Thursday’s eight-game MLB DFS slate includes a handful of premium pitchers, a loaded Coors Field game that is drawing major popularity, and several excellent spots for under-owned stacking. Getting to a broad mix of the top-end pitchers while folding in the quality mid-range of arms should be the approach on the mound. It is easy to get to a strong mix on the single-pitcher site and a good range of varied combinations where two arms are required. The Coors Field game demands a decision, one wants to make the call to be above or below the field and approach the slate as such. Targeting every other offense on the board while the field is stacking eggs into a single basket made of fragility and hope is always a bold but effective approach. If the Colorado game underperforms and other teams explode for runs it can pay major dividends to those who get it right. Utilizing the Top Stacks Tool to find the positively leveraged options on tonight’s slate is a strong approach to lineup building for and making the optimal MLB DFS picks today for tournaments.
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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 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
Atlanta Braves: Eddie Rosario — 6.84
Chicago Cubs: Patrick Wisdom — 10.65
Cincinnati Reds: Tommy Pham — 5.22
Colorado Rockies: Connor Joe — 10.46
Detroit Tigers: Javier Baez — 8.94
Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana — 6.99
Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 7.48
Los Angeles Dodgers: Freddie Freeman — 5.18
Miami Marlins: Jesus Sanchez — 6.81
New York Yankees: Josh Donaldson — 7.83
Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins — 6.79
Pittsburgh Pirates: Yoshi Tsutsugo — 8.35
San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 5.69
Texas Rangers: Kole Calhoun — 5.01
Toronto Blue Jays: Bo Bichette — 11.20
Washington Nationals: Josh Bell — 11.88
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
There are minimal weather concerns across the league this evening. The Blue Jays vs Yankees game in New York is currently pulling in the highest probability of seeing some rain during the game, but there does not seem to be any threat of postponement. The warm temperatures and high humidity for this time of year, combined with a wind blowing out to rightfield, could make for another prime hitting environment in the Bronx this evening. The air is warm all across the country, the game in Colorado is forecast for the lowest game time temperatures on the slate but, at last check, Denver’s altitude remains unchanged, there should be plenty of offense available for those who chase the Coors chalk.
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 MLB DFS Ownership Projections for critical updates and monitor the top stacks tool throughout the day for changes.
On the Hill
The Thursday slate of MLB DFS action features several top-tier pitchers, including the aces of the two Los Angeles teams. The Angels will have superstar two-way man Shohei Ohtani on the mound for an interesting outing in Texas against the Rangers and at two very different MLB DFS prices. The Dodgers will follow Clayton Kershaw’s brilliant Wednesday performance with Walker Buehler, last year’s leader in quality starts, in what should be a good spot against the Reds. Further south in California, the Braves will be visiting San Diego to take on the Padres in a premium pitching matchup between Charlie Morton and Joe Musgrove. The game between the Blue Jays and Yankees will have two talented starters going, but the lineups they will be facing and the general conditions in Yankee Stadium are always challenging. Both Kevin Gausman and Luis Severino are on the board, with Gausman firmly ahead based on the strikeout upside available in the Yankees lineup. While there is no reason to roster either of the starters in the Coors game, there is a good selection of secondary options available on this slate. Any of J.T. Brubaker, Kyle Gibson, Sandy Alcantara, or Dane Dunning is capable of putting up a strong start against their respective opponents. Of those options, the inexpensive Brubaker is interesting where he is available on FanDuel, while Dunning could be an intriguing SP2 option for DraftKings MLB DFS tournaments. Dunning has a high-quality rating for both value and probability of finishing the night as a top-two starter, with the public well behind the curve at just 6.9% projected ownership for the $6,400 pitcher.
