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

Terry McBride

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The Thursday evening MLB DFS slate brings six games to the table with a good mix of pitching and hitting options, but also a major concentration of public ownership on the top selections. Getting to a varied group of bats and arms is going to be important on a slate that shapes up this way, there are plenty of ways to roster the popular pitchers or stacks, but it is important to consider differentiation with the second starter or second stack, or even the hitters within a given stack from a chalky team. Unlike recent slates, there is no major source of runs on the board in Vegas, the slate tops out with 8.5 run totals in three contests, and most of the games are carrying fairly competitive lines. There are interesting spots displaying home run upside in the power index below, but again the ownership around the premium options is going to be significant and must be considered when making our MLB DFS picks today on DraftKings and FanDuel.

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Top Home Run Options

Home runs are the holy grail when making MLB DFS picks. Finding the right combination of sluggers who will knock one or two out of the park to drive in the teammates you stack with them is critical to winning GPPs. Identifying the likely home run hitters is trickier than just looking at the big names. Using a model based on a blend of several predictive statistics for the batter-pitcher matchup, this will give each team one of the top choices. However, it will not always be the absolute top-ranked player, particularly when there is an obvious star in that spot every day.

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Home Run Ratings

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

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini — 7.84

Detroit Tigers: Austin Meadows — 10.16

Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker — 13.43

Miami Marlins: Avisail Garcia — 11.20

Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton — 16.69

New York Mets: Francisco Lindor — 8.52

Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper — 11.21

San Diego Padres: Trayce Thompson — 6.92

San Francisco Giants: Wilmer Flores — 4.51

Seattle Mariners: Ty France — 5.21

St. Louis Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt — 3.77

Tampa Bay Rays: Randy Arozarena — 10.19

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

The Thursday slate appears free from any concerns of postponement or major impact from the weather.

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

Today’s pitching slate includes a handful of quality options, with two aces drawing the bulk of the field’s attention. The public ownership for both Aaron Nola and Robbie Ray has both pitchers deep into negative leverage territory in their respective matchups against the Mets and Rays. Both of those teams are quality offenses, neither pitcher is in for an easy night but their talent should shine through, with Nola typically being the more reliable option between the two. Neither of those starters is the leading option on the Top Pitchers Tool however, that honor goes to Shane McClanahan, the Tampa Bay lefty who will be opposing Ray. McClanahan comes in at a higher price point than the two aces, who are priced down dramatically compared to their normal salaries, which leaves the young southpaw positively leveraged atop the board. At efficient ownership and a fair price, Logan Webb is another high-quality option who could easily deliver the night’s highest score in a start against the Cardinals, while Jesus Luzardo is drawing enough ownership to dip onto the negative side of the leverage equation. The remaining options on the slate are mix and match plays at low ownership at best, most look more like spots to target with bats. Talented Tarik Skubal is the best of the remaining bunch, but he will be in a very tough spot against the Astros. Even with the challenging opponent, Skubal would be the least surprising of the lesser options to see as a top scorer on the mound.

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For reasons that are not immediately apparent, DraftKings Nola priced at just $8,000 tonight. Nola is facing the Mets, but the matchup alone is not a justification to price the excellent righty so low. On FanDuel, Nola is at a more appropriate $9,900 and he still looks like an excellent option, but the bargain-basement salary on DraftKings is drawing massive amounts of attention from the field. Nola is projected for nearly 50% popularity on the DraftKings slate and 25% on FanDuel. He has thrown 27.2 innings in his first five starts, posting a crisp 2.47 xFIP and a 0.94 WHIP while striking out 31.8% of opposing hitters. Nola has induced an 11% swinging-strike rate and he has yielded just a 33.8% hard-hit percentage. Last year Nola had a 3.37 xFIP and a 29.8% strikeout rate over his 180.2 innings in 32 starts, though he reached the quality start bonus only 11 times, a 34% rate that ranked 97th overall. Nola is facing a Mets squad that has a .131 ISO and a 2.19% home run rate against righties this season, both good for 17th in baseball. Despite the power outage, the team has created runs 30% better than average by collective WRC+ and they are second-best in baseball with an 18.1% strikeout rate in the split. Nola is a strong option on tonight’s slate but he will not have an easy time finding fantasy points via the swing and miss against this team. With the yoke of public popularity also around his neck, Nola’s quality is dragged down only slightly. He is well worth a significant share of lineup spots, but a slight undercut to the field’s massive ownership is a playable approach as well.

