Thursday’s messy split slate of MLB DFS action features four games and a 6:35 ET start on FanDuel as the main slate but just three games on a night slate on DraftKings, starting at 8:05 ET. The slate breaks along interesting lines, the good teams are playing against one another in games that also feature the only premium pitchers on the slate. The Yankees and White Sox are squaring off in Chicago with the Phillies in Los Angeles to face the Dodgers at the end of the night. Three of the four pitchers across those teams are the most proven arms on the slate, with the Yankees’ starter as a total wildcard. The two earlier games feature a battle of the bottom between the Reds and Pirates and a middling midwestern matchup between the Royals and Rangers. Of the four starters in those games, only the Pirates pitcher has a demonstrable track record of semi-success, the other options remain floundering or unproven. The short slate makes lineup building a challenge, but the options for tournaments are interesting with cheap low-end pitching potentially playing as serviceable if the elite offenses get to the limited number of top-end starters. This seems like a slate that will be won and lost in the batter’s box more than on the mound on both DraftKings and FanDuel.
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Top Home Run Ratings & Predictions
Using a model based on a blend of several predictive statistics for the batter-pitcher matchup we will give each team one of the top choices from their projected lineup. However, the pick included below will not always be the actual top-rated player, particularly when there is an obvious star who rates atop his team’s lineup each day. Check out all of Awesemo’s top-notch baseball content and free MLB DFS picks.
Scale: 5-10 Average; 10-20 Good; 20-25 Very Good; 25+ Great
Chicago White Sox: Gavin Sheets — 6.92
Cincinnati Reds: Colin Moran — 8.40
Kansas City Royals: Salvador Perez — 10.86
Los Angeles Dodgers: Cody Bellinger — 3.76
New York Yankees: Joey Gallo — 9.70
Philadelphia Phillies: Nick Castellanos — 8.40
Pittsburgh Pirates: Dan Vogelbach — 7.08
Texas Rangers: Brad Miller — 10.74
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
Wednesday’s weather looks favorable to hitting across the four games available from site to site. The temperatures in Texas will be pushing 90-degrees once again, keeping an eye on the status of the roof at Globe Life Field is worthwhile, but there would not be a major pivot of ownership regardless of the situation. Overall, there appear to be few to no environmental factors at play today.
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 short evening slate is far better off for pitching than the low-end afternoon options, but the premium pitchers will be dueling one another in matchups between some of baseball’s best lineups. The best pitcher on the slate, Chicago’s Dylan Cease, will be facing the loaded Yankees lineup, while Zack Wheeler will be similarly challenged by the elite Dodgers. Los Angeles will answer with Tyler Anderson, a lefty who has pitched over his head but is reasonably good at limiting opposing power, which he will need to do against a Phillies lineup loaded for bear with right-handed power. Yankees starter Luis Gil is a strong option for strikeouts, but he walks far too many to be sustainably good at the Major League level right now, and he will be a major target for White Sox bats. The FanDuel slate benefits from the presence of JT Brubaker, who will be facing the Reds, while Connor Overton seems less interesting against a lousy Pirates lineup on the other side. In a similarly low-end matchup, the Royals will throw righty Jon Heasley against the Rangers who are countering with southpaw Taylor Hearn, with both offenses drawing significant ownership attention. Neither of the starters in that game has much appeal. On a short slate with such limited options, it pays to roster the premium pitchers at or near the field’s level while attempting to differentiate lineups with bats and the lower-end pitching options. Getting away from the 42% projected ownership for Hearn could be a good start on the DraftKings slate, for example. A complete fade is certainly not advocated, but rostering the affordable starter around 25% to 30% seems more appropriate.
White Sox righty ace Dylan Cease will be justifiably popular on the extremely thin slate. Cease is pulling in a 60% popularity projection on the DraftKings slate and a 41% mark on FanDuel, despite a matchup against a Yankees lineup that has been good in the split, particularly with their collective 21.4% strikeout rate against righties, a surprisingly strong rate for the power-hitting club. New York’s active roster has a .150 ISO and a 3.24% home run rate against righties, and they have created runs 15% better than average in the split. Cease, meanwhile, has continued his run of quality from his major breakout season in 2021. The righty has a 34.3% strikeout rate and a 2.80 xFIP with a 1.00 WHIP and a 14.6% swinging-strike rate over his first 34 innings in six starts. Last season, the strikeout artist posted a 31.9% strikeout rate with a 14.8% swinging-strike rate and a 3.72 xFIP in 32 starts. Cease has established himself as one of baseball’s best young pitchers, he is well worth rostering at his $10,000 price on DraftKings and for $10,300 on the blue site. However, giving consideration to a slight undercut to his dramatic popularity may be worthwhile on the short slate. Deferring even 10 percentage points of popularity from Cease to a lower owned option could pay off if the capable Yankees draw a few walks and hit a big home run against Cease, the pitcher does not need to get completely blown up, he simply needs to pitch closer to the field to tank a lot of lineups at these price and popularity levels.