With premium arms like Shohei Ohtani on the slate, it is difficult to focus on the value plays like Dunning. Ohtani ranks third among DraftKings options and second on FanDuel by his probability of being a top-two or the single top starter on the slate, respectively. The righty had a 29.3% strikeout rate over 130.1 innings in 23 starts last season, pitching to a crisp 3.55 xFIP and a 1.09 WHIP. Ohtani induced a strong 12.9% swinging-strike rate, and he was good at limiting premium contact in allowing just a 7.1% barrel rate. Opposing hitters did manage a 39.9% hard-hit percentage against the dazzling righty, but Ohtani yielded just an 88.4 mph average exit velocity and limited opposing hitters to just a 2.8% home run rate. Ohtani is a top option on the slate, he comes at efficient ownership where he is correctly priced on FanDuel, at just $7,900 on DraftKings, Ohtani will be exceedingly popular and negatively leveraged. He will be taking on an improved Rangers lineup that has mashed to start the season, but the early production is not entirely supported by the active roster’s numbers from last year. The Rangers compiled a .150 ISO that ranked 26th out of 30 teams, their 23.5% strikeout rate was in the middle of the league at 15th, and they had a 23rd ranked 3.03% home run rate in the split. The most concerning factor for the Rangers has to be run creation, their collective 86 WRC+ against right-handed pitching last season ranked 24th in baseball and put them 14% below average in generating runs in the split. Ohtani has a chance at a standout performance in this matchup, he should chase a quality start bonus and has the chance at a win as well. Despite an unwarranted reputation for not pitching deep into ball games, Ohtani turned in a quality start in 14 of his 23 outings last season, a 61% rate that ranked 14th in baseball, he is a strong option on either site, but the ownership question must be considered on the DraftKings slate.
The Dodgers received an incredible seven-inning pitching performance from their starter last night, and Los Angeles fans could be in for more of the same from ace Walker Buehler this evening. Buehler was a Cy Young Award contender last season and he led baseball in quality starts, turning in 27 over 37 starts, with the playoffs included. Buehler’s 73% conversion rate in the statistic was also better than anyone other than Trevor Bauer and Jacob deGrom, who made only 17 and 15 starts, respectively. Buehler is one of baseball’s best arms, and while he may not ascend to the lofty mid-30s strikeout numbers of some of his peers, the depth and sheer reliability of the starter cannot be ignored, he delivered 35 FanDuel points per start last season while striking out 26% of opposing hitters and pitching to a 3.57 xFIP. Buehler had a 0.97 WHIP and a 6.4% walk rate; he generated an 11.6% swinging-strike rate and had a 29.6% CSW% for the season. He was also excellent at limiting quality contact, opposing hitters managed just a 36.9% hard-hit rate and 88.2 mph of average exit velocity against the excellent righty. Buehler’s 6.8% barrel rate helped him limit opponents to a 2.3% home run rate over the full course of the season, he is one of the best in the sport at keeping the ball in the yard. Buehler draws a Reds lineup that compiled good numbers against righties last year, the active roster had a .192 collective ISO, good for sixth best in the split, and their 23% strikeout rate was 12th overall. Cincinnati created runs 5% better than average and they had a stout 3.8% home run rate that slots in fifth overall, hitting 174 home runs total, the fourth most in baseball off of right-handed pitchers last year. The Reds lineup was weakened by the departures of several key hitters, but their numbers are not included here, this is a decent lineup against righties, they struggle far more against left-handed pitching as Kershaw demonstrated just last night. Still, Buehler is a pitcher who can be started against any lineup, he can be rostered with confidence despite slightly negative leverage on both sites.
Atlanta’s Charlie Morton will be on the mound to face the Padres, who counter with their own premium righty in Joe Musgrove. Morton posted a 28.6% strikeout rate with a 7.7% walk percentage in 185.2 innings over 33 starts last season, casting off any fears of a decline based on nine somewhat shakier starts in 2020. That odd year aside, Morton has had a long stretch of quality and he should have little difficulty sustaining it against this Padres lineup. Morton was excellent at limiting quality contact last season, he allowed just a 32.5% hard-hit rate and a 4.9% barrel rate with 88.1 mph of exit velocity on the average. The righty is facing a Padres active roster that had just a .166 ISO and a 3.16% home run rate against righties last year, the 14th and 16th best marks in baseball, without superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. this is a limited average offense at best. Morton is drawing efficient ownership is the fourth-best option by his probability of being a top-two option on DraftKings, but he is a negatively leveraged play on the single pitcher FanDuel slate, where he is inexpensive at $9,000.