Mariners southpaw Robbie Ray has been a bit shaky over his first five starts for his new team. Last year Ray completed 193.1 innings and pitched to a 3.36 xFIP with a 32.1% strikeout rate while cutting his walk rate in half at just 6.9%. The control issues from earlier in Ray’s career seem to be hampering his upside so far this season, and his strikeouts have vanished over 30.1 innings in 2022. So far this year, Ray has just a 20.8% strikeout rate and he has walked 9.6% of hitters while compiling a 4.23 xFIP and a 1.25 WHIP. Ray is still inducing a 12% swinging-strike rate, but that is a drop from the 15.5% he had las season, and his CSW% has taken a major hit in falling from 29.6% to 25.3%. Ray has also continued to allow too much premium contact, even in his good season last year he yielded a 42.9% hard-hit rate with a 9.8% barrel rate on an average launch angle of 17.6 degrees. This season those marks are 43%, 8.1% and 16 degrees, making Ray targetable for power and run creation on the right night. He struck out eight in his most recent outing, showing signs of life, but he is not overly safe just yet. For his struggles, Ray is priced down to $8,800 on DraftKings and $8,900 on FanDuel. He is worth rostering on both sites but undercutting the field seems like a strong plan. Ray is pulling in nearly 40% ownership on DraftKings and 30% on the blue site. The lefty is facing stiff competition with a Rays’ active roster that has just a 19.2% strikeout rate in the split this season. Tampa Bay has created runs 28% better than average against lefties, despite just a .148 collective ISO and a 2.19% home run rate in the split. They look very much like the Mets in the split numbers so far this season. Given the shaky start to the season, Ray seems like the less reliable of the premium starters.

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On the other side of the same game, Tampa Bay starter Shane McClanahan is the slate’s leading option with a 30.9% probability of being a top-2 starter on DraftKings and a 12.9% probability of being the best option on the FanDuel slate. McClanahan is pulling in the night’s best leverage score on the mound. He is at efficient ownership on the FanDuel slate but remains an excellent option. McClanahan has been excellent to start the season, the young lefty has a 39.3% strikeout rate and a 6.5% walk rate over his first 27 innings in five starts. He has allowed a 40.4% hard-hit percentage and a 10.5% barrel rate so far, but he has managed to stay out of trouble and he misses bats with regularity. McClanahan has a massive 18.3% swinging-strike rate and a 36.9% CSW% so far this season while pitching to a sparkling 1.57 xFIP and a 1.00 WHIP. The lefty was excellent over 123.1 innings in 25 starts last year as well. He had a 27.3% strikeout rate with a 3.23 xFIP and a 14.8% swinging-strike rate. He will be facing a Mariners team that has been good in the split against lefties so far this season, Seattle’s active roster has a 12th-ranked 21.9% strikeout rate in the split while compiling a .158 ISO and a 2.75% home run rate that rank 12th and 10th in baseball against lefties. The team has created runs 21% better than league average by collective WRC+ against lefties as well, the ninth-best rate in the league. McClanahan is not in a much easier situation than either Nola or Ray, but his ownership and leverage is strong and he has an excellent chance of putting up a critical score tonight, McClanahan should be rostered on both DraftKings and FanDuel.

Fourth-ranked Logan Webb lands at a technically negative leverage score tonight, but he is not very highly owned in terms of raw popularity, which may set him apart from some of the other options on the slate. Last year Webb had a 26.5% strikeout rate with a 2.79 xFIP and a 1.11 WHIP over 26 starts, but he has struggled out of the gate so far this season. In five starts, Webb has just a 15.9% strikeout rate, but his 3.25 xFIP is healthy enough. Webb has induced a 10.9% swinging-strike rate, down from the 12.4% mark that he posted last year, but he has walked fewer hitters so far with just a 4.8% rate of issuing free passes. Webb has cut his sinker usage by about 10% in the early part of the season, throwing a more even distribution of that pitch alongside his slider-changeup combination. The new mix may be behind the lack of early strikeouts, as the pitcher finds the correct combination of pitches to send a hitter back to the bench. Webb is facing a Cardinals team that is excellent at avoiding strikeouts against righties, so far this season the St. Louis active roster has a league-leading 17.1% strikeout rate in the split, but that has been all they do well. The team ranks 28th in baseball with a .098 ISO and 29th with a 1.50% home run rate in the split, all while creating runs 10% below average. Webb has a chance to post a sneaky-good start, but he will have to find his way to more strikeouts than seem easily available, this game is lined up as a major inflection point for the slate as the last contest of the night.