On the other side of the game, Luis Gil is projected for just 3.9% ownership at $8,100 on the FanDuel slate while pulling in a 28.1% popularity projection for just $7,200 where two pitchers are required. Gil has very limited Major League experience, he made six starts and threw 29.1 innings last season, while pitching to a bumpy 4.85 xFIP and a 1.33 WHIP. Gil’s success came in the form of strikeouts, he induced a 13.2% swinging-strike rate in the Majors last year, but still managed only a 27.6% CSW%, meaning he was not working in the zone effectively enough. That is also reflected in Gil’s dramatically inflated 14.7% walk rate over the small sample. Both the strikeout rate and walk rate are fairly consistent when compared to his larger sample numbers in the minor leagues, Gil profiles as a “Robbie Ray Light” type of pitcher at this point in his career in terms of the strikeout acumen and heavy walk rates, he is an extreme high-wire act against a loaded White Sox lineup that has baseball’s best strikeout rate against right-handed pitching at just 18.1%, but he is affordable and positively leveraged across the industry. The White Sox active roster has struggled to create runs in the split, they sit just 27th with a WRC+ 22% below average against righties so far this season. If Gil can find a few strikeouts along the way, he has a slim chance of putting up a slate-relevant fantasy score, particularly if his offense comes through against the uber-popular Cease on the other side of the equation.
Phillies righty Zack Wheeler is facing the Dodgers, which should be an extremely challenging way to get his season in gear after missing a week on the COVID-19 list. Wheeler has made five starts, throwing 26.1 innings and compiling a 22.5% strikeout rate with an 8.1% walk percentage. Last season, Wheeler put up a 29.1% strikeout rate and walked opposing hitters at just a 5.4% clip over 213.1 innings of excellent baseball. The righty had a 2.84 xFIP and a 1.01 WHIP with a 12.4% swinging-strike rate last season, this year those numbers have been worse across the board, Wheeler has a 3.90 xFIP with a 1.25 WHIP and a 10.7% swinging strike rate so far, but the sample is exceedingly small. The righty is always good at limiting power, he allowed a microscopic 28.5% hard-hit percentage with just a 4.6% barrel rate last year, this year he has yielded a few additional hard hits and he comes in at a still-excellent 31.1% rate with just a 2.5% barrel rate. Wheeler’s obstacles as an MLB DFS asset on this slate are primarily his nearly 50% ownership projection for just $8,000 on DraftKings and the raw ugly nature of the matchup against the Dodgers. On FanDuel, Wheeler is priced up at $9,500, an appropriate mark that has him at an efficient 19.4% ownership projection. Wheeler is facing a Los Angeles active roster that has created runs 17% better than average against right-handed pitching so far this season while striking out at just a 20.9% rate, the fourth and seventh-best marks in baseball. The Dodgers’ .165 ISO sits eighth and their 2.71% home run rate lands them as the 12th-ranked team in the split against righties. While he will clearly be challenged, Wheeler’s ability to keep the ball in the yard while pitching deep into games play in his favor here, he can be rostered at or around the field’s level, though an undercut to the aggressive popularity is similar in nature to the consideration with Cease. In the event that the Dodgers get to Wheeler even for just three or four runs, it could be enough to bring him back to the pack, in which case a pocketful of shares of the lesser starters at low ownership and prices could pay dividends.
The Phillies’ active roster is second-to-last in the sport with a 28.5% strikeout rate against left-handed pitching so far this season. The team also happens to be overloaded with right-handed power at the same time, however, creating an interesting situation in which to roster Dodgers southpaw Tyler Anderson. The Phillies have a collective .170 ISO and a 3.05% home run rate in the split, the seventh and 13th best marks in the game, and they have created runs 4% better than average. Anderson is typically good at limiting opposing power, despite being a fly ball pitcher by trade. The lefty yielded a 33% hard-hit rate with an 8.5% barrel rate in his 167 innings and 31 starts last season, which translated into a 3.84% home run rate. This season, Anderson has allowed just a 29% hard-hit rate and a 4.8% barrel rate while also boosting his strikeouts from 19.1% to 24.2% with an increased swinging-strike rate of 13.4%. Anderson will likely come back to Earth in the strikeout category, but he is capable of finding a few additional whiffs against this Phillies lineup while pitching through this game cleanly. The Phillies lineup is worth rostering, this is a firm both sides situation, but Anderson is a strong MLB DFS leverage play on the mound on both sites tonight.
