A seven-game Saturday slate may seem small by comparison to last night’s monster affair, but the board is loaded with talent on the mound and at the plate. The board includes a handful of premium pitchers, with a fairly unreliable middle and low end, and a bevy of big bats. The slate seems likely to swing on offense once again, a few of the team’s standout lineups are showing excellent ratings in the power index, and there are targetable weak pitchers to target. The slate also includes a Coors Field game that will once again be popular and under-priced with the visiting Reds’ league-worst lineup carrying an average price point of just $2,800 on the DraftKings slate and $3,200 on FanDuel. The cheap bats provide a clear but well-trod path to the top-end aces, though the ownership and leverage will be worth watching through the day. Every Coors Field slate comes with the consideration of undercutting the popularity in favor of a more broad spread in MLB DFS lineup construction.
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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.
Home Run Ratings
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Scale: 5-10 Average; 10-20 Good; 20-25 Very Good; 25+ Great
Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr. — 10.05
Baltimore Orioles: Anthony Santander — 6.91
Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 15.05
Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ — 6.80
Cincinnati Reds: Tommy Pham — 6.83
Colorado Rockies: Samuel Hilliard — 6.48
Detroit Tigers: Austin Meadows — 7.28
Kansas City Royals: Andrew Benintendi — 5.98
Los Angeles Dodgers: Cody Bellinger — 22.21
Milwaukee Brewers: Keston Hiura — 7.75
New York Mets: Mark Canha — 4.05
New York Yankees: Josh Donaldson — 6.91
Philadelphia Phillies: Kyle Schwarber — 11.79
Texas Rangers: Mitch Garver — 5.02
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.
MLB DFS Weather Update: Postponements & Risk Assessment
The only blip on the weather radar for tonight’s slate comes in Milwaukee, where a roof is available, there should be no concerns about postponements or in-game delays. Hitting conditions are improving with higher temperatures, which should lead to a fair amount of offense against some of the slate’s targetable pitchers.
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
Tonight’s pitching slate features a pair of aces in Clayton Kershaw and Gerrit Cole, who will bookend the evening with premium talent. If we were to continue the poker analogy, righties Nathan Eovaldi and Kyle Gibson would be something akin to a middle pair, while the remaining options make up a rainbow of low-end draws. The prospects around names like Eric Lauer are rarely exciting, but the lefty is facing a relatively weak Cubs lineup, while Taijuan Walker will be challenged by the power-packed Phillies while also being limited to around 70 pitches or five innings. Walker is drawing positive leverage on both sites, but he seems less than likely to have enough leash to put up a true ceiling score. Dane Dunning has real-world talent, but he is an underwhelming MLB DFS option and could be in trouble in a start against the mighty Braves, who will have their superstar atop the lineup once again tonight. With a top-heavy pitching board and extremely limited expectations of ceiling performances from any of the middling options, creating a tight pool of pitching and focusing on getting different with bats seems like a sturdy approach.
Among the top-five starters on the board, only Kyle Gibson comes at low raw ownership and positive leverage. The Phillies veteran right-hander will be facing the excellent Mets lineup, which could be problematic for his upside, but the matchup and his $9,100 salary have only 6.4% of the public projected to include him in DraftKings lineups. Gibson has a 12.9% probability of being one of the top-2 starters on the site, making him a solid target for tournament pitching shares on the site. Gibson also ranks fifth on FanDuel, where he has an 8.8% probability of landing as the best pitcher against just a 5.7% popularity projection. Gibson has made four starts this season, completing 23.1 innings and pitching to a 3.47 ERA and a crisp 2.92 xFIP with a 25.6% strikeout rate. Gibson has yielded just a 26.7% hard-hit percentage so far this season, which represents a major improvement from the 39.1% rate at which he allowed premium contact last season. Gibson struck out fewer hitters in his 30 starts last year as well, he managed just a 20.6% rate in the extended sample, inducing just a 10.3% swinging-strike rate. Against a Mets team that sits second-best in baseball with a 19.6% strikeout rate against righties this season while creating runs 30% better than average, Gibson could be in a tough spot. Still, with the strong positive leverage, it makes good sense to get beyond the field on the capable righty in MLB DFS lineups on both DraftKings and FanDuel, he does not have to succeed often to make it a winning play with consistent process.
