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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Stacks, Home Runs & Weather Today 4/8/22

Terry McBride



The first Friday of the baseball season brings split MLB DFS slates, with a loaded afternoon affair kicking off earlier and a five-game MLB DFS main slate starting at 7:05 ET. The main slate has an interesting mix of premium stacks that are going against popular pitchers, one apex starter, and a range of middling mound options that could easily haul in a strong score or get chased early. The range of combinations of quality bats for MLB DFS lineups is impressive for a short five-game slate, there are plenty of under-the-radar spots to differentiate a team stack while playing premium pitching. Utilizing the Top Stacks and Top Pitchers tools is the best way to parse the probability and popularity at the same time when building MLB DFS lineups.

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Best MLB DFS Tournament Strategy & Picks Today

Top Home Run 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 — 6.67

Atlanta Braves: Adam Duvall — 12.82

Cincinnati Reds: Tyler Naquin — 4.86

Houston Astros: Yordan Alvarez — 17.06

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 12.21

New York Mets: Eduardo Escobar — 12.90

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 10.15

Texas Rangers: Corey Seager — 6.79

Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — 13.33

Washington Nationals: Josh Bell — 8.79

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 and the second is for the top six hitters in the projected lineup.

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MLB DFS Weather Update: Postponements & Risk Assessment

There are no games in danger of postponement on tonight’s slate. The weather situations are more conducive to hitting in the games taking place in Arizona and Los Angeles, those games will play in 80 to 90-degree temperatures, while the other three contests will be 30 to 40 degrees cooler. With weaker pitching in those games as well, they make for ripe targets for MLB DFS lineups and hitter stacks.

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MLB DFS Picks Today: Pitchers, Best Stacks & Low-Owned 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 evening slate features one premium ace and a handful of talented second-tier starters that can be mixed and matched through lineups. As the most expensive option on the board, the main concern around Mets starter Max Scherzer is just how long the competitive bulldog will be on the mound tonight. Between a short spring training and lingering injury concerns with his hamstring, Scherzer may be handled with kid gloves as New York juggles an already depleted pitching staff. Behind Scherzer on the board are a several quality names that do not reach elite status. Lefty Sean Manaea will be making his first start in a Padres uniform after being the last member of the exodus from Oakland at the end of spring training, and he will benefit from facing a bad Diamondbacks lineup. Jose Berrios will take on the improved Rangers, and Charlie Morton is facing a Reds lineup that lost a few key hitters from one season to the next. The slate also includes interesting wildcards, Jon Gray will make his long-anticipated debut for a club not named the Rockies, and young Josiah Gray will start his second year in the big leagues, after throwing 70.2 innings in 13 starts last year, but will be facing a loaded Mets lineup.

The crown jewel of the Mets’ spending bonanza in the offseason was apex starter Max Scherzer, who takes the hill against his former Nationals team tonight. Scherzer is an exceptional arm who is easily worth the night’s top salary on both DraftKings and FanDuel. The righty struck out 34.1% of hitters over his 179.1 innings last season, compiling a 31.6% CSW% and an excellent 15.9% swinging-strike rate. Scherzer pitched to a 3.24 xFIP and an otherworldly 0.86 WHIP last year, dramatically limiting opportunities for opposing hitters to drive in runs. Scherzer allowed a 19.3-degree average launch angle, hitters elevate the ball but rarely square up the pitch, getting to an 8.0% barrel rate and just a 34.3% hard-hit percentage. The righty is the top projected starter on both sites, he will be taking on a Nationals roster that compiled the league’s lowest strikeout rate against right-handed pitching last season at 20.5%, but one that also struggled for power in the split with a .162 ISO that ranked 25th overall. The Nationals’ roster had a WRC+ 1% below average and just a 3.09% home run rate against righties last season, the 24th-ranked team out of 30. Washington has a dangerous trio of hitters atop their lineup in Juan Soto, Nelson Cruz and Josh Bell, but Scherzer should have little difficulty with the balance of the Washington lineup. Assuming he throws 90 pitches tonight, Scherzer stands a strong chance of turning in the top fantasy baseball score on the mound.