From the lower end, where he is available, Pirates starter JT Brubaker is a reasonably good option. The righty costs just $7,200 on the FanDuel slate and he is projected for ownership in the mid-teens despite an excellent matchup against the Reds. Cincinnati’s active roster has a .161 ISO that somehow sits ninth in the split, but they have been lousy in most other categories. Cincinnati is currently 26th in baseball with a 24.8% strikeout rate against righties this season, they have created runs 4% below average, and they have a 2.66% home run rate that ranks 14th. Brubaker is not to be mistaken for a premium pitcher, but he has an effective 26.1% strikeout rate over his first 25.1 innings this year and sat at 24% over 124.1 innings in 2021. Brubaker is an average talent, but he stands a strong chance of pitching through this game cleanly and potentially finding strikeouts, he is technically at negative leverage on the FanDuel slate, but his low raw ownership puts him in play.
The bargain bin on DraftKings includes both Taylor Hearn and Jonathan Heasley, but it is Hearn who is drawing the massive ownership share. Heasley costs $5,200 and has been added to the FanDuel player pool at $6,200. The Royals righty is an interesting option if he continues to project for low ownership at those prices. In 26.1 innings over six starts in triple-A this season, Heasley has a 29.1% strikeout rate with a 5.8% walk percentage. He has a 4.44 ERA with a 3.31 xFIP over that sample, but he struggled in 14.2 innings over three starts in a cup of coffee at the Major League level last year. In those outings, the then 24-year-old had a 10.2% strikeout rate and a 5.66 xFIP. Heasley could be sneaky if he remembers to pack his strikeout upside for this trip to the Show. The opposing Rangers have an active roster that has been lousy in several offensive categories against right-handed pitching. The team’s 23.1% strikeout rate ranks 19th in baseball and their 2.39% home run rate in the split is 18th, but their .104 ISO sits 28th in the split and they have been creating runs 19% behind the curve, the 26th-ranked mark for collective WRC+ against righties. There are good reasons to consider Heasley if he remains low-owned. If he lands in negative leverage in later updates, he is easy to bypass.
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Countering the argument above for rostering Jonathan Heasley as a cheap pitching option, the Rangers land at the top of the probability list for the best stacking option of the night on both DraftKings and FanDuel. As documented, Heasley struggled at the Major League level in a small sample last season, but he has an advanced strikeout rate in triple-A and is a fairly well-regarded pitcher with an effective fastball and a plus changeup. The righty has a chance to get through this lineup, but this could also be an excellent get-right spot for the scuffling Rangers, who have shown signs of life. The top three hitters in the projected lineup will be absurdly popular, they are at or above 30% ownership on both sites. All of Brad Miller, Marcus Semien and Corey Seager can hit for power and create runs, among the three, Seager is off to the best start this year, which is why he costs the most. The shortstop has started his Rangers career slashing .243/.303/.441 with seven home runs and a .198 ISO over his first 122 plate appearances, creating runs 21% better than average. Semien, on the other hand, has been dreadful so far for Texas, posting just a .165/.228/.217 triple-slash with a .052 ISO, no home runs and a WRC+ 65% below average. Semien struggled through the first month of last season before hitting 45 home runs and creating runs 31% better than average for the season, this is probably a blip, but he is extremely popular at 41.1% ownership on DraftKings. Miller is an excellent option for quality contact, but he is also wildly popular, making it difficult to roster the top end of the batting order before getting to options including Jonah Heim, Adolis Garcia and Kole Calhoun. All three of those quality bats will be owned in the low teens to the single digits, making them much more appealing tournament options. The Rangers can be rostered in stacks, gamers would do well to focus on combining two of the three hitters from the low-owned list with one or two of the popular premium bats. Nate Lowe, Nick Solak and Andy Ibanez are all marginally playable as needed for offsetting price and popularity or rounding out a full stack.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Even with Zack Wheeler on the mound for Philadelphia, the Dodgers are an appealing stack on this slate. The team ranks fourth on FanDuel and third on DraftKings by their probability of being the top stack of the night, and they sit behind less than stellar options like the Rangers and Reds. The Dodgers are an elite lineup, and they can get to any pitcher, though it would not be at all surprising to see Wheeler completely shut them down as well, the broad range of outcomes make the stack appealing at positive leverage from site to site on such a short slate. Wheeler’s difficulty getting out of the gate with the same strikeout rate he had last season is documented above, he has maintained his ability to limit premium contact, but he is gettable in the right spot.