Musgrove lands atop the list of options on both sites despite a tough matchup against the Braves. The righty is facing a strikeout-heavy lineup that juices his projections, but one that also comes with the caveat of being deadly powerful against right-handed pitching. As has been featured in this space when discussing their quality as a stack, the Atlanta active roster combined for a .195 ISO and a 4.11% home run rate against righties last season, the fourth and second-best marks in the sport. Their 189 total home runs in the split ranked second to only 195 hit by the Blue Jays. This is a loaded team, but they also compiled a 23rd-ranked 24.6% strikeout rate in the split. Musgrove has more than enough talent to get through this lineup cleanly and rack up strikeouts, he is worth trusting. Despite any concerns about spin and sticky stuff, Musgrove turned in a quality season, pitching to a 3.65 xFIP with a 1.08 WHIP. He generated a 12.7% swinging-strike rate and a 31.4% CSW% that led to a 27.1% strikeout rate over his 181.1 innings in 31 starts. While there was a second-half decline, on the whole, Musgrove was still quite good across the entire season, the primary concerns for MLB DFS purposes tonight are his popularity, which is pushing above 40% on the DraftKings slate for just $7,600, and his price on FanDuel, where he is in the top salary tier at $10,300. Musgrove has the matchup and talent to deliver the top pitching score of the night, he should be considered in all formats.
Why Kevin Gausman would choose to come back to the American League East after a breakout season in San Francisco is truly anyone’s guess. Gausman famously struggled to deliver on his talents during his tenure in Baltimore after rising through the system as a premium pitching prospect. The righty never had better than a 25.3% strikeout rate before arriving in San Francisco in 2020, then he immediately leapt to 32.2% in the shortened season and a still-sharp 29.3% in 2021. Gausman walked just 6.5% of hitters last season, pitching to a stellar 3.28 xFIP and a 1.04 WHIP while inducing a 15.3% swinging-strike rate. The righty did allow a touch too much premium contact, which could be a concern in the pitching environments he will see more of while with the Blue Jays. Gausman yielded a 40.9% hard-hit percentage but kept the ball in the yard well, allowing just a 2.6% home run rate last year. The righty faces a Yankees lineup that is loaded with power and with swing-and-miss. He will be challenged by every hitter. Most of the Yankees lineup is also spectacular at drawing a walk and getting on base, but the strikeout upside is significant for Gausman, pushing him toward the top of the board on both sites. The public is largely leaving the righty on the table, he is a strong option for MLB DFS tournaments on DraftKings and FanDuel tonight, the projected Yankees lineup had a 23.2% overall strikeout rate on the average last season, and the active roster was 25th in the league with a 24.9% rate against righties. This is a good spot for Gausman if he can manage to get through with no mistakes.
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With a Coors Field game on deck, the upper portion of the Top Stacks Tool is highly predictable. Both the Cubs and Rockies stand to score a lot of runs in the hitter’s paradise tonight, but both stacks come with significant popularity and negative leverage as well. Neither of the teams is bringing a pitcher worth fearing, so it is easy to expect offense in the matchup today. The Cubs lineup should feature options including Clint Frazier who is inexpensive on both sites, Willson Contreras who checks the valuable catcher box on DraftKings as one of the league’s premiere hitting backstops, and the powerful duo of Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel in the top-four. Wisdom cranked 28 home runs in just 375 plate appearances, posting a .287 ISO, while Schwindel nearly matched the ridiculous power output, hitting 14 home runs in 259 opportunities with a .264 ISO. The powerful pair is followed by rookie sensation Seiya Suzuki, who is off to a .400/.524/.1000 start over the first five games of his MLB career, after starring in Japan’s NPB. Suzuki has hit three home runs and has a ridiculous .600 ISO so far, he is worthy of all hype. Ian Happ is the final premium bat to look for in the Cubs lineup. He is an excellent option for sneaky-good power, and he comes at lower projected ownership than many players in this game.