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Minnesota Twins

The Twins are baseball’s third-best team creating runs against right-handed pitching so far this season with a 123 WRC+ as a unit. The team has an 11th-ranked .156 ISO and a 2.83% home run rate that sits 12th in the split. The team is facing punching bag righty Spenser Watkins who has a 5.02 xFIP and a 1.25 WHIP so far this season. Watkins has yielded a 39% hard-hit rate with an 8.5% barrel rate and he puts far too many on base via the free pass. The righty is sitting at a 10.5% walk rate, nearly matching his awful 10.5% strikeout rate so far this year. Watkins is not the victim of small sample bias in this situation, in 54.2 innings in 2021 the righty had a 5.59 xFIP and a 13.7% strikeout rate, and he was in the mid-teens throughout most of his minor league career. Watkins is simply not a major league pitcher. He can be targeted aggressively for as long as he is in the Orioles’ rotation, but his presence on the mound will likely continue to lead to excessive popularity for opposing hitters. The Twins are the top-ranked stack on both sites tonight, but they come with significant negative leverage attached. The superstar atop the lineup is drawing nearly 45% popularity on both sites, Byron Buxton is fantastic whenever he is on the field, but that much popularity is difficult to justify for any individual player on any slate in MLB DFS. Slap-hitting Luis Arraez is owned at or above 20%, Carlos Correa is projected above 30% popularity, and Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler are both in the 25% range. The premium Twins bats are all significantly over-owned, even backend hitters like Trevor Larnach and Gary Sanchez are drawing popularity, making this team difficult to roster in unique combinations. The entire field appears to be focused on Twins bats with Nola and Ray as their primary options on the mound, simply taking a different angle into lineup construction is an easy way to get away from the public on this slate, but it would not be at all surprising to see the Twins score the most runs on this slate.

Detroit Tigers

Searching the board for leverage and value leads directly to the Tigers, who rank fourth on the FanDuel slate with a 7.9% probability of being the top stack, a 1.4 leverage score and a 14.2% value rating. Detroit sits fifth on DraftKings with an 8.7% probability of being the best option, a 4.0 leverage score and a 9.4% probability of delivering the top value. The Tigers look a little better on the FanDuel slate, where their low salaries pay for more access to premium options in other areas, but they are a quality tournament stack at low ownership on both sites in tonight’s matchup against Jose Urquidy. The Astros righty was unspectacular in delivering a 4.38 xFIP and a 21.3% strikeout rate over his 107 innings last season, this season he has slipped to just a 15.1% strikeout rate while pitching to a 1.42 WHIP and a 4.60 xFIP. Most concerningly for Urquidy, he has allowed a 50.7% hard-hit percentage and a 13% barrel rate with a 92.6 mph average exit velocity. The righty has allowed a 4.7% home run rate to hitters in the small sample. The Tigers’ projected lineup has just one hitter carrying more than a 10% ownership projection, shortstop Javier Baez is listed at a 15.3% popularity mark on DraftKings and a 20.8% share on FanDuel. Baez hits second behind quality outfielder Robbie Grossman, who is inexpensive as a good correlation piece with the premium bats. Grossman is getting on base at a .390 clip over his first 82 plate appearances, Baez is slashing .250/.300/.429 with two home runs while creating runs 16% better than average behind him. Outfielder Austin Meadows landed in Detroit in a trade just before the season started, Meadows hit 27 home runs and created runs 13% better than average with a .224 ISO last season, so far this year he has not hit a home run but he is slashing .299/.393/.390 and creating runs 39% better than average. The Tigers lineup continues with future first-ballot Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera and rookie Spencer Torkelson who has hit three home runs but otherwise struggled at the plate early on. Switch-hitting Jeimer Candelario is inexpensive and low-owned in the sixth spot in the lineup and he is joined by Jonathan Schoop, who is perennially underrated. Schoop hit 22 home runs and created runs 5% better than average last season, this year he has been slow to start but he still warrants attention at less than 5% popularity. Catcher Tucker Barnhart has here and there power that can be deployed for little cost and no ownership on the DraftKings slate, while Akil Baddoo rounds out the projected batting order with a quality wraparound option that can provide power and speed upside. Baddoo hit 13 home runs and stole 18 bases in just 461 plate appearances last year. The under-owned Tigers are not the most likely stack of the day, but they are a quality tournament stack that can deliver tournament-winning upside in this matchup on the right night.