The remaining viable pitchers on the slate all come with significant popularity and negative leverage, the bottom of the board is extremely thin on upside nad seems unlikely to reach ceiling scores that would rival even just a good game from one of the premium pitchers. Milwaukee’s Eric Lauer is at an inflated $9,200 on FanDuel and $9,600 on DraftKings, but he is a top-three probability option on the Top Pitchers Tool on both sites. Lauer is facing a Cubs active roster that sits 10th with a 20.9% strikeout rate and has created runs six percent better than average so far this season against left-handed pitching. The Cubs’ active roster compiled a 3.62% home run rate against lefties in last season’s numbers, but they would have been worst in baseball with a 26% aggregate strikeout rate in the split. Lauer has been impressive over the first 16.1 innings of his season in three starts. The lefty has a 2.69 xFIP that supports the quality of his 2.20 ERA and he has struck out an impressive 34.3% of opposing hitters. That number is very likely to come down, Lauer was a 23.9% strikeout pitcher last season and he has a 22% career rate over 407.2 Major League innings. Still, the lefty is just 26-years-old, and the notion of growth is not entirely out of the question. Lauer is showing slightly more velocity on his fastball and improvement on his breaking stuff while limiting the use of his changeup so far this season to good effect. He is an efficiently owned option from near the top of the board on both sites, the public will own Lauer to almost exactly the same level as his probability of being the best pitcher on FanDuel or a top-2 option on DraftKings. Utilizing the southpaw to a similar degree of exposure, or even a little beyond the public’s range seems like a fine approach to rostering the thin pitching slate.
Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi costs just $8,500 on FanDuel, where he ranks second overall by his probability of being the top starter. Eovaldi’s 25.3% projected ownership is also the second-highest number on the pitching slate for the blue site, he will be owned at nearly double the rate at which he will be the best pitcher. The righty is an $8,700 option with similar metrics on the DraftKings board, he ranks fourth overall with a 26.9% probability of being a top-2 starter but he will be owned in 41% of the public’s lineups. Eovaldi is a major inflection point on the slate, he is drawing significant attention as the least expensive option from the upper range of available starters. The Red Sox righty even has a quality matchup, Eovaldi is facing an Orioles active roster that had a 25.2% compiled strikeout rate against right-handed pitching last season, the 27th-ranked rate in the sport. Baltimore created runs four percent below average in the split as a combined roster last year, and they are out to a worse start so far this year. The Orioles’ active roster has created runs nine percent worse than average while striking out 25.1% of the time against right-handed pitching so far this season. Eovaldi, meanwhile, has had a sharp start to his season. The righty has a 27% strikeout rate and a 3.4% walk percentage, both in line with his 25.5% and 4.6% from last year as well as the 26.1% and 3.5% rates from the short 2020 season. Eovaldi has found consistency and quality in Boston, he is a strong third starter in a contending rotation, and he is of the caliber of a top starter for a lower-end team. The veteran has a 2.82 xFIP that sits a half-run below his 3.32 ERA so far this season and he was at a 3.48 xFIP over 182.1 innings last year, Eovaldi is a strong option against this team, but the weight of public popularity has to be considered when utilizing him in MLB DFS lineups.
New York’s Gerrit Cole is arguably underpriced for his talent at $10,000 on DraftKings and $9,800 on FanDuel, but he has had struggles early in the season and he is facing a Royals lineup that does not easily yield strikeouts. Kansas City’s active roster is second-best in baseball with a 19.1% strikeout rate against righties this season and they had a compiled 21.2% rate last year. The Royals are non-threatening otherwise, they are a hit-tool focused team that can base hit their way to success, they have speed but only minor power outside of the always dangerous Sal Perez. This year the active roster has created runs 16% worse than average with just a .119 ISO against righties, this is not a very good offense. Cole has thrown 18 innings in four starts, putting together a serviceable 4.00 ERA and a 3.50 xFIP that are not nearly good enough for what is expected from him. The righty ace had a 2.93 xFIP and a 3.23 ERA with a 33.5% strikeout rate over his 181.1 innings in 2021, but he has not reached that form so far in 2022. This year he is at just a 28.4% strikeout rate and his walks have leaped from 5.6% to 10.8% in the small sample. Cole did look more like himself in his last outing, tossing 6.2 innings of shutout ball while striking out nine Guardians hitters. The righty has massive upside on any given slate, he is one of the game’s better options for ceiling scores on the mound when all is going well, and his 16.8% ownership on FanDuel is easily playable while getting different with stacks. The righty is projected for nearly 40% popularity on DraftKings, where he remains one of the most likely options to be a top-2 starter. Getting to shares at or slightly below the field seems like a fine approach on the two-pitcher site, where a variety of mound combinations are in play from the top of the board.