On the Rockies side, the entire team is pushing 20% popularity or more on the DraftKings slate, while denizens of the blue site are rostering everyone but catcher Elias Diaz and infielder Jose Iglesias with similar enthusiasm. The ultra-popular Rockies are facing lefty Justin Steele, they should have the opportunity to feast, but it may pay to undercut the field in the hopes of finding more offense elsewhere on an off night in Colorado. The go-to Rockies bats include right-handed Connor Joe, who had eight home runs in 211 plate appearances with a .184 ISO last season, Charlie Blackmon, who has a little more to give before the tank is completely dry, and former Cubs star Kris Bryant, who inked a long-term deal in Colorado this offseason. Bryant hit 25 home runs and stole 10 bases in a solid season between Chicago and San Francisco last year, he should have an excellent year in Coors Field and will be in play any time this team is stacked. There is also premium power available in the bat of C.J. Cron, Cron had a .249 ISO and hit 28 home runs in 547 plate appearances last year. Brendan Rodgers and Randal Grichuk add cheap quality in the five and six spots in the projected lineup, but all of these hitters are uncomfortably popular. As always, Coors Field is a major inflection point for tonight’s slate, decisions must be made.
Los Angeles Angels
With so much popularity going to the two teams in Colorado, there are a number of leverage stacks available on the slate on both sites. One team that comes up highly ranked for their probability of being one of the highest-scoring options and for their positive leverage, is the top-heavy Angels lineup. The issue with rostering the Angels stack on a slate of this nature is that their superstar leadoff hitter is not available since he will also be their starting pitcher. Losing Ohtani has a major impact on the quality of this stack, he will still be on the field driving run-scoring for real baseball purposes, which can have a downstream impact on his lineups, but removing his fantasy scoring from the stack is challenging. No one should need to be told that Mike Trout can be rostered under any circumstances, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer will be popular and expensive on this slate, he is better deployed in a stack with under-owned teammates than he is as a standalone option. Trout can be combined with Anthony Rendon, a former star looking for a bounce-back season, and Jared Walsh, a lefty with thunderous power upside. Bolt-on options from later in the lineup could potentially include Brandon Marsh, catcher Max Stassi, and Tyler Wade, though the true focus should be on the top-end of the top-heavy lineup.
Did you know that after starting last year with a 9-24 record, the Tigers went 68-61 from May 8th through the end of last season? That stretch of quality inspired an acceleration of the plans in Detroit, the team brought in quality additions this offseason and they look like an option that will once again be at least frisky for MLB DFS purposes. The Tigers rank in the middle of a broad plateau by their probability of success on the Top Stacks tool today, after Coors Field many of these options are rating out similarly, allowing gamers to play the leverage game. The low-owned Tigers lineup stands out as a positive leverage play that comes almost entirely with low single-digit individual ownership from top to bottom. Detroit is a potentially prime stack in a matchup against the ghost of Zack Greinke. The right-handed veteran returned to Kansas City this offseason after turning in a 17.2% strikeout rate with a 4.21 xFIP and a 1.17 WHIP last season. The ratio marks are fine, but Greinke is a contact-based pitcher who gets by mostly on guile in 2022. There is plenty of upside in rostering Tigers bats in this situation.
Projected leadoff man Victor Reyes hits from both sides of the plate and has plus speed, but he needs to do far better getting on base to set the table this season. Reyes slashed just .258/.284/.416 last season, the on-base percentage is miscast in a leadoff role if it remains at that level, but the 220-plate-appearance sample is not overly significant in the long term. Of more concern is the .298 career on-base percentage that he has compiled over 953 plate appearances in parts of five seasons. Reyes is flawed, but if he manages to get on, he could have correlation value. The switch-hitter also managed five home runs and a .158 ISO last year, but his run creation was also sub-par by 12%. Reyes is off to a .286/.444/.571 start to his season over just nine plate appearances.
