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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy & Home Run Picks Today 4/18/22

Terry McBride



A cold wet Monday of MLB DFS action has already cut one game from the main slate, with the Diamondbacks vs. Nationals game announcing an early rainout. There are several other weather situations to monitor around the league, but the interesting list of matchups provides plenty of strong options for lineup building across the fantasy baseball industry. The loaded Phillies are in spacious Coors Field with a game total that sits two runs higher than any other contest and three runs higher than the average total among those other matchups. Coors games are always ownership and leverage-based decisions, but there is no denying the appeal of the bats in that park today. The ability to roster Phillies and, to a lesser extent, Rockies, in a well-constructed stack, is a pricing exercise as well. Getting to the right combination of secondary bats and starting pitchers who are not also the same choices the entire field is making alongside their Phillies stacks is the trick. There are value options like the underappreciated Pirates or stacks like the expensive Astros that can offset popularity with their positive leverage, but it is difficult to stack the right Phillies and Astros in the same lineup. Cycling through a wide range of combinations has significant upside on a slate of this nature. The Coors Field decision will inform a good deal of a lineup build, but there are quality under-owned targets at the plate and on the mound who also warrant attention. Let’s take a deep dive into some of the best MLB DFS picks today for DraftKings and FanDuel MLB 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 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.

Home Run Ratings

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

Arizona Diamondbacks: PPD

Atlanta Braves: Adam Duvall — 8.63

Baltimore Orioles: Rougned Odor — 6.65

Chicago Cubs: Patrick Wisdom — 6.92

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto — 7.96

Colorado Rockies: Samuel Hilliard — 6.96

Houston Astros: Yordan Alvarez — 5.82

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 8.81

Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy — 9.53

New York Mets: Francisco Lindor — 4.90

Oakland Athletics: Sean Murphy — 10.93

Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins — 11.58

Pittsburgh Pirates: Michael Chavis — 7.69

San Diego Padres: Luke Voit — 10.62

San Francisco Giants: Joc Pederson — 10.89

Tampa Bay Rays: Brandon Lowe — 12.00

Washington Nationals: PPD

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

Monday’s weather is ugly on the East Coast. The Diamondbacks vs. Nationals game has already been postponed, so it should be removed from player pools entirely to avoid any errors. Rain is also threatening the Giants vs. Mets game. There appears to be just enough of a window before the heavier part of the storm arrives that they may be able to play. Awesemo currently has the game rated with a low probability of postponement, but that can change quickly with the radar. There are cool cloudy nights on the board in the midwest for the Pirates vs. Brewers and the Rays vs. Cubs games, while the final five games of the night will play in warmer temperatures. There is rain coming to the Oakland area, but it should be well after the Orioles vs. Athletics game is concluded. Players and stacks can be safely rostered from that game unless the news changes.

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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. 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.

On the Hill

The top of the Monday pitching board features some comfortable familiar names as teams turn over their rotations. The Athletics will have Frankie Montas on the mound against Baltimore in one of the slate’s later games in Oakland. Montas could serve as a strong play to make up ground in MLB DFS tournaments on DraftKings and FanDuel. He is joined near the top of the board by Clayton Kershaw, who flirted with unrealistic perfection in his most recent outing. Despite throwing seven perfect innings with 13 strikeouts in a dazzling performance, Kershaw was in no way prepared to throw the 100 or more pitches the effort would have required. Non-quixotic manager Dave Roberts recognized the futility and potential risk of the situation and pulled Kershaw at the appropriate point. He will do so again tonight in a much more difficult matchup. Padres lefty Sean Manaea will be facing the Reds in San Diego at a fair price and significant popularity, but he is a quality option among the top few. Aaron Nola, on the other hand, is more of a risk pitching in Coors Field. For those willing to take on the potential downside, Nola is an excellent right-handed starter who is more than capable of holding down this Rockies lineup, even in this park. He will be rostered at a fraction of his probability of being a top pitcher on both DraftKings and FanDuel tonight. The quality on the mound continues with Houston’s Luis Garcia, who will be looking to extend his pitch count and get his season in gear against the high-strikeout Angels, a lineup that will likely be without superstar Mike Trout. Options like Nick LodoloEric LauerShane McClanahan and Alex Cobb create a fair midrange on DraftKings. Only Lauer is at negative leverage.