When he is on the mound, 34-year-old southpaw Clayton Kershaw remains elite. The veteran has been one of baseball’s absolute best throughout his entire career, he has a sterling 2.49 ERA and a 2.97 xFIP over his 2,471 innings in 379 career outings. Kershaw has racked up a 27.7% strikeout rate for his career and he has been between 26.8% and last year’s 29.5% for the past three seasons. So far this year, the southpaw has an outrageous 37.7% strikeout rate and he is yet to walk a hitter in 17 innings over three starts. Kershaw has a 2.65 ERA and a 1.72 xFIP and he has allowed merely a 24.3% hard-hit percentage this year. He is outstanding in any format and he should be relatively stretched out with expectations of 90 or more pitches as-needed. Kershaw is facing a Tigers team that compiled a 23.7% strikeout rate against lefties last year though they did create runs six percent better than average in the split. Detroit is 19th so far this year with a 24.3% strikeout rate and they have a meager .068 ISO so far against lefties, but they have still managed to create runs eight percent better than average by WRC+. With strikeouts available and a general lack of power upside, Kershaw should be a safe option to get through a pesky lineup several times while compiling a strong MLB DFS score. The Dodgers lineup looks like an explosive source of offense on this slate as well, pushing the lefty’s odds of grabbing a win bonus, his talent should take him to the quality start as well, where it is relevant. Kershaw has better than a 40% chance of being a top-2 starter on DraftKings tonight, where he will be in nearly 60% of lineups. On the single-pitcher blue site, Kershaw is pulling in nearly 30% popularity, more than 12 percentage points ahead of his probability of being the top option, while also landing at a price $700 above Cole. If other starters begin to draw shares and Kershaw’s ownership dips in later updates he will only become more interesting, this is very good chalk on a short pitching slate.
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In something of a re-hash of yesterday’s configuration, the Reds come into today’s slate as extreme value plays from site to site. The team was widely discussed as the top value spot in all of baseball on last night’s 13-game slate, they are priced far too low for a game at Coors Field, regardless of their current-year performance. The Reds underwhelmed last night, posting just four runs while the opposing Rockies – who were recommended nearly universally in Awesemo tools and content yesterday – posted 10 runs at lower popularity. The popular Reds lineup is drawing similar attention from an undaunted field today, the top four hitters are each projected for more than 30% individual ownership while the back end hitters land in the mid-20s to high teens. The situation has a bit more flexibility with lower individual ownership on the FanDuel slate, but the stack will be a very popular option on the blue site as well. The Reds are facing a weak righty in Chad Kuhl, but the team’s active roster is 26% worse than average crating runs with just a .124 ISO and a 24.3% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching so far this season. Kuhl has managed a 1.10 ERA with a revealing 4.07 xFIP so far this season, he is not a good pitcher and he has just a 21% strikeout rate with an inflated 11.3% walk percentage in this year’s small sample. Unfortunately for Kuhl and the Rockies, those numbers are very much in line with the 21.5% and 12% he posted in 80.1 innings in 2021 and the 20.8% and 10.3% marks he has for his 456-inning career. Even the lowly Reds can get to this pitcher in this park, the active roster was better against righties in last year’s numbers, particularly for home runs, but most of the field will be with them, Cincinnati is at one of the season’s worst leverage scores on the DraftKings slate, they are more efficiently owned but still at a firm negative leverage number on FanDuel. When choosing Reds bats, the popular options include Jonathan India, Tyler Naquin, Tommy Pham, and Joey Votto. At $2,000, Mike Moustakas is drawing significant attention as a pure power upside option, while Colin Moran is possibly sneaky, as much as a 12% owned player can be sneaky on a seven-game slate.
The Rockies top the board at efficient ownership on both sites, despite the absence of Kris Bryant, who was placed on the IL with back soreness yesterday. Colorado is popular but playable, the go-to bats from their team include ludicrously powerful C.J. Cron, who remains one of the most expensive plays at first base on FanDuel in the cleanup spot for Colorado. Cron had an 11.5% barrel rate and a 42% hard-hit percentage last season, he has a .364 ISO with a ridiculous seven home runs already this season. Surrounding the power hitter is a good variety of options including Connor Joe who has a .241 ISO and is slashing .278/.352/.519 while creating runs 37% better than average over his first 88 plate appearances, and power-hitting righty Randal Grichuck. Lefty Charlie Blackmon has hit four home runs in a .257/.325/.486 start to the season. The veteran outfielder has a .229 ISO and a 120 WRC+ to start the year in a nice return to form. Ryan McMahon adds lefty power to the middle of the lineup on the other side of Cron, while Samuel Hilliard can do the same thing at less popularity and lower probability. The remainder of bats in this lineup act as filler, they can provide low cost position and price offsets as needed.
