The midweek MLB DFS slate surprised some of us with a 12:20 ET afternoon lock time, leaving a pair of small slates on deck for the evening. Typically this article will be focused on each day’s main slate, but due to the oversight, we’ll spend some time going overboard on what remains a quality four-game slate on DraftKings and a fair three-game slate on FanDuel. The slate is loaded with premium pitching talent, for such a short list of contests, there are many ways to go with arms tonight, which also serves to make the quality of bats somewhat more unpredictable. There are excellent teams to target, but rostering Blue Jays stacks against the Yankees’ ace is different than taking shots against their fifth starter. Weighing the options via the Top Stacks and Top Pitchers tools is the best approach to a thin slate. Creating oddball constructions including smaller stacks, more than one individual player, or, on the three-game slate, perhaps even allowing an occasional hitter against a pitcher will help differentiate your MLB DFS picks today for lineups 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 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
Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle — 2.47
Chicago White Sox: Luis Robert — 11.66
Milwaukee Brewers: Keston Hiura — 10.71
New York Yankees: Joey Gallo — 8.32
Oakland Athletics: Sean Murphy — 5.24
Seattle Mariners: Mitch Haniger — 6.50
Tampa Bay Rays: Mike Zunino — 6.00
Toronto Blue Jays: George Springer — 10.96
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
Following a morning and afternoon that saw a postponement and several questionable weather situations, the evening slates also have a contest with a high probability of rain. The 7:10 ET matchup between the Mariners and White Sox in Chicago is currently pulling a 70% chance of rain, with showers expected from the late afternoon into the early morning hours. Keeping an eye on the news will be critical with that contest, it starts immediately after the FanDuel slate locks and would whittle the available games on that site down to just two if it does not play, there is more leeway on DraftKings. The remaining games will be played indoors or in good conditions.
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
There are eight pitching choices available on the DraftKings slate, all of which are of reasonable quality at worst. The two pitchers who are not available on the FanDuel slate are Frankie Montas and Shane McClanahan, both of whom are talented starters who are in consideration at their low prices. Montas rates as the second-highest ranked starter by their probability of being a top-2 option on DraftKings, while McClanahan sits fourth overall, both are strong plays that are efficiently owned by the field. The remaining six options top out with elite names in Gerrit Cole and Corbin Burnes. Either ace could put up a strong performance, but Burnes has by far the better matchup in facing the Orioles while Cole has to tangle with the Blue Jays. John Means will oppose Burnes, the lucky lefty has benefitted in a big way from suppressing batting average on balls in play throughout his career, he has upside but Means is always walking the razor’s edge with defense and good fortune. Robbie Ray had an excellent year last year but he is taking on the deadly White Sox in the contest with weather concerns, while Chicago will answer with non-DFS southpaw Dallas Keuchel. The remaining righty, Toronto’s Jose Berrios is on the board in a similar position to all of these choices. Berrios is facing the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, a dangerous proposition for any starter.
Where they are available, the starters in the Oakland vs Tampa Bay game are premium options despite their popularity on the slate. Frankie Montas has proven himself to be a capable starter on talent alone, following an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing substances in 2019. The Athletics’ righty posted a 26.6% strikeout rate over 187 innings in 32 starts last season, inducing a 13.7% swinging-strike rate in the process. Montas had a 3.64 xFIP with a 1.18 WHIP over the course of the season, though he walked hitters at a 7.3% clip and allowed somewhat concerning contact. An 8.7% barrel rate on its own is not threatening, but Montas yielded a concerning 42.2% hard-hit rate with an 11.6-degree average launch angle. He will be facing a Rays team that has power and does well against right-handed pitching. The active Tampa Bay roster had a collective .193 ISO and a 111 WRC+ with a 3.72% home run rate in the split last season, ranking fifth, second, and seventh in the game. The Rays struck out at a 22nd-ranked 24.4% clip against righties, of course, so there is plenty of upside on the board for Montas as well. The Athletics righty is a strong play but he will be popular on the DraftKings slate tonight.
Shane McClanahan, meanwhile, comes in off a highly successful rookie campaign that saw him make 25 starts and throw 123.1 innings. McClanahan struck out 27.3% of opposing hitters while pitching to a crisp 3.23 xFIP. He put a few too many runners on base, but that is to be expected for most rookies, McClanahan had just a 7.2% walk rate, so some of that is also down to happenstance and defense. The southpaw induced a fantastic 14.8% swinging-strike rate and had a 31.5% combined called plus swinging strikes rate. He allowed a significant amount of premium contact last season, however, something that will need improvement before he can make the next big leap. Opposing hitters teed off for a 45.4% hard-hit rate when they were able to connect with McClanahan’s elite stuff, finding the barrel 10.7% of the time and sending balls back the other way at an average of 91.7 mph of exit velocity. When hitters put the bat on the ball it can be problematic, but McClanahan misses more than enough bats to stay viable. The young Rays lefty will be facing a low-end Athletics lineup that, as usual, has outperformed expectations early in the season. The active roster for the Athletics had a 14th-ranked .170 ISO and a 3.65% home run rate against lefties last season, and their quality collective 21.5% strikeout rate was the 9th best in the game, though they created runs just two percent ahead of the average in the split. McClanahan may have more difficulty than one might expect finding strikeouts in this matchup, but he looks like a playable piece on the DraftKings board.
