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MLB DFS Tournament Picks & Home Runs 5/6/22

Terry McBride



The Friday fantasy baseball schedule is shrinking faster than George Costanza swimming in Rick Moranis’ pool. The evening main slate has already lost two games, making it an 11-game contest, and three more games are looking at ugly weather and potential postponement. The Royals vs Orioles and the Blue Jays vs Guardians games are at the most risk of a rainout or in-game delay, while the top-drawer matchup between the White Sox and Red Sox seems more likely to play through a grey rainy Boston evening. Losing the Yankees and Mets games already removed several of the top starters from the board in Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer, the loss of the game in Cleveland would knock another pair of aces off the pitching board and significantly tighten things up around a few key plays. The slate is also lacking a clear source of run-scoring upside, every game on the board is at or below an 8.5 total, and only two contests are reaching even that high a total, with the average landing slightly over 7.5 tonight. The thinner pitching slate would suggest that it is a night to get broad on the mound, particularly if the Cleveland game is a washout while focusing on some of the premium stacking opportunities with the bulk of allocated salary, wherever they can be found. Let’s dissect the slate and find some of the best leverage spots to tackle with our MLB DFS picks today on DraftKings and FanDuel.

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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 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 based on a blend of several predictive statistics for the batter-pitcher matchup, this 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.

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Home Run Ratings

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Scale: 5-10 Average; 10-20 Good; 20-25 Very Good; 25+ Great

Arizona Diamondbacks: Christian Walker — 6.68

Atlanta Braves: Matt Olson — 11.61

Baltimore Orioles: Anthony Santander — 6.42

Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 15.05

Chicago White Sox: Tim Anderson — 5.43

Cleveland Guardians: Franmil Reyes — 7.50

Colorado Rockies: Ryan McMahon — 6.18

Detroit Tigers: Javier Baez — 7.43

Houston Astros: Yordan Alvarez — 21.19

Kansas City Royals: Ryan O’Hearn — 10.80

Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout — 13.26

Miami Marlins: Jesus Sanchez — 8.16

Milwaukee Brewers: Willy Adames — 6.32

Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton — 13.76

Oakland Athletics: Seth Brown — 10.91

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 6.20

San Francisco Giants: Darin Ruf — 8.59

Seattle Mariners: Ty France — 5.17

St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill — 6.27

Tampa Bay Rays: Brandon Lowe — 8.68

Toronto Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez — 6.99

Washington Nationals: Josh Bell — 8.31

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

Weather is wreaking havoc on the MLB DFS slate already today, and it seems likely that more news is inbound. The forecast in Cleveland calls for rain straight through the afternoon and into tomorrow morning, making it difficult to spot a window in which the game would have a clean start. The forecast in Baltimore does not look much better, but the Blue Jays and Guardians are a much bigger impact on the slate overall than the Royals and Orioles. With these teams scheduled to play weekend series anyway, it is very easy to see postponements and double-headers in the future for all four teams.

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. Be sure to check out the Awesemo MLB DFS Ownership Projections for critical updates and monitor the top stacks tool throughout the day for changes.

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On the Hill

The pitching slate was far more robust about two hours ago. With aces dropping from the top of the board, all eyes are now on the weather in the contest featuring both Kevin Gausman and Shane Bieber, the remaining proven number one options on the board. If the game plays, both starters align with the very top of pitching rankings and they should have an excellent duel that yields fantasy points on both sides. After Gausman and Bieber, the slate dips slightly to another pair of pitchers who are facing one another. Sandy Alcantara and Yu Darvish will be on the mound in San Diego in one of the late games, both pitchers have the talent to find a strong fantasy score, but they do not have the extreme ceiling upside that the other aces possess. Eric Lauer has continued his surprising run of quality, but he is in a very difficult matchup against the Braves, the far safer bet from that range is Luis Garcia, the Astros righty who will be matchup up against the Tigers. Logan Gilbert offers upside in a game against the Rays from later in the evening as well, Gilbert has been sharp through the early part of the season and he is a premium young arm. Nathan Eovaldi and Merrill Kelly are the remaining pitchers worthy of any significant shares. Eovaldi is in a difficult matchup with weather concerns, while Kelly will be at home to take on the weak Rockies in what could be a sneaky spot for leverage on both sites. Overall, the shape of the pitching slate changes with the weather in Cleveland. If that game does not play, spreading out shares to many or all of these options is advisable.