As matchups go, Montas is the best pitcher in the best situation, facing the Orioles lineup in the pitcher-friendly RingCentral Coliseum. Oakland’s cavernous ballpark is home to gigantic swaths of foul ground that help a pitcher, not that Montas needs much of a boost against a Baltimore active roster that had a 25.2% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching last season and is at a 25.3% mark early in 2022. The current Orioles roster compiled a respectable .173 ISO that ranked 14th and they hit home runs at a 3.42% clip for a 13th-ranked landing in the split, but they still created runs four percent below average against righties in 2021, putting them 23rd among the 30 teams on the board. Montas is making his third start of the season and has thrown 11.1 innings over his first two outings, striking out 25.5% of opposing hitters. Last year, Montas was a strong option for the Athletics and for MLB DFS gamers. He made 32 starts and pitched to an effective 3.64 xFIP with a 1.18 WHIP and a 26.6% strikeout rate. The righty induced a strong 13.7% swinging-strike rate with a 29.2% CSW%. Montas’ quality of contact metrics could look better. He allowed an aggressive 42.2% hard-hit percentage with an 11.6-degree average launch angle and an 8.7% barrel rate, but that turned into just a 2.57% home run rate against and a .404 xSLG against. Montas tops Awesemo’s pitching board by his probability of success on both DraftKings and FanDuel, but he is extremely popular. The Oakland righty will be more than 50% owned on DraftKings and he is at a 25% ownership projection on FanDuel that more than doubles his probability of being the top option on the blue site. Montas needs to deliver a strong score and with under-owned options like Kershaw on the board, it is difficult to recommend pressing exposure beyond the public marks, but Montas is certainly worth at least that many shares.

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Discussions over his near perfection aside, Kershaw’s first start of 2021 was nothing short of fantastic. The lefty racked up 13 strikeouts in sitting down every Twins hitter he faced. While Kershaw is 34 years old this season, there will always be question marks about the durability and depth, but rumors of his downfall have been greatly exaggerated over time as well. When he is active and particularly when he is fresh-armed to start the season, the southpaw remains as good as anyone in the game and far better than most. Kershaw made it through only 121.2 innings in his 22 starts last season and has not reached 180 innings in a season since 2015. In that sample, however, he was as good as ever. He had a 29.5% strikeout rate with a microscopic 4.3% walk rate, a 2.87 xFIP and a 1.02 WHIP. Kershaw still induced swinging strikes at a 16.6% rate and he had a 32.6% CSW%. Hitters struggle for premium contact against the excellent lefty, as he allowed a 6.9% barrel rate and a 36.9% hard-hit percentage last season, but he will be facing a mighty Braves lineup that feasts on the bones of left-handed starters of any caliber. Atlanta’s active roster had a .213 ISO against lefties last season, the second-highest mark in baseball, and they hit home runs at a whopping 4.43% rate in the split, also the second-best mark in the league. Atlanta struck out at just a 21.1% rate in the split and they created runs better than all but eight teams in the league with a WRC+ 10% above average. Kershaw ranks second on the board on DraftKings and third on FanDuel. He is no doubt capable of dominating this lineup as much as any other, but their ability to cut strikeouts out of the equation against lefties cannot be overstated. Kershaw has his work cut out for him in this spot. On the blue site, the fear of Atlanta and Kershaw’s $11,000 price tag is keeping his ownership to just half of his probability of being the top option, even in a difficult matchup that is worth targeting. The lefty comes at $10,300 on DraftKings and his ownership total slightly outpaces his probability of being a top-2 option, making him a playable but not fantastic option for MLB DFS tournaments.

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Padres lefty Manaea looks like the third-best option by Awesemo’s probability of success projections, but he is drawing ownership beyond that potential on both sites. Manaea will be facing the Reds in San Diego, another pitcher-friendly environment that should benefit the starter. Cincinnati’s active roster will also help in that department. The Reds compiled a .144 ISO and a 2.82% home run rate in the split last season, which would have been the 29th and 26th best marks in baseball. The team’s strikeout rate against lefties was an aggregated 22.9%, good for 18th-best, and they created runs 15% worse than average. The team is not out to a strong start in a very small sample against lefties so far this year, striking out at a 28.2% rate with a .098 ISO. They have created runs 52% worse than average by collective WRC+ in the small 2022 sample, but that number will certainly normalize over more time. Manaea had a strong season for the Athletics last year, as he made 32 starts and struck out hitters at a 25.7% clip. The lefty pitched to a 3.62 xFIP and a 1.23 WHIP while inducing a 12.3% swinging-strike rate. Like Montas, Manaea allowed too much premium contact. Opposing hitters generated a 41.2% hard-hit rate and barreled the ball eight percent of the time with a 90.2 mph average exit velocity against, yielding a .419 xSLG for the season. Manaea should not have to worry much against this hapless Reds lineup, however, there is plenty of strikeout upside and very little power threat in the split. The lefty will be owned at a rate twice his probability of success on FanDuel and at a more efficient but still technically negatively leveraged mark on DraftKings. Regardless, he should be included in a wide range of MLB DFS lineup constructions. Undercutting Manaea’s public ownership slightly and dedicating lineup shares to under-owned options like Nola in Coors Field is an interesting approach to tonight’s MLB DFS tournament slate.