Corbin Burnes tops the slate on both sites, the electric righty got off to a rocky start in his first outing, but he will right the ship quickly. Burnes posted a dominant 35.6% strikeout rate while walking a mere 5.2% of opposing hitters last season, winning the National League Cy Young Award in the process. Burnes pitched to a 2.30 xFIP with a 0.94 WHIP and induced an excellent 16.6% swinging-strike rate with a 33.8% CSW%. He was excellent at limiting quality contact as well, Burnes allowed just a 3.1% barrel rate and yielded a 30.5% hard-hit percentage last season. Burnes should mow down an Orioles lineup that had a 24.9% strikeout rate against righties last season, the 25th-ranked team in baseball in the split. They managed just a collective .156 ISO and a 3.09% home run rate while creating runs 15% below average against righties last season, all bottom-third ranks. Burnes is elite and he should dominate this outing, fire away with both barrels.
Gerrit Cole projects to be over-owned on FanDuel when compared to his probability of being the top starter, but he is inarguably in play on the limited slate. On DraftKings, Cole’s ownership comes at a more efficient rate in line with his probability of being a top-2 option. The concerns that knock Cole down the board further than he usually can be found are not about the pitcher, but the ridiculously tough matchup in a hitter’s park. Cole is taking on the loaded Blue Jays, Toronto’s active roster compiled a .202 ISO, a 19.8% strikeout rate, and a 4.35% home run rate against right-handed pitching last season, all of which were the top mark in baseball. Their 111 WRC+ managed to fall to second overall for run creation in the split. Toronto’s lineup is one of the best in the game, even a pitcher of Cole’s caliber will have a difficult time getting through this matchup cleanly, let alone while racking up a large number of strikeouts. For his end, Cole maintained his excellence through most of last season, pitching to a 2.93 xFIP and 1.06 WHIP with a 33.5% strikeout rate. The righty induced a 14.5% swinging-strike rate while yielding a bit too much premium contact. Cole gave up a 9.8% barrel rate and a 38.6% hard-hit percentage, the latter mark is average but the former is what tends to lead to Cole’s “he’ll make one mistake a game” reputation. Those mistakes turn into home runs easily in Yankee Stadium, doubly so against a weaponized lineup like Toronto’s. Cole is an expensive risk that does not provide leverage across the industry tonight, he should be rostered, but pressing shares beyond the field may not be warranted.
Toronto starter Jose Berrios is one of the few points of differentiation on the mound for the evening slates on either site. Berrios will be owned slightly less than his probability of being a top-2 starter on DraftKings, and about half as much as his probability of being the best option on the blue site. Berrios had a 26.1% strikeout rate and walked just 5.8% of hitters last year, pitching to a solid 3.59 xFIP and a 1.06 WHIP. He is not the biggest swing-and-miss option available, his 9.9% swinging-strike rate was just around the league average, as is his 29% CSW%. Berrios can compile strikeouts against a lineup like this, however, and he typically pitches deep into games. The righty turned in 192 innings over 32 starts last season, putting up 17 quality starts for a 28th-ranked 53% quality start conversion rate. That board drops to below 70% after fourth-ranked Walker Buehler, so Berrios’ ability to reach the FanDuel bonus should not be taken lightly. The Yankees active roster had a 24.9% strikeout rate last season, matching the Orioles for 25th in baseball. The team has undeniable power, but their .170 collective ISO was just the 10th-ranked mark in the split and their 3.61% home run rate ranked eighth. Berrios can find a few bonus strikeouts against this team, his 2.8% home run rate last season and 3.03% rate for his career suggest that he has a chance to tiptoe through the Yankees’ power minefield cleanly as well. Berrios is an underappreciated option for MLB DFS tonight.