New York Yankees
This is your daily reminder that this is not a fixture piece in this article, if the Yankees were more popular they would not stand out nearly as much as they do against middling Royals righty Carlos Hernandez tonight. Hernandez has yielded a 12.7% barrel rate and a 40% hard-hit percentage so far this season, he has an 8.8% barrel rate and a 40.2% hard-hit for his short career, and he is facing a Yankees lineup that has created runs 20% above average against righties so far this season. The Yankees stand out atop the board from third place on both sites because their team ownership is in the single-digits on both DraftKings and FanDuel. The Yankees are the top option for a leverage stack on both sites tonight, a night after hitting four home runs in the midst of a tear that seems likely to last through much of the season in some form. The names in the lineup are obvious, with starts like Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge soaking up popularity, while lefty Anthony Rizzo should see significant attention as well. Joey Gallo remains dramatically underpriced for his upside, he is not popular enough from later in the lineup, nor are Josh Donaldson and Gleyber Torres. The Yankees are a prime stack once again tonight, tedious as that news may be for some MLB FDS gamers.
New York Mets
On the other side of the Gibson game, the Mets lineup looks like a juicy spot for rostering bats. While Gibson has been good with premium contact so far this year, his 39.1% hard-hit percentage and 4.14 xFIP last year are telling. Gibson is a lower-end strikeout pitcher who has a propensity for pitching to contact and allowing too many walks in the process. The righty had a 1.22 WHIP and an 8.5% walk rate last year, and he has an 8.4% walk rate with a 1.38 WHIP for his career. The Mets active roster has been excellent at keeping the ball in play and creating runs against right-handed pitching so far this season, but they have just a .143 ISO and a 2.52% home run rate in the split so far. The team is ranked in the bottom half of the top stacks tool, but they are one of the few sources of both positive leverage and star power, making them interesting for tournaments. The projected New York lineup has no player at even two percent public popularity on either site tonight, which is rarely true for a lineup that includes names like Starling Marte, Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, or even Brandon Nimmo and Eduardo Escobar. That five-man stack is an excellent play on its own, while the back of the Mets lineup can provide quality in the form of Mark Canha and Jeff McNeill. The Mets are under-owned and easy to roster on the FanDuel slate, they should be considered for tournaments across the industry despite the hefty prices on the top five hitters on DraftKings.
While the Dodgers are rather obviously bashing their way to the top of the power index, the team is negatively leveraged on both sites and they rank similarly to the Braves across the board. Atlanta is a positively leveraged play on both DraftKings and FanDuel, they rank fifth, one spot ahead of the Dodgers on DraftKings, and sit sixth just behind loaded Los Angeles on the blue site. The Braves are equally talented, particularly with the return of their superstar to the top of the lineup. The team will be facing Dane Dunning, a quality young righty who is likely overmatched in this spot. Dunning had a 22.3% strikeout rate over 117.2 innings last season but he allowed an 8.1% barrel rate and a 43.5% hard-hit percentage albeit with just a 6.8-degree average launch angle. So far this season, Dunning has struck out 22.6% of hitters but his walks have jumped from an already high 8.4% to 9.5% and he has yielded a 46.4% hard-hit rate so far. Dunning is facing an Atlanta lineup that is excellent for power in the split, he may find a bonus strikeout or two but the Braves seem a likely source of home run and MLB DFS point-scoring upside for fair pricing and reasonable popularity.
It has been far too long since superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. has been on a main slate. The MVP-caliber star exited last season with a devastating injury after hitting 24 home runs and stealing 17 bases while slashing .283/.394/.596 atop the Atlanta lineup over his first 360 plate appearances. Acuna was carrying a titanic .313 ISO and creating runs 57% better than average when he was injured, he had a 20.3% barrel rate and a 53.9% hard-hit percentage. The multi-category star is playable in all situations on every slate for the rest of the season. He costs $6,000 on DraftKings and is still drawing a 12.9% ownership share that probably plays better in stacks than as a one-off. On FanDuel, Acuna has a $3,800 salary and nearly 25% popularity. Not one of the remaining Braves bats is projected above 10% ownership on either site. Acuna is an excellent piece of Braves stacks, he should not be skipped in many configurations regardless of the weight of ownership.