Kevin Gausman has been terrific for the Blue Jays this season, surprising everyone by pitching even better than he did last year. Gausman has a 1.64 xFIP and a 0.98 WHIP over his first 31.2 innings this season, he was at a 3.28 and a 1.04 respectively last year in an excellent 192-inning season. The righty has struck out 33.6% of opposing hitters this season and he is astonishingly yet to issue a walk. Gausman has induced a 21.1% swinging-strike rate and he has a 34.6% CSW%. Hitters can make quality contact against him; when they connect, they have a 45.7% hard-hit rate this season, but Gausman has been so good at missing bats that it seems like a strong bet he will continue to do so, even against a Cleveland roster that is fourth best in baseball with a 19.1% strikeout rate against righties in the short sample from this season. Assuming the game plays, Gausman will be popular as the top-ranked starter by his probability of success. Right on his heels will be Guardians starter Shane Bieber, who has a 25.4% strikeout rate over his first 29.1 innings in five starts this year. Bieber had a 3.14 xFIP and a 0.95 WHIP and he is inducing a solid 13.6% swinging-strike rate. The righty is excellent, but those numbers are down from his career marks, as well as from the 33.1% strikeout rate and 2.91 xFIP he posted last season in 96.2 innings. If he is in action, Bieber is worthy of the attention he is getting from near the top of the board, but he faces much stiffer competition in a loaded Blue Jays lineup that is likely to be returning star outfielder Teoscar Hernandez to the heart of the batting order.

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Padres righty Yu Darvish is facing a Marlins active roster that has been frisky against right-handed pitching this season. The Marlins were largely shut down last night after being featured in this space, but they still have a 112 WRC+ that ranks eighth in the split while their 2.39% home run rate is in the middle of the league at 16th. The team strikes out at a 22.5% rate, also the 16th ranked mark in baseball against righties this season. Miami is not an imposing threat for a pitcher of Darvish’s talent and experience, but, while he has been moderately effective, Darvish has not pitched up to his normal standards this season and the Marlins will not be a pushover matchup. In his first five starts, Darvish has completed 26.1 innings, but he has been over 90 pitches in each of his last three games and there is little concern about the depth to which he can pitch tonight. The righty has a 22.5% strikeout rate with a 3.88 xFIP this season, down from his 29.2% and 3.75 from last year, and he has walked far more hitters at 9.0% than he did at 6.5% last year. Darvish is still inducing a 12% swinging-strike rate and he has been solid at limiting premium contact, holding hitters to just a 36.5% hard-hit rate and a 4.1% barrel rate this year. At $10,200 on FanDuel, Darvish is not drawing the popularity he may deserve in this spot, but that can change if other options come off the board. The $9,400 price on DraftKings is drawing more attention, with a 23.2% ownership projection that seems likely to climb. If the Cleveland game does not play, Darvish becomes the most proven high-level starter on the board.