If the Mariners vs White Sox game happens to play, Mariners lefty Robbie Ray would be a premium option who ranks second on FanDuel and third on DraftKings and carries positive leverage on both slates. After a lifetime of wildly erratic performances, Ray harnessed his elite strikeout stuff last year and cut his walks in half, resulting in an American League Cy Young Award season. Ray went from an absurd 17.9% walk rate in the limited 2020 season and an 11.2% mark in 2020 to just a 6.7% rate last year, while inflating his strikeout rate to 32.1% somehow. The lefty had everything working last year, though even the excellent season leaves him with a 10.3% career walk rate. Ray had a 1.05 WHIP last season, his career WHIP is 1.32. He also benefitted from an otherworldly .125 batting average on balls in play against last season. While some of that can be attributed to his talent and his acumen for inducing lazy fly balls when hitters make contact, Ray did yield a 42.9% hard-hit rate with a 9.8% barrel rate and 90.4 mph of exit velocity on the average. Hitters sent balls flying at a 17.6-degree average launch angle, adding up to a 4.3% home run rate allowed, a mark that represents a big uptick in what the pitcher has done previously. Ray undoubtedly had an excellent season last year, he induced a 15.5% swinging-strike rate with his filthy stuff, but when batters make contact they can drive the ball against him, and there have to be lingering concerns that the control problems will rise up once again. The combination of question marks, perhaps entirely unfairly, are enough to limit the excitement in rostering Ray against a high-end White Sox lineup. Chicago’s active roster was seventh-best in baseball with a .177 ISO and fourth creating runs 13% better than average against lefties last season. The White Sox active roster had a 3.37% home run rate that was in the middle of standings, however, and their 24% strikeout rate in the split drops to 22nd. There is meat on the bone for Ray, but he will need to continue to prove himself to MLB DFS owners in general. Rostering the upside on faith when it is a highly-ranked play at positive leverage makes sense, Ray is targetable for more shares than the field.
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The top two stacks are the same on both sites tonight, with the Brewers topping the board across the industry in their matchup against John Means. The Orioles’ lefty had a .240 batting average on balls in play against last year, a .216 the year before, and a .256 prior to that, he has benefitted from happenstance and defense throughout his career, leading to mid-range effectiveness on the surface but concerning advanced metrics. Means has a career 3.80 ERA but a 4.83 xFIP and 4.61 xERA. Means is a low-strikeout option, he exceeded his 21.3% career average by posting a 22.7% mark last year, but that is not an impressive number either. Means walked just 4.4% and had a 1.03 WHIP, with the BABIP and low walks he has been successful in staying out of trouble by and large, but he yielded a 10.1% barrel rate last season with a 20.3-degree average launch angle that could easily turn into home runs, despite the pushed-back walls in Baltimore. Means is facing a Brewers active roster that scuffled against lefties last year, posting just a collective .159 ISO and a 90 WRC+ in the split. Milwaukee’s roster compiled just a 3.18% home run rate, the 19th-ranked mark in baseball in the split last year, but in a new season, there is reason to believe they will be effective against a pitcher like this one. Stacking veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Willy Adames, and former MVP Christian Yelich is a good start from the top. McCutchen has lost a lot in the hit tool, but his power remains and he should have it on display as the Brewers’ designated hitter. McCutchen had a .222 ISO and hit 27 home runs in 574 plate appearances last year. Adames hit 25 home runs of his own while posting a .219 ISO while breaking out of Tampa Bay in style after a trade. Yelich has struggled mightily, but this is still a player who hit 80 home runs and stole 52 bases from 2018 through 2019, winning an MVP in the process. Hunter Renfroe adds another major source of power, particularly against lefties, in the middle of the lineup. Renfroe had a .242 ISO and created runs 14% better than average last season, he will be followed by post-hype prospect Keston Hiura who broke out several years ago then went as far down the ladder as being relegated to the minors for most of 2021. Hiura is back coming off a hot spring and he seems primed to regain his reputation as a premium bat. The infielder is inexpensive and has valuable multi-position eligibility. After Hiura, the lineup should include quality options from the low-owned midrange, such as Mike Brosseau and Kolten Wong. The Brewers are negatively leveraged, but on a short slate they are very much in play in spite of their popularity, focusing on unique combinations of hitters will be key.
Assuming this game plays, the Mariners look to be in a premium spot against Dallas Keuchel. Seattle ranks second on both sites, they will be popular but again the focus must be on unique combinations, rather than purely low raw ownership. Keuchel is known for being a better real-life pitcher than an MLB DFS option, but even that was untrue last year. The contact-based lefty struck out just 13.2% of hitters while walking 8.2% and pitching to an ugly 4.74 xFIP with a 1.53 WHIP. Keuchel induces ground balls at a massive rate, his lone saving grace when he is pitching well. Opposing hitters managed just a five-degree average launch angle against, but the southpaw yields too many free passes, and his 8.9% barrel rate and 39.7% hard-hit percentage do not support the pitch-to-contact approach.