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Sean Manaea is a quality southpaw who checks in at a fair price from the upper mid-range across both sites. In 32 starts for Oakland last season, Manaea pitched effectively, posting a 3.62 xFIP with a 1.23 WHIP that was bolstered by a quality 5.4% walk rate. The lefty struck out 25.4% of hitters in his 179.1 innings, generating a 12.3% swinging-strike rate but leaving strikes in the zone on the table a bit with a 28.6% CSW%. Manaea allowed a dangerous amount of premium contact through his year, opposing hitters were able to barrel the ball in 8% of batted ball events, while putting up a 41.2% hard-hit percentage and a 90.2 mph average exit velocity against. Manaea will be facing a Diamondbacks team that ranked 10th with a 21.5% strikeout rate against lefties last season but had a global lack of power. The Diamondbacks’ active roster had a .165 ISO, 21st in baseball, in the split last year and they managed an anemic 2.63% home run rate, the 28th ranked mark out of 30 teams. Their 35 total home runs against lefties also ranked 28th in baseball, but they did manage to compile a 101 WRC+, creating runs 1% better than average in the split, despite the dearth of dingers. Arizona is not a good lineup, Manaea is a strong enough pitcher to get through them successfully several times, and they will have a few replacement-level hitters like Jose Herrera and Geraldo Perdomo toward the backend of the lineup to give Manaea a boost. The Padres starter is a quality option when not rostering Scherzer, but he falls well short of the elite righty in raw projections and expectations.

The Rangers vs Blue Jays game has an interesting pitcher on the mound for each team. Jose Berrios had a quality 26.1% strikeout rate and a 5.8% walk rate last season, pitching to an effective 3.59 xFIP and a 1.06 WHIP that was by far a career low. Berrios’s walk rate was a big dip from the ugly 9.6% he posted in the short 2020 season, but it is basically in line with the 6.1% he had in 2019, Berrios’ improvement was more in his ability to induce ground balls hit toward his defenders, generating a career-low batting average on balls in play against. The righty comes in at $9,300 on FanDuel and $8,900 on DraftKings and he ranks as the second-most likely pitcher to put up the top score of the night, though his ownership outpaces that probability on both sites. The righty will be facing a much-improved Rangers lineup that compiles a .195 ISO, the seventh-best mark against right-handed pitching in last year’s numbers, as well as a 108 WRC+, creating runs 8% better than average in the split. Texas’ active roster had a 22.8% strikeout rate and a 4.05% home run rate against righties, the latter mark ranks fifth overall in the split, the Rangers have the potential to surprise on this slate with their power marks against righties, Berrios’ popularity could be problematic if things go awry for him.

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On the other side of the same game, Jon Gray will debut for the Rangers against an absolutely loaded Blue Jays squad. The active roster for Toronto was eighth with a .192 ISO, fifth with a 21.4% strikeout rate, fourth with a 111 WRC+ and sixth with a 4.04% home run rate in the split last season. Toronto’s hitters hit 154 total home runs against righties last year, the third-most in baseball. Gray is going to have his work cut out for him against a squad that is loaded with patient plus hitters. The effective righty hurler has long been a case of “what if he didn’t pitch in Coors Field half the time?” he should have a chance to prove himself this year, though Texas’ home stadium is not exactly a pitching haven. Gray had a 24.4% strikeout rate with a 4.04 xFIP last season but struggled with a 1.33 WHIP that creates too much opportunity for opposing hitters. The righty needs to improve on his 9.0% walk rate, but his ability to limit hard hits to 37.8% with a 6.9% barrel rate even with the Coors factor in play is encouraging. Gray costs just $5,400 on the DraftKings slate, he is the clear SP2 that the public is flocking to, despite the awful matchup. While the righty may succeed throughout the season, it is difficult to say that he is a strong DraftKings play with the weight of public popularity compared to his probability of being a top-2 starter tonight. DraftKings gamers may do well to look to the other J. Gray on the slate, Washington’s Josiah Gray is more expensive but he has a similar profile in a similarly tough matchup, only with much less of the field rostering him. On FanDuel, Jon Gray costs $7,600 and comes with positive leverage, the field’s ownership mark is only half the rate at which Gray lands as the top pitcher on the slate, he is a strong value consideration despite the difficult opponent.