Opposing the Padres will be Sandy Alcantara, a solid righty who has had some bumps getting started this year. Alcantara has a 21% strikeout rate and an inflated 11.3% walk percentage this year. Those marks come in 31 innings over five starts, last season he had a 24% strikeout rate and just a 6% walk rate while pitching to a 3.45 xFIP and a 1.07 WHIP. Alcantara is inducing a 12.2% swinging-strike rate, a good mark but one that represents a dip from the 13.3% at which we saw him last season, while his CSW% has also slipped to 26.1%. Alcantara needs to find the strike zone more often, but he has been good with avoiding solid contact. The righty has yielded just a 34.1% hard-hit rate and a 3.7% barrel percentage so far, with the average exit velocity reaching just 85.7 mph, allowing a 2.42% home run rate. Against a Padres team that has struggled for power, there should be some upside in his ability to keep the ball in the park. San Diego’s active roster has just a 1.63% home run rate against righties this season, the 28th best out of 30 teams. The Padres have been good at limiting strikeouts in the split, however. Their 20.9% rate ranks them eighth and they have created runs 9% better than average despite the power outage. Alcantara has the skill to post a strong start against this team, he is under-owned at just 2.7% for $9,000 on the blue site and 8.6% for just $7,700 on DraftKings. Alcantara is a worthy SP2 consideration on that site and he could function as a cheap SP1 in a pinch, he should be more popular.

26-year-old lefty Eric Lauer seems to have found something in Milwaukee. The southpaw is off to a strong start in 2022, following up on a 118.2 inning campaign from last year that saw him put up a 3.19 ERA with a 4.26 xFIP while striking out 23.9%. This season, Lauer has boosted the punch-outs all the way to a whopping 36.6% over his first four starts and 23.1 innings. Lauer has nearly doubled his slider usage to this point in the season while virtually eliminating the use of his changeup, to strong early returns. The lefty has a 2.25 xFIP and a 0.99 WHIP and has walked just 5.4% of opposing hitters while inducing a 13.8% swinging-strike rate with his new pitch mix. Lauer has yielded premium contact this season, when hitters connect they have managed a 38.9% hard-hit percentage and a 9.3% barrel rate on a 21.1-degree average launch angle, but he has mostly kept the ball in the park so far, yielding just a 3.22% home run rate. There are plenty of strikeouts in the Braves lineup against left-handed pitching. This season, Atlanta’s active roster ranks 28th with a 26.7% strikeout rate in the split. That is where the good news for Lauer ends. Atlanta’s .189 collective ISO ranks fourth in baseball, they have created runs 18% better than average, the ninth-ranked collective WRC+ in the split, and they have a 3.10% home run rate against lefties that also ranks ninth. Atlanta is a very difficult opponent, if they make contact at the levels that Lauer has yielded so far, it seems likely that a few home runs will be hit, but he has been very good at missing bats and the Braves will help him in that department. Lauer is drawing virtually no ownership in this matchup at a $9,500 price on FanDuel and a $10,300 mark on DraftKings. The Brewers’ southpaw is the strongest point of leverage on the pitching slate, which seems unlikely to change to a significant degree regardless of what happens with the weather in other games.

The Astros are drawing major power marks and the team seems aligned for an easy win against the Tigers tonight, which should put righty Luis Garcia on track for a bonus on both sites and potentially a quality start bonus on FanDuel. Garcia has a 22.4% strikeout rate over his first 21.2 innings in four starts this season. The righty was excellent over 155.1 innings as a rookie last year, pitching to a 3.93 xFIP and a 26.4% strikeout rate. He induced a 13.4% swinging-strike rate over the full season while yielding average contact marks. This year, Garcia’s strikeouts are down, as are the swinging strikes at just 10.2%, but he has walked fewer hitters, cutting his rate from 7.9% to 5.9% early in the year. The contact marks are up for opposing hitters this season, Garcia has yielded a concerning 41.7% hard-hit rate and a 13.3% barrel rate this year, allowing a 5.88% home run rate so far. Most of this is likely the product of small-sample bias. Garcia displayed premium talent throughout the season in 2021. While regression is always possible for a young pitcher, he has earned more leash, particularly in a matchup with a Detroit team that has a 29th-ranked .094 ISO and a league-worst 1.52% home run rate against righties this season. The Tigers have created runs 16% worse than average in the split and they strike out at a 24.3% clip. This is a fantastic spot for Garcia to put together a strong get-right performance, but he is projected for single-digit ownership at his $8,500 price on FanDuel. On DraftKings, more of the field is getting to the righty, who is priced down at just $7,400, but he remains easily in play.