Switch-hitting Abraham Toro will be leading off in the confirmed Mariners lineup. Toro saw 375 plate appearances between Houston and Seattle last season, arriving in the Pacific Northwest in a trade midway through the year. Toro has a well-regarded bat and decent speed, he compiled 11 home runs and six stolen bases in his limited opportunities last year, slashing .239/.315/.373 with a .134 ISO. Toro lacked premium contact, but he excelled in limiting strikeouts, posting just a 14.4% rate while walking 8.3% of the time. Toro is a quality starting point for the Mariners lineup and MLB DFS stacks.
Ty France hit 18 home runs in his 650 plate appearances last year, turning a 6.8% barrel rate and a 38.9% hard-hit percentage into a .154 ISO, but he slashed .291/.368/.445 and created runs 29% better than average by WRC+, posting a sneaky-good season on the whole. France struck out just 16.3% of the time and walked in 7.1% of his plate appearances, he comes at a cheap $2,800 on FanDuel and $4,200 on DraftKings as a quality option to move around the infield.
Outfielder Mitch Haniger is perhaps the most established star name on this team this season. Haniger came roaring back from several injuries to see 691 plate appearances in 2021. He responded with a fantastic year by any measure, Haniger had a 12.6% barrel rate and a 44.7% hard-hit percentage that he turned into 39 home runs and a .232 ISO while creating runs 20% better than average. The outfielder somehow checks in at just a $3,300 price tag on FanDuel, he is more appropriately priced at $4,600 on DraftKings. Haniger should be a major part of Mariners’ stacks, despite any popularity concerns, though he is the first source of strikeouts, posting a 24.5% rate last season, that is simply not a concern against this pitcher.
Mighty Luis Torrens makes excellent contact at the plate. He hit 15 home runs in 375 plate appearances last year and he will be hitting cleanup for Seattle today. Torrens slots in as a catcher for a low price on both sites, his contact metrics can be weaponized where the position is required and he remains useful where it is not. Torrens had a 10.4% barrel rate and a 43.2% hard-hit percentage last year, and he has been regarded as a plus-power prospect since his days with the Padres.
Eugenio Suarez came in from Cincinnati with Jesse Winker, adding premium talent to this lineup, though Winker will sit against a lefty today. Suarez hit 31 home runs but struggled to slash just .198/.286/.428 last year. He struck out a whopping 29.8% of the time and walked in 9.8% of his plate appearances while barreling the ball 15% but somehow managing only a 39.8% hard-hit mark. Suarez is a frustrating player, but when the “all” side of the “all-or-nothing” coin comes up, he can be fantasy gold at a cheap price and with positional flexibility.
Rookie Julio Rodriguez is a name to remember this season. The apex prospect made the team with an electric spring, including a memorable inside-the-park home run. Rodriguez is a true five-tool talent, possessing a plus hit-tool, plus-speed, and plus-plus power. The outfielder has not gotten out of the gate in the regular season over just 15 plate appearances, but the talent oozes out of every pore, Rodriguez was built to hit baseballs. In 340 plate appearances over high-A and double-A last season, Rodriguez compiled 13 home runs and 21 stolen bases, he is an excellent option in the middle of Seattle stacks today.
Shortstop J.P. Crawford is officially post-post-hype at age-27, but he had a quality season for Seattle last year and finally locked down a full-time role after coming up as a highly regarded prospect with Philadelphia before kicking around Washington State in 2019 and 2020 as a part-time Mariners infielder. Crawford still has a well-regarded skillset, but he is not a standout. In 687 plate appearances last year he slashed .273/.338/.376 with an anemic .103 ISO, hitting nine home runs and stealing three bases. Crawford may have a bit more to give, but nothing about the contact profile would suggest it. He is a contact hitter at this point, he struck out just 16.6% of the time and had an 8.4% walk rate last year, he should be able to put the ball in play four out of four times against Keuchel, that is the extent of his likely upside.
Tommy Murphy is another catcher loaded for power in this lineup. Murphy hit 11 home runs in 325 tries last season while managing an 8.7% barrel rate and a 37.5% hard-hit percentage. The plus-plus raw power has never truly translated in-game for Murphy, but he is capable of driving the right pitch despite going .202/.304/.350 last season. Murphy is a last-man-in option at the back of this lineup.
Infielder Dylan Moore is a hit, on-base, and speed option who did only one of those things with particular acumen last year. Moore stole 21 bases in his 377 plate appearances, despite struggling with a .181/.276/.334 triple-slash. He needs to dramatically increase his ability to get on base if he is going to keep his job with a lot of competition on the roster this season. Moore struck out 29.4% of the time last year, far too much for such a lousy hitter, he is an afterthought at best but on the right night, he could wrap around to the top of a Mariners stack effectively with his speed.
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