Atlanta Braves

The dynamite Braves lineup is taking on Reiver Sanmartin, an unheralded lefty who has bounced between starting and relief work throughout his minor league career. Sanmartin threw 11.2 innings in the Show last season, pitching his way up from AA-ball where he started the year with 18 innings in three starts. The southpaw’s biggest stretch last year was 82.1 innings in AAA, over which he had a 3.26 xFIP and a 25.9% strikeout rate, and he struck out 23.4% of the few hitters he faced in the small MLB sample, but ultimately this is not a pitcher who is a big part of the franchise’s plans at this point. Sanmartin is facing a Braves lineup that devastated left-handed pitching last season. Atlanta posted a .218 ISO that was baseball’s second-best rate in the split, they continued with a 4.61% home run rate that also ranked second in baseball, while striking out just 21.5% of the time and creating runs 12% ahead of the league average. Atlanta’s lineup is loaded for bear this season, they lost Freddie Freeman and replaced him with the younger model in Matt Olson. The lefty with the thunderous bat is hitting second behind excellent second baseman Ozzie Albies, who hit 30 home runs and stole 20 bases last season. Albies struck out just 18.7% of the time, with Olson at just 16.8% behind him making an excellent 1-2 punch for getting the ball in play, if not over the wall. With a group of Austin Riley, Marcell Ozuna, Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario behind that pair, there are limitless stacking options in the Braves lineup. Back-end hitters including catcher Travis d’Arnaud can be rostered for value and differentiation as well, a prime target is shortstop Dansby Swanson, who comes in at $3,000 on FanDuel and $4,500 on DraftKings. Swanson is vastly underrated, he hit 27 home runs last year, carrying a .201 ISO and an 11.4% barrel rate with a 42.4% hard-hit percentage. The former first overall pick has been delivering on his pedigree to little notice, he is a strong option in the Braves lineup across the industry on the five-game slate.

Toronto Blue Jays

The matchup for the excellent young Blue Jays offense is featured above, Jon Gray has talent, but he is going to have a difficult time getting through this lineup cleanly two or three times. The Rangers bullpen is not one of their highlights, which should help bolster the case for a Blue Jays build on both sites. The team is expensive but worthwhile, they will be popular but there are ways to differentiate both in the stack and in diversified combinations of hitters from other teams, and the hitters are not as popular as they should be against this pitcher. The reason for that is Gray’s popularity, particularly on DraftKings, as a lower-cost option. Using the talented Blue Jays bats to bludgeon the 35.6% of the field that is using Gray on the mound is an effective approach to leverage.

George Springer missed a portion of last year but he was typically fantastic when he was on the field for the Blue Jays, he will be leading off tonight looking to get out to a hot start. Springer hit 22 home runs and went .264/.352/.555 at the plate in 342 plate appearances last year, stringing together a highly effective season that saw him create runs 40% better than average by WRC+. Springer had a gargantuan .291 ISO and strong contact numbers. The outfielder barreled the ball in 15.3% of his batted ball events, and he had a 41.4% hard-hit percentage while walking 10.8% of the time. Springer is expensive on DraftKings, but his $3,600 salary on the blue site is too low. Springer is deservedly popular at 22.2% on FanDuel, but through combining him with lower-owned teammates, there is no real concern over the raw public ownership.

Shortstop Bo Bichette is one of several Blue Jays second-generation Major League Baseball talents, but he has already stepped well out of the shadow cast by his father, producing a 29-home-run, 25-stolen-base season in his 690 plate appearances last year. Bichette had a stellar .298/.343/.484 triple-slash and a quality .186 ISO that belies the home run total to a degree. He created runs 22% better than average and makes for an excellent option after Springer at the top of a lineup. Bichette is expensive on both sites, but he is projected for less than 10% popularity across the industry.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is approaching the level of talent where we can just list his name and move on, like with Mike Trout. Guerrero is the son of a Hall of Famer, and he is arguably a better hitter than his amazing father was. The 2.0 model managed to strike out just 15.8% of the time last season, nearly equaling that mark with his 12.3% walk rate. Guerrero compiled a .311/.401/.601 triple-slash with 48 home runs, he was realistically chasing a Triple Crown for a fair portion of the season last year. The young first baseman has amazing upside on any slate, he costs $4,500 on FanDuel and is drawing just 11.7% ownership, he is even less popular at 8.3% for a $5,900 price tag on DraftKings. Figuring out the pricing combinations is the only challenge; Guerrero belongs in most MLB DFS lineups.