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Boston Red Sox

Assuming this game plays, which seems fairly likely, the Red Sox will be in line for a potential upside game, if their bats can overcome the lousy conditions. The team will be facing Vince Velasquez, a pitcher who has long been targetable for premium contact and his reputation for allowing far too many baserunners. Velasquez threw 94.1 innings last season, pitching to a 4.98 xFIP with a 6.30 ERA and a 24.2% strikeout rate. The righty walked 11.8% of opposing hitters and had a 1.48 WHIP while yielding a 43.3% hard-hit percentage and 12.2% barrel rate. All of that premium contact turned into a 5.51% home run rate allowed. This season, Velasquez has made it through 17.2 innings in four outings, and he has a 24.1% strikeout rate and an 8.9% walk percentage with a 4.02 xFIP, a 4.58 ERA and a 6.23 xERA. Velasquez has yielded a titanic 47.2% hard-hit percentage with 92.1 mph of average exit velocity and a 15.1% barrel rate. This is a targetable pitcher against a very good lineup with plenty of power. The Red Sox will be popular, but they are worth getting to in combination with less-owned secondary stacks and pitchers. The lineup features premium bats including Trevor Story, who is dramatically underpriced at $3,200 on FanDuel and remains cheap for $4,800 on DraftKings. Rafael Devers is one of the leading candidates to hit a home run on this slate, while Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez bring plenty of thunder from the right side of the plate. Outfielders Alex Verdugo, Franchy Cordero and Jackie Bradley Jr. will throw some left-handed hitting at Velasquez, with varying degrees of quality-for-price considerations, while Christian Vazquez and Jarren Duran round out the projected lineup.

St. Louis Cardinals

With the Red Sox coming up popular, looking for low-owned quality to combine them with is key on this slate. The Cardinals are a strong lineup that struggles against right-handed pitching, but they deserve better than the less than 1% global ownership that the projected lineup is receiving. St. Louis is in San Francisco to face Alex Cobb, a veteran righty who has bounced between a quality starter and a target during his strange career. Cobb has made three starts and completed just 10 innings this season. He had a strong first outing, striking out 10 Padres hitters over five innings while giving up four hits and two runs. Cobb followed that outing with a 4.1 inning game that saw him give up a handful of runs and strike out four, then a disaster in which he didn’t get out of the first inning after yielding five runs on four hits and three walks, though only one of them was an earned run. Cobb has a 5.40 ERA and a 2.60 xFIP with a 1.48 xERA this season. Weird career indeed. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Cobb is yet to give up a home run, the main problem he has faced in seasons in which he struggles. Taking a shot with Cardinals bats that are entirely unowned seems worthwhile against a shaky starter, even with their struggles in the split. Hitters like Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill can be stacked in moderation for tournament play. Adding shares of rookie Juan Yepez and outfielders Harrison Bader and Dylan Carlson is a fine way to fill out stacks around the premium bats atop the lineup.

Houston Astros

The Astros land at the top of the board with the highest probability of leading the slate in scoring tonight, but they will be popular across both sites. With plenty of leverage available from a wide array of sources, it seems like a good night to roster some chalky bats in a high-quality situation. The elite Astros lineup has the sixth-best home run rate against right-handed pitching in baseball this season, and they have created runs 5% better than average. The team is drawing excellent marks for power, sequential hitting and run creation in a matchup against Tigers rookie Beau Brieske, who has two five-inning starts under his belt in the Show to this point. Brieske has faced 40 hitters and allowed three home runs in his 10 innings. He has a 3.60 ERA with a 5.23 xERA and a 5.50 xFIP and he has only struck out 15% of opposing hitters while walking 10%. The righty is a middling prospect who has not excelled at advanced levels in the minors. He had a 23.3% strikeout rate in double-A last year while pitching to a 4.37 xFIP. He is a major target with Astros bats this afternoon.