Miami Marlins

The Padres had high hopes for starter Nick Martinez, who they plucked from the NPB after he pitched well in Japan over the past few years. Martinez has delivered just a 20.7% strikeout rate with an ugly 13.8% walk percentage and a 4.61 xFIP in his 19.2 innings so far. The righty has a 1.68 WHIP and he has yielded a massive 46.4% hard-hit rate with a 16.1% barrel rate in the small sample. Martinez has served up a 5.7% home run rate this season. The Marlins do not have one of baseball’s best lineups, but the team rates well for power on this slate and their individual ownership projections are low enough throughout the projected batting order to be able to offset any popular players. Miami ranks in the middle of the probability board with slightly negative leverage but low raw ownership totals across the industry. Teams like the ludicrously popular Twins or the Phillies in a great spot against Taijuan Walker have more probability of success, but the Marlins come with lower overall popularity and make for a quality tournament stack.

Infielder Jazz Chisholm Jr. is off to a scorching start to his season, slashing .329/.380/.657 with four home runs and five stolen bases in just 79 plate appearances. Chisholm has created runs 93% better than average and he has a .329 ISO so far this year, delivering on the anticipated promise in his five-tool skillset. The infielder is the most popular Marlins bat on FanDuel, where he costs just $3,300 and is drawing more than 20% popularity. He lands at just 8.8% ownership for a more appropriate $5,700. On either site, regardless of popularity, Chisholm belongs in most Marlins stacks.

First baseman Jesus Aguilar hits from the right side of the plate and has gotten off to a good start this season. Aguilar is slashing .282/.379/.372 but he has been bereft of power like much of the league so far. The slugger has just two home runs and a .090 ISO so far this year, but he has created runs 26% better than average to this point and he is both inexpensive and unpopular, which makes him a good tournament target.

Jorge Soler has more home run power than most hitters in baseball. However, he is slashing .174/.283/.315 so far this year and with the power yet to truly arrive. Soler strikes out at an aggressive rate, and though he has hit three home runs in his 106 plate appearances, his .141 ISO and an 82 WRC+ are not nearly up to par. Soler is the most popular Marlins bat on DraftKings at just 10.3% ownership and an excellent $3,900 salary. For $2,900 on FanDuel, Soler is pulling in 13.4% popularity, he can be included in stacks without concern.

Young lefty Jesus Sanchez slots into the cleanup spot on most nights. Sanchez saw 251 plate appearances as a rookie last year, delivering a .251/.319/.489 triple-slash with 14 home runs and a .238 ISO in an excellent debut. So far this year, the outfielder has made 90 plate appearances and he is slashing .256/.322/.451 with a .195 ISO and three home runs. Sanchez has created runs 28% better than average.

Garrett Cooper slots in at first base for $3,300 on DraftKings and he adds outfield eligibility for just $2,500 on the FanDuel slate. Cooper has hit just one home run this year and he has a thin .096 ISO but he has created runs 20% better than average by WRC and he has been excellent for correlated scoring with a .368 on-base percentage. Cooper is inexpensive and easy to add to a lineup, but the next hitter is a better fifth man for a full stack.

Outfielder Avisail Garcia was brought to Miami off an excellent 29 home run season last year. Garcia slashed .262/.330/.490 with a .228 ISO in 515 plate appearances in 2021, in 83 opportunities this year he has delivered a .175/.205/.250 triple-slash with just one home run and a .075 ISO. He has created runs 63% worse than average so far, his salary has dropped to $2,700 on FanDuel and $3,800 on DraftKings and he will be unpopular on both sites. Garcia has a long track record of being a quality major league hitter. He can absolutely take advantage of this matchup and he belongs in stacks.

Brian Anderson is solid but unspectacular. He has third base and outfield eligibility on DraftKings and is a third baseman on FanDuel, and he is another cheap, unpopular bat at the back of this lineup. Anderson hit seven home runs in 264 plate appearances in 2021, but h had just a .129 ISO in his limited sample. The 28-year-old hit a career-high 20 home runs in 2019. He had a .207 ISO in 520 plate appearances that year, easily his best for power, but he was a well-above-average player for run creation from 2018-2020. So far this year, Anderson is creating runs 36% better than average, largely due to his .387 on-base percentage, he is a quality correlation piece wherever he hits in the confirmed lineup.

At the end of the lineup, Miguel Rojas and Jacob Stallings offer limited appeal. Rojas is a cheap infielder who is slashing .174/.219/.261 while creating runs 60% below average. Stallings hit eight home runs with a .123 ISO last year, and he has one home run with a .065 ISO in 68 plate appearances this year. Neither player is overly likely to contribute to stacks tonight.

Home Run Prediction Today: Jorge Soler — Miami Marlins


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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 Awesemo.com. 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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