The quality in the Tigers lineup truly starts with Austin Meadows, who arrived in a trade from Tampa Bay just before the start of the season. Meadows is a left-handed hitter who slashed .234/.315/.458 with 27 home runs and a .224 ISO last season, he is a strong power bat who created runs 13% better than average. At just 2.2% popularity on the blue site and 4.2% on DraftKings, Meadows is an easy selection at fair prices across the industry.
Shortstop Javier Baez was one of the Tigers’ big investments in the offseason. Baez had another strong year at the plate last season, posting a .265/.319/.494 triple-slash with a .229 ISO while creating runs 16% better than average between Chicago and New York. Baez had a 13.4% barrel rate and a 45% hard-hit percentage, both excellent contact marks, but he had a dramatically inflated 33.6% strikeout rate as well. When Baez makes contact, he is a premium power bat at either middle infield position on FanDuel and at just shortstop on DraftKings. Baez is the most popular Tigers bat, but his ownership is hovering at just 10% on both sites, he is easy to include in stacks.
Jeimer Candelario is another switch-hitter who will be batting cleanup for this team. Candelario hit just 16 home runs in 626 plate appearances in 2021, posting a .172 ISO while slashing .271/.351/.443. Despite the lack of raw power, he created runs 19% better than average to lead the team. Candelario had a 90% barrel rate and a 39.1% hard-hit percentage. Improvement will lead to better power marks this season. Candelario is projected for less than 2% popularity across the industry. He is off to a cold start to his season, and he could be a perfect under-owned piece to add to an upside stack.
Veteran Miguel Cabrera is still in Detroit, rounding out his Hall of Fame career. Cabrera has hit 502 home runs in his storied career, but he has not reached even 20 in an individual season since hitting 38 in 2016. Injuries and aging have sapped the slugger’s power, but he is still capable of turning on the right pitch. Cabrera posted a .256/.316/.386 triple-slash with 15 home runs and just a .129 ISO in his 526 plate appearances last year, he is off to another difficult start in his age-39 season. Still, if he is in the lineup, Cabrera should come at low ownership and an inexpensive price.
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop has made a career of being an underrated power bat from the right side of the plate. Schoop hit 22 home runs last season, though he had just a .157 ISO over his 674 plate appearances. He slashed .278/.320/.435 and created runs 5% better than average overall. Schoop is a quality second base option on DraftKings who will be owned at just a 4% rate for $4,300. On FanDuel, he adds the benefit of eligibility at first base for just a $2,700 price tag but he actually drops in popularity. Schoop should be included in Tigers stacks.
Left-handed hitting outfielder Akil Baddoo was one of the breakouts for the Tigers last season. Playing as a rookie in his age-22 season, Baddoo burst on the scene with 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases in just 461 plate appearances. He slashed .259/.330/.436 with a .177 ISO and he created runs 8% better than average. If the Tigers are reading this article, this is your leadoff hitter, not Victor Reyes. Regardless of where he lands in the batting order, Baddoo should be prioritized in Tigers stacks. He comes at nearly no ownership or cost, and he has strong scoring upside.
The late-lineup quality surge continues with rookie Spenser Torkelson, one of the game’s top prospects and the Tigers’ first overall draft pick from just two years ago. Torkelson played his way onto the team in the Spring, following a 2021 season that saw him elevated from High-A to Triple-A ball. The first baseman hit 30 home runs over 530 plate appearances in the minors, adding five stolen bases as well. He had an excellent 13% walk rate at Triple-A and limited strikeouts to just 20.3%. Torkelson has already displayed the premium eye at the plate, he has drawn a walk in 15% of his 20 plate appearances, although he has also struck out 40% of the time. Torkelson is very cheap and unpopular for his talent. It is good to be early on a player of this caliber.
Catcher Tucker Barnhart rounds out the projected lineup. Barnhart has utility on DraftKings where the position is required, but there are always better catchers on the board in general. As part of the stack, the nine hitter is not a typically premium target. Barnhart had a limited seven home runs with a .121 ISO on a 4% barrel rate with a 30.7% hard-hit percentage last season, he is an afterthought where catchers are not necessary.
Home Run Prediction Today: Austin Meadows — Detroit Tigers
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