Teoscar Hernandez hit 32 home runs last season, bringing the total across Toronto’s first four hitters to 131, with an average of 33 each. Hernandez barreled the ball 13.9% of the time and had a 48.8% hard-hit rate, second only to Guerrero’s 55.2% mark. He does not have the same patience at the plate as his superstar teammate, Hernandez struck out 24.9% of the time and walked 6.1% last season, but he has a strong knack for premium contact, and he created runs 32% better than average last season. Hernandez for some reason costs just $3,600 on FanDuel, he should be rostered regardless of his 14.4% popularity. At $5,600 on DraftKings, Hernandez is half as popular but just as valuable.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is another multi-generational talent, his father starred for Cuban national teams for more than 22 years, and his much older brother Yuli Gurriel was last year’s American League batting champion and is one of the better pure hitters in the game. The younger Gurriel has not distinguished himself to the degree that Yuli has, but there is plenty of time for the 28-year-old. Gurriel hit 21 home runs and had a .190 ISO while creating runs 7% ahead of the average last season. He is priced at just $3,100 on FanDuel at 4.2% popularity and he checks in as a $4,200 play for an 8.9% ownership play on DraftKings. Gurriel is an easy way to differentiate a Blue Jays stack on both sites tonight.

Over 189 plate appearances in 2021, catcher Alejandro Kirk flashed some of the pop that has the team excited about adding his bat behind the plate. Kirk had an 11.0% barrel rate and a premium 46.9% hard-hit rate, strong numbers for any young player and excellent marks for a catcher at any point in his career. Kirk struck out in just 11.6% of his plate appearances and walked 10.6% of the time as well, displaying an excellent hit tool. With a cheap price, Kirk is popular where catchers are required, he is a better option for differentiation where the position is not mandatory on FanDuel, but he is very much a part of Toronto stacking plans across the industry.

Third baseman Matt Chapman was exiled from the Athletics after a down season and as the team transitioned into a total tear-down. Chapman is an excellent hitter who struggled significantly the last two years. Still just 28 years old, the third baseman has an excellent chance to turn things around in Toronto. After hitting 36 home runs and going .249/.342/.506 in 2019, Chapman cratered to just .210/.314/.403 last season, hitting 27 home runs but pulling in just a .193 ISO and creating runs just 1% better than average. In a low-pressure situation at the back end of a premium lineup, Chapman has a chance to be a sneaky play for a low salary cap hit. He is not as popular as a hitter of this quality should be when he lands at these prices behind the capable names in this lineup. Chapman looks like an ideal endcap to a mid-lineup Toronto stack on this slate.

Danny Jansen makes for a second catcher play in the Toronto lineup tonight. Jansen hit 11 home runs in his 205 plate appearances last season, posting a .223/.299/.473 triple-slash, he is more an afterthought with Kirk in the lineup at his position, but there is at least a low salary and low ownership totals in play, and the catcher did have a 43.3% hard-hit rate and a .250 ISO in his limited appearances last year. Jansen is another way to immediately make a Blue Jays stack extremely different, but he functions more as an end piece, not a wrap-around play.

For the second leadoff man scenario, nine-hitter Cavan Biggio makes for an interesting option. Biggio reached base at a .322 clip last season, slightly above average but not exactly strong. The infielder had a .224/.322/.356 slash overall, hitting just seven home runs in his 294 plate appearances, adding three stolen bases. Biggio struggled for relevance last season, he was 16% behind the curve creating runs, but his 2019 debut and his effective 2020 linger in the mind. In 430 plate appearances that season, Biggio hit 16 home runs and stole 14 bases, creating runs 14% better than average. In 265 plate appearances in 2020, he hit eight home runs and stole six bases, creating runs 22% better than average. Biggio is potentially coming into the season as an underrated option at the back of an excellent lineup, he could be sneaky to start the season.

Home Run Prediction Today: Dansby Swanson — Atlanta Braves

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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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