The Rockies’ active roster struck out at a 22.1% rate against righties last season, a good mark that would have been good for 12th best in baseball. They compiled a .175 ISO that ranks 13th on that list but their home run rate sits at a 17th-ranked 3.27% and they created runs an abysmal 11% below average by collective WRC+, the second-worst mark in the league. Nola threw 180.2 innings over 32 sharp starts, posting a 3.37 xFIP and  1.13 WHIP with a 29.8% strikeout rate. He will be dealing with the environmental and park dimension factors in Coors Field all night, but he has a good chance to hold this lineup’s run creation down if he does not get unlucky. As a $9,500 option on FanDuel, Nola is drawing just a 1.9% ownership projection against a 7.7% probability of being the top pitcher. By contrast, Manaea has an 8.1% chance of being the top pitcher but he is projected for a 17.4% ownership rate, and Montas’ top-ranked probability is just 9.6% against his 24.5% popularity. By any MLB DFS game theory measure, Nola is a strong FanDuel MLB DFS pick. The excellent righty is in a very similar situation on the DraftKings slate, where he costs $9,900 and has an 18.1% chance of landing as a top-two starter but will be drawing just a 4.7% ownership mark. On that site, Montas tops the board for $7,300, allowing him to be combined with another expensive premium option as a defacto SP2. The Oakland righty has a 24.6% chance of being a top-two starter but he is owned at a 57.4% rate. Kershaw and Manaea sit between Montas and Nola on the board. The lefties each have essentially a 20% probability of landing as a top-two pitcher with roughly a 25% ownership mark. Nola stands out for his lack of popularity despite the difficult pitching environment.

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Coors Field

New week, the same old situation in Colorado. The cavernous ballpark just brings out the offense and tonight’s game is pulling in a game total on the Vegas board that sits two runs above the next-highest mark and three runs above the average total of all the other games on the slate. Despite the opportunity for Nola from a game theory perspective, bats from both sides are in consideration for this slate. Philadelphia and Colorado are the top two stacks on both sites, with the Phillies landing as the slate’s best stack nearly 25% of the time. The loaded lineup will be negatively leveraged on both sites, as they are pushing nearly 30% team popularity on the blue site and a 22.6% mark on DraftKings. Everyone in the Phillies’ lineup is projected for 14% ownership or higher on DraftKings. Jean Segura is the team’s lowest-owned hitter at 14.6%. He checks in at 13.3% on FanDuel, slightly higher than the 8.1% at which projected nine hitter Simon Muzziotti comes in, but everyone else on the team bounces into the mid-to-high 20% range, with Bryce Harper topping out at a 42.2% popularity mark on FanDuel. Harper is projected for a 33.3% ownership rate on DraftKings, right in line with the marks for JT Realmuto and Nick Castellanos, and slightly more than the similarly excellent Rhys Hoskins and Kyle Schwarber. That stack is comprised of hitters who are both extremely expensive and extremely popular. The first five hitters in the Phillies’ lineup have an average ownership projection of 24% at an average salary of $5,700 on DraftKings.

