such at all times. This is a starter who struck out nearly 40% of all hitters he faced in 2019 when he was in absolutely dominant form all season. Even in his ridiculously good year, though, Cole was not perfect against the long ball; his 1.23 HR/9 for the season ranked him just a spot better than Martin Perez and Wade Miley among qualified starters. The Phillies have power to spare and a ton of quality bats to throw at any pitcher, so this is not a Saw-movie-and-your-only-way-to-avoid-a-buzz-saw-to-the-groin-is-to-roster-Phillies type of situation.
The top four hitters in the Phillies lineup all pull down season-long ISO projections over .210 and WRC+ projections well above league average from Steamer. They are all reaching decent home run marks in my model. Andrew McCutchen, Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto form a stack that could be in play against anyone, while Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura and Jay Bruce can provide some sneaky late-lineup quality here. Hoskins gets more of his power against right-handed pitching with an ISO a significant .028 higher in the split. Realmuto hits for less overall power against same-handed pitching but has created runs more frequently and at a clip 10% above league average. Bryce Harper has a significant platoon advantage in both power and quality of contact as a lefty against right-handed pitching and is carrying the only Phillies home run mark over 10.0 in my model.
I’m getting middling overall point projections for the Phillies, though, so I’m very curious to see if they land anywhere other than the bottom spot in Awesemo’s stack rankings tomorrow. Chasing the home run model on its own is an excellent way to land yourself with a lineup that has three zeros, two runs scored and one home run across a five-man stack.
I don’t expect them to look great, but it’s a spot I want to poke at if no one is going this way. With the other options available at pitcher, I don’t know if Cole will be owned widely enough against this team and at his price tag to call this a leverage spot with this lineup. But if the Phillies get to him, you’ll carve at least some opponents off of the scoreboard here. You probably won’t have to roster many Phillies lineups to get over the field if you decide to chase it. For now, I’m in wait-and-see mode.
Suggested Stack: Undecided, but the top of the lineup if you do it.
Pittsburgh Pirates (3.7) at Minnesota Twins (5.9) – Twins 1-5 – Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Nelson Cruz, Eddie Rosario and Mitch Garver (see below for less chalky approach)
The Twins are going to hit all the home runs tomorrow. Taking on lefty starter Derek Holland, this looks like a dream spot for this powerhouse Twins offense and I expect them to be pretty popular here. For his abbreviated 2019 Holland gave up 2.13 HR/9, and his 1.32 career mark is worth targeting on its own. The Twins have five hitters with over a 10.0 rating from my home run model for the game, making this one of my favorite spots so far this year if we’re talking ownership vacuum.
Everyone knows about Nelson Cruz against a lefty. Against a lefty like this, he should already be in your lineup. Third baseman Josh Donaldson makes sense if he’s in the lineup, but the power hitter has been dealing with a tight calf, so monitor the situation closely. There’s plenty of quality up top without Donaldson, though. Shortstop Jorge Polanco does a great job limiting the strikeout and putting the ball in play. He hit 22 home runs in 2019 to go with a .295/.356/.485 slash. Miguel Sano hit two home runs that haven’t landed yet the other night and looks like a great play late in the lineup here. If Marwin Gonzalez is the sub for Donaldson, I like working him into some lineups as well. Gonzalez hits from both sides of the plate and has had staggeringly similar numbers from either side.
The four-seamer down the middle: 1-5 – Kepler, Polanco, Cruz, Rosario and Garver
The curveball: 3-4-5-7-8 – Cruz, Rosario, Garver, Sano and Gonzalez
Related MLB DFS Content
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Coors Field – see notes
Johnny Cueto and Chi Chi Gonzalez are starting. My guess is neither sees the fourth. Fire away if you like to ride Coors bats; they worked out quite nicely for some of the top players in the world today. I don’t typically love targeting Coors, as it tends to be more of a headache for me. I don’t love writing about it as a play because I could have just stopped at the “Coors Field” heading (I gave this serious consideration), and you would have been good here.
Overall the Rockies have the far better roster and would be my target outside of other considerations here. Unfortunately, they’re going to be wildly popular in this spot, deservedly so. Keep an eye on lower-owned plays toward the back end of the Rockies lineup for guys like Sam Hilliard or Raimel Tapia to help differentiate. Even Tony Wolters could provide some base-clearing pop as a low-owned catcher play at the bottom of this order. The top four hitters in the Rockies lineup are all pulling marks above 10 in my home run model.
With the Giants getting Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt back, this Giants lineup looks a bit better but will probably be the lower-owned of the two teams. There’s some quality to be found in the lineup, though none of the Giants hitters have an ISO projection over .200, so the power is limited. I could see the Giants hitting a fair amount of line drives and taking advantage of spacious Coors field here; they have that sort of offense. Chi Chi Gonzalez strikes out no one and walks too many, so we should see plenty of quality opportunities for the Giants bats.
Chicago White Sox at Milwaukee Brewers – Brewers – 2-6 – Keston Hiura – Christian Yelich – Jedd Gyorko – Avisail Garcia – Justin Smoak
Even after placing Ryan Braun on the injured list earlier this evening, I like the spot for the Brewers tomorrow. Carlos Rodon is a pitcher we’ve been waiting on seemingly forever. He was just starting to show some signs of growth early in 2019 when he went down for Tommy John surgery. Now 27 years old and fully recovered, he’s working his way back slowly, but that typically takes time. When we’re dealing with someone who had never harnessed his arsenal and frequently gave up too many walks, we can reasonably expect a longer recovery timetable.
The Brewers can still throw plenty of right-handed pop at Rodon, plus a lefty they call Christian Yelich. Yelich can get to anyone; he’s as plug-and-play as they come. The bats around him are interesting. Hiura is going to be a hitting star for years to come, and he’s already shown who he is with his .303/.368/.570 slash in 2019. We can probably still squeeze some quality out of Gyorko’s bat if he’s cheap and low-owned in the middle of this lineup. Gyorko has put up a WRC+ 19% above league average for his career on this side of his split. The vaguely familiar from season-long fantasy leagues of years gone by power mix provided by Gyorko, Avisail Garcia and Justin Smoak is tempting to snap into this lineup along with Hiura and Yelich here, although I’ll be keeping an eye on what Milwaukee does at the leadoff spot. I don’t love Ben Gamel there like he is in one projected lineup and would probably avoid that spot.
The Suggested Stack includes: Hiura, Yelich, Gyorko, Garcia and Smoak
HR Call: Gleyber Torres (Yankees)
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