Leadoff hitter Jose Altuve is crushingly popular on both sites. Altuve is priced down to $2,900 on FanDuel and $4,500 on DraftKings, and he is pulling in nearly 30% popularity on the blue site and 20% across town. The second baseman is off to a scuffling start, slashing just .208/.321/.396 but he has hit three home runs and has created runs 20% better than average over his 56 plate appearances. Altuve can be skipped to immediately carve much of the popularity considerations out of an Astros stack, but he is well worth the weight of ownership on general talent and MLB DFS point-scoring upside, losing his correlated scoring would probably be a downgrade in end-of-night totals in most circumstances where this stack connects.

Michael Brantley is also cheap and he is not nearly as popular as Altuve. Brantley is a hit-tool specialist who is on base frequently and is always a strong correlation option. This season, Brantley is off to a .281/.326/.393 start with two home runs and he has created runs 15% better than average, following up a year where he slashed .311/.362/.437 while creating runs 23% better than average. Brantley is under-owned for his upside at just 8% on DraftKings and 10.8% on FanDuel, and he is an easy starting point to differentiate Astros stacks from the field.

Third baseman Alex Bregman is another Astros bat that has been priced down early in the season. Bregman is at $4,900 on DraftKings and $3,600 on FanDuel, and he is drawing mid-teens popularity on both sites. Bregman leads the projected lineup with 105 plate appearances this season. He has hit four home runs and created runs 37% better than average to this point, slashing .247/.343/.449 with a .202 ISO in the process. At a good price and fair ownership, Bregman is a strong option in the middle of Astros stacks tonight.

Star power hitter Yordan Alvarez is the leading option for power in the home run model today. The lefty-hitting outfielder has hit eight home runs in just 87 plate appearances this season while slashing .280/.379/.627 with a .347 ISO and creating runs 96% better than average. Alvarez has a strong hit tool and an acumen for getting on base that should not be overlooked, and he is both a strong individual play and a foundational correlation piece for this stack.

Yuli Gurriel is slashing just .212/.247/.341 to start the season after going .319/.383/.462 last year. Gurriel created runs 34% better than average in the heart of the Astros lineup in 2021, but he has slipped to 26% below average at the outset of this season. That is why he comes into this slate at an affordable price and low single-digit popularity across the industry. There is no reason not to target Gurriel when building Astros stacks, as he is a proven hitter facing a nothing pitcher.

Kyle Tucker had an explosive 2021, hitting 30 home runs and stealing 14 bases in his anticipated breakout after being the Astros top prospect. Tucker has made 103 plate appearances and he is slashing .250/.320/.424 with a .174 ISO to start this season. He has hit four home runs and created runs 21% better than average, his hard-hit percentage is down from 47% to just 41.7%, though he has maintained a barrel rate above 11%. Tucker comes in with just a $4,400 sticker on DraftKings and a $3,600 cost on FanDuel and he will be owned in the mid-teens, but he is highly playable in combination with lower owned options.

Outfielder Chas McCormick is featured in this space from time to time for his underrated acumen for making quality contact. McCormick hit 14 home runs in 320 plate appearances last year, building from a base of 48.7% hard-hit balls and a 10.2% barrel rate. This year those marks have slipped to 41.4% and 8.6%, which are fine but do not stand out from the average by much. McCormick has hit just one home run and he has a .139 ISO but he has created runs 15% better than average over his 79 plate appearances and he offers a cheap low-owned differentiation option from late in the lineup.

Jeremy Pena got off to a scorching start to his rookie year, but he is at a more realistic .233/.302/.500 now that he has stretched over 97 plate appearances. Pena still has an excellent .267 ISO and six home runs in the small sample, however. He arrived in the league fully formed and seems like a capable power bat on any given slate. Pena comes at a cheap price and low ownership. He functions better as an endcap to stacks than he does as a wraparound given the lack of hit tool and on-base upside.

The most likely catcher is right-handed Martin Maldonado who plays most days. Lefty Jason Castro would be the better bat to deploy in stacks, but neither is a priority even when stacking Astros where the position is required.

Home Run Prediction Today: Yordan Alvarez — Houston Astros

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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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