Matt Olson costs $5,100 on DraftKings and $3,800 on FanDuel and he is pulling less than nine percent ownership on both sites. Olson is now slashing .308/.415/.600 with a .192 ISO and two home runs to start his Atlanta career. While the power is not fully in place so far, he is still creating runs 60% better than average by WRC+ and now he is hitting behind Acuna. This is an excellent run-producing bat at a good price in a great spot, he should be more popular. Or, are we forgetting the hitter who destroyed 39 home runs and had a .269 ISO last season?
Third baseman Austin Riley has a 56.9% hard-hit percentage and a 15.5% barrel rate so far this season. Last year he had a 45.6% and a 13.3% mark, both already excellent rates for a player who had a breakout year in slashing .303/.367/.531 with 33 home runs over 662 plate appearances. Riley is defying critics by getting better in most areas so far this year, he already has hit six home runs and he has a massive .321 ISO while creating runs 75% better than average in his small sample of 89 plate appearances in 2022. The 25-year-old slugger is slashing .282/.371/.603 to start the season, and he will also benefit greatly from the return of Acuna.
Righty power hitter Marcell Ozuna is back to his usual routine, slashing .268/.307/.476 with a .207 ISO and four home runs early in the season. Ozuna is an everyday bat on the right side of the plate, but he is rarely expensive or popular enough for his upside. At just $4,400 on DraftKings and $3,200 on FanDuel, Ozuna is an easy way to differentiate a lineup while also helping to offset the heavy costs of the other stars on this team.
Ozzie Albies moves down to fifth in the projected lineup, the excellent second baseman can truly hit anywhere in a batting order, he has speed, power, and a quality hit tool. Albies hit 30 home runs and stole 20 bases last season while slashing .259/.310/.488 with a .229 ISO. So far this year, the star infielder has hit six home runs, created runs 28% better than average, stolen two bases, and racked up a .272 ISO, all while slashing just .222/.316/.494. Albies has more to give, he is an excellent play at no ownership in the middle of this lineup on DraftKings and FanDuel.
Catcher Travis d’Arnaud is back to form over his first 58 plate appearances, slashing .321/.345/.482 with two home runs while creating runs 37% better than average. Where his position is necessary, d’Arnaud is a fine option regardless of where he hits in the Braves lineup. Where catchers are not needed, he is a possible leverage and cost consideration if he hits as high as sixth or seventh, but he is not entirely necessary.
Outfielder Adam Duvall hit 38 home runs in 555 plate appearances last season while barreling the ball 16.1% of the time. Duvall has massive power any day of the week, he costs just $2,500 on DraftKings and $2,700 on FanDuel and he will be at less than seven percent popularity across the industry. So far this year, Duvall has been somewhat shaky, he has a 35.8% strikeout rate that climbs from last year’s aggressive 31.4% and he is slashing just .192/.259/.288 with a .096 ISO and only one home run in 81 plate appearances. Still, we have a very long track record of premium power potential with Dunn, he is worthy of a roster spot at cost and for minimal popularity.
Former first round pick Travis Demeritte is not entirely without merit from late in the lineup, if he sees another start tonight. Demeritte is 27 and seeing significant action for just the second time in his career, following 186 plate appearances for Detroit in 2019. The outfielder has several seasons of 20 or more home runs under his belt in the minor leagues, and he has hit two home runs while slashing .283/.365/.630 with a .348 ISO in 52 plate appearances in triple-A this season while adding two Major League home runs and a .389/.450/.778 triple slash over a tiny 20 plate appearance sample in the Show so far. Demeritte is less than likely, but he costs $2,000 on DraftKings and $2,200 on FanDuel for no popularity.
Finally, shortstop Dansby Swanson is one of the more frequent visitors to our hall of unheralded players. The 27 home runs that Swanson hit while compiling a .201 ISO and slashing .248/.311/.449 last season did little to help his popularity at the position somehow. Swanson had an 11.4% barrel rate and a 42.4% hard-hit percentage last season, following an 11.4% barrel rate and a 40.7% hard-hit percentage in 2020. This year he has a 9.8% barrel rate and a 39% hard-hit over his first 41 batted ball events in 79 plate appearances. Swanson has hit one home run while slashing .211/.291/.352 to start the year, he is far better than that and better than his $3,300 and $2,900 price from DraftKings to FanDuel. At low popularity, Swanson is easily deployed at the back-end of a Braves stack or as a wraparound play to the Acuna side of the lineup.
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