The Dodgers loaded lineup leads off with Mookie Betts, who is slashing .250/.344/.417 with a .167 ISO and five home runs over his first 125 plate appearances of 2022. Betts has stolen three bases and has created runs 23% better than average and we know there is more power and a better hit tool lurking below the surface. The outfielder projects for just 10% popularity for $4,500 on the FanDuel slate and 13% at $5,600 on the shorter DraftKings board. Betts is a prime target on this slate.
Superstar first baseman Freddie Freeman has been as good as expected over his first 127 plate appearances for the Dodgers. Freeman is slashing a robust .315/.402/.509 with a .194 ISO while creating runs 61% better than average. Freeman has struck out in just 14.2% of his plate appearances while walking 11.8% of the time, and he has a 41.3% hard-hit percentage with a stellar 14.1% barrel rate, he is one of the best hitters in the game and belongs in stacks even at 22% popularity on DraftKings, but particularly at just 9.8% ownership on the blue site.
Infielder Trea Turner is a star from any angle. The shortstop slashed .328/.375/.536 while hitting 28 home runs and stealing 32 bases last season. This year he has just one home run and five stolen bases while getting out to a slow start over 125 plate appearances. Turner is slashing .259/.320/.366 with just a .107 ISO while creating runs exactly at league average, he is one of the best bets in baseball for a major turnaround after the rough first month and change. Turner is priced down to just $3,900 on FanDuel, he should be loaded into Dodgers stacks with enthusiasm on both sites.
Catcher Will Smith is drawing mid-teens popularity where his position is required and even less where it is not. The FanDuel play is interesting with premium catcher bats, they tend to go under-owned despite great opportunities in the middle of top-end lineups. Getting to Smith with just 3.5% of the field on him seems worthwhile if he is in the lineup, for just $4,000 he is a great DraftKings catcher option in and out of Dodgers stacks.
Lefty slugger Max Muncy is slashing an unsightly .138/.336/.299 with just one home run and a .097 ISO over the season’s first 113 plate appearances. Muncy is a proven commodity that is now rendered cheap because of the struggles. He hit 36 home runs with a .278 ISO while creating runs 40% better than average just last season, now he costs $3,100 on FanDuel where he is eligible at first and second base, and $4,100 with second and third base eligibility across town.
The Dodgers may have struggling veteran star Justin Turner at third base tonight, or they may go with prospect slugger Edwin Rios. Turner is a former All-Star who has scuffled to a .194/.252/.291 start to the season with just one home run and a 59 WRC+. If he is in the lineup, Turner is both cheap and unpopular, making him an appealing tournament option on both sites. Rios has titanic power, he has already belted three home runs in his 34 plate appearances, slashing .304/.324/.606 with a .303 ISO. The average and on-base will come down, but the power is very real. If Rios makes his way into any position in the lineup, he is worthy of consideration at minimum salary on FanDuel and $2,700 on DraftKings.
Cody Bellinger has shown signs of life with his power, now he needs to start drawing walks and hitting for better contact to keep things going. Bellinger has hit four home runs and he has a respectable but not great .196 ISO, but he has created runs just 7% below average so far. The former MVP is slashing just .206/.267/.402. If he is on base more, he will be more valuable for real baseball and MLB DFS. At limited pricing and no popularity, Bellinger can always be included in Dodgers stacks with appropriate expectations.
Utility men Chris Taylor and Gavin Lux can both play multiple positions anywhere on the diamond, making them tremendous assets. Lux has multi-position eligibility in the middle infield on FanDuel, while Taylor is a second baseman or an outfielder on the blue site, but only an outfielder on DraftKings. Lux retains his second base eligibility on that site, while swapping his shortstop status for an outfield role as his second position. Either player is a quality addition to stacks. They each have one home run and two stolen bases this season, Lux has been slightly better with a 112 WRC+ to Taylor’s league average 100, but Taylor has seen 12 more plate appearances and is the more experienced and lower-owned of the pair.
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