The Rockies, meanwhile, will be owned mostly in the single-digits on the DraftKings slate. They will be facing a quality pitcher in Nola and they are awful at creating runs against right-handed pitching, but the general lack of popularity on hitters including C.J. CronRyan McMahonBrendan RodgersCharlie Blackmon, and to a lesser extent the more popular Connor Joe and Kris Bryant, is at least intriguing for some targeted lineups. When rostering shares of Nola it would make sense to draw a few insurance policies comprised of Rockies stacks in other lineups, getting to the lower-owned options is a good way to get further afield from the public. By contrast, the top five hitters in the Rockies’ projected lineup come at a $4,150 average salary on DraftKings with an average ownership projection of just 10.1%. Colorado is technically at negative leverage as the number two stack by probability on DraftKings, but they are highly playable with the individual marks. The stack ranks second by their probability of success on FanDuel as well, but they are pulling in an excellent 5.3 leverage score, making them a strong target in lineups that do not use Nola on the mound.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have been mentioned as a frisky team in the National League Season Preview, and in this space a few times early in the season, and they have delivered in small ways. The team ranks 18th in runs scored, but they sit just five runs behind ninth-ranked San Diego despite making 83 fewer plate appearances. No one is here to argue that this is a good baseball team, nor that this is a good lineup from top to bottom, but in the small sample so far this year, the Pirates have created runs three percent better than average overall. Pittsburgh is on the board as a potential positively leveraged value stack on both sites, and they are a direct attack on the popularity of Brewers lefty Lauer, who is drawing a 20% ownership projection against just a 7.8% probability of success on FanDuel and an 18.4% ownership mark against a 14.7% chance of being a top-two starter on DraftKings. Lauer certainly could deliver against this lineup tonight, but the top end of the Pirates lineup is worth consideration, particularly if Michael Chavis gets the platoon start once again. Chavis has an underrated bat. He is a former first-round pick of Pirates general manager Ben Cherington in the Boston system and Cherington brought him to Pittsburgh in a trade last year. Chavis will see more opportunities as the season continues. He was limited to a bench role after a cool spring, with the team choosing to deploy him against lefties. Chavis has raked in the opportunity so far. The small sample has him at a hilarious .500/.556/.875 triple-slash with a .375 ISO and he has created runs 194% better than average in what is obviously a joke of a sample at just 18 plate appearances. The important thing to remember about Chavis is that he has a long-term prospect pedigree and a Major League season of 382 plate appearances in which he hit 18 home runs for Boston in 2019. Chavis should be in the lineup every day, but hopefully, fans get him hitting third again today at a minimum. He should be joined atop the lineup by quality options including Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds, both of whom are too cheap and under-owned on both DraftKings and FanDuel. How a player of Reynolds’ quality costs just $2,900 on FanDuel is anyone’s guess. Yoshi Tsutsugo adds a dash of power in the middle and Diego Castillo had a white-hot spring but has mostly scuffled in regular action, and things trail off somewhat from there. Outfielders Ben Gamel and Jake Marisnick should round out the lineup with Andrew Knapp catching and whichever of the low-end infielders makes the cut between Kevin NewmanCole Tucker or others. Pittsburgh is not a stack to get extremely excited about as expectations should be tempered, but this top-end is worth pressing somewhat beyond the field on this slate, which is very easy to achieve.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The loaded Los Angeles Dodgers lineup lands in an interesting spot on the Top Stacks Tool today. The Dodgers are facing Braves righty Huascar Ynoa, who had a strong 26.9% strikeout rate with a sharp 13.2% swinging-strike rate last season, but also allowed a 43.2% hard-hit percentage and a 9.1% barrel rate with a 90.7 mph exit velocity on the average. Ynoa is talented but targetable, and the Dodgers are not drawing enough popularity. Los Angeles ranks third on DraftKings with an eight percent probability of being the top stack and just a 6.7% team ownership projection. They are at negligibly negative leverage on the FanDuel slate, but with just a 10.6% team popularity mark they can be deployed advantageously as all eyes are drawn toward Coors Field instead.

Superstar Mookie Betts is last year’s news in Los Angeles after the team’s free agency splash this offseason, which may serve Betts well from a narrative perspective. The outfielder never exactly found his form in his first season in Los Angeles, posting a .264/.367/.487 triple-slash with a .223 ISO while creating runs 31% better than average. That is Betts’ version of a down year. Betts has amazing MLB DFS point-scoring upside. He remains one of baseball’s leading talents and he is cheap on FanDuel at just $3,800, which leads to an 18.4% ownership projection. Betts costs $5,300 on DraftKings, where he will be owned at less than 10%, just like the rest of the Dodgers lineup. The outfielder can be rostered on either site, but he is a stronger play as a low-owned DraftKings pay-up.

This year’s big score in free agency, left-handed first baseman Freddie Freeman, should be hitting second behind Betts. Freeman has had a spectacular and consistent career. He slashed .300/.393/.503 over 695 plate appearances for the Braves last year, posting a .203 ISO with 31 home runs while creating runs 35% better than average. Freeman makes excellent contact. He had an 11.5% barrel rate and a 45.7% hard-hit percentage last year, but he is also very good at drawing walks and limiting strikeouts. Freeman’s 15.4% strikeout rate and 12.4% walk rate are nearly identical to the 15.6% and 12.4% posted by Betts last season. They are a borderline unfair one-two punch atop a lineup.

Infielder Trea Turner is yet another All-Star caliber bat in this lineup. Turner continues the theme of putting the ball in play, as he had just a 17% strikeout rate last year and walked in just 6.3% of his plate appearances. The speedy infielder has multi-position eligibility in the middle of the diamond and is drawing a 9.7% popularity mark for $5,800 on DraftKings, the team’s most popular hitter on the site. He is also the most popular Dodgers hitter at 20.7% for just $3,900 on FanDuel. Turner hit 28 home runs and stole 32 bases in 646 plate appearances last season, making him fantasy gold.

Max Muncy is inexpensive for his talent. He costs just $4,800 on DraftKings and $3,400 on FanDuel, and he checks in at 6.9% and 12.5% popularity respectively. Muncy had a team-leading .278 ISO with 36 home runs in 592 plate appearances last season and he created runs 40% better than average, rendering his current pricing highly questionable. He is the first hitter in this lineup to strike out more than 20% of the time, but at 20.3% he is still very good at limiting the swing-and-miss. Muncy also walked in 14% of his plate appearances last season while racking up a 16.1% barrel rate and a 46.3% hard-hit mark. At the inexpensive asking prices and low popularity marks, Muncy is immediately targetable for power in Dodgers stacks across the MLB DFS industry.

Veteran third baseman Justin Turner gets back on theme with just a 16% strikeout rate over 612 plate appearances last season. He showed very few indications of any type of slowdown and played 151 games, posting a .278/.361/.471 triple-slash with a .193 ISO while creating runs 27% better than average and 27 home runs. Turner is rarely popular enough for his talent, he is in the middle single digits in popularity on both sites despite being underpriced.

Catcher Will Smith can be deployed whether site rules require the position or not. Smith made 501 plate appearances and hit 25 home runs with a .237 ISO last year, making him easily one of baseball’s deadliest backstop bats. Smith created runs 30% better than average with a 10.8% barrel rate and a 43.8% hard-hit percentage. He is another of the “bad” strikeout guys in this lineup, at a 20.2% rate that is still better than average. Smith walked in 11.6% of his plate appearances last season. He is yet another Dodgers bat who is simply spectacular at getting on base. The catcher can be rostered on all sites in all formats.

Bellinger was a .267/.352/.581 hitter with a .315 ISO and 39 home runs in 548 opportunities in 2017, a .260/.343/.470 hitter with a .210 ISO and 25 home runs in 632 plate appearances in 2018 and an MVP-winning .305/.406/.629 hitter with a .324 ISO and 47 home runs in 660 plate appearances in 2019. Either the body snatchers pulled a fast one in Los Angeles, or something inexplicable is happening with Bellinger, who has hit just 22 home runs in 593 combined plate appearances in 2020 and 2021. The slugger dropped to a .239/.333/.455 slash with a .216 ISO and 12 home runs in 243 plate appearances in a reasonable season in the short 2020, but fell off the face of the Earth in 2021, plummeting to a .165/.240/.302 with a .137 ISO and 10 home runs in 350 tries. Bellinger’s return to form is still worth betting on. There is far more evidence that he is a superstar than of him being well below replacement level. Bellinger is cheap and low-owned at the back of the lineup, so he can still be utilized in Dodgers stacks.

Chris Taylor is an excellent utility man who has a more regular role this season. Taylor slashed .254/.344/.438 while creating runs 14% better than average in 582 plate appearances last year. He is a higher-strikeout bat in the back of this lineup. Taylor had a 28.7% strikeout rate and a 10.8% walk rate with a 10.2% barrel rate last season and he hit 20 home runs. The inexpensive bat has underappreciated quality and positional flexibility. He is worth utilizing in Dodgers stacks and can help with combinations of the more premium options.

The final name in the projected lineup is Gavin Lux, who has seen the biggest boost in playing time since the team sent A.J. Pollock to the White Sox at the outset of the season. Lux is a premium prospect getting his first full chance after scuffling somewhat in a part-time role last year. Lux made 381 plate appearances and hit seven home runs with four stolen bases while slashing .242/.328/.364 last year. Over his first 33 plate appearances of 2022, he is slashing .320/.455/.560 with a .240 ISO, a home run and a pair of stolen bases. Lux has questions left to answer, but the strong start is good to see. He serves as an interesting wraparound play at low ownership and popularity, particularly with the on-base and speed combination he brings to the lineup.

Home Run Prediction Today: Brandon Belt — San Francisco Giants

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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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