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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 4/19/21

Terry McBride

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EMac's MLB DFS Picks & Stacks for Yahoo, DraftKings + FanDuel daily fantasy baseball lineups, including Giants & Mets | Thursday 4/22/21

Happy Patriot’s Day, MLB DFS fans. The annual Boston-based holiday is the reason season-long teams locked early this week, and it is always a special early-season baseball day around Fenway Park. With a good contest kicking off before noon in Boston, and after the unfortunate postponement of the Twins – Athletics game, there is a solid six-game slate of daily fantasy baseball action lined up for tonight. There are plenty of terrific MLB DFS lineup picks today, including a few top-end pitchers available at affordable prices and several strong looking spots for stacking on DraftKings and FanDuel.

The main slate kicks off at 7:05 p.m. ET on both sites. The Awesemo team will be here for all of it, providing updates to tools and data throughout, including the Strategy Show, which you can find on YouTube. Speaking of tools, if you aren’t visiting the Top Stacks Tool regularly, you’re just making your MLB DFS picks incorrectly. The Top Starters Tool is every bit as important in deciding who takes the hill for your daily fantasy baseball lineup.

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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Top HR Options

Home Run Ratings

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 own design, based on a blend of several predictive statistics for the batter-pitcher matchup, I will give one of the top choices from each team. However, it won’t always be the absolute top-ranked player, particularly when there is an obvious star who would be in that spot every day.

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

Kansas City Royals: Jorge Soler — 10.18

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani — 13.13

Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager — 2.70

Milwaukee Brewers: Keston Hiura — 8.23

Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins — 10.00

San Diego Padres: Eric Hosmer — 6.01

San Francisco Giants: Mike Yastrzemski — 14.27

Seattle Mariners: Mitch Haniger — 9.82

St. Louis Cardinals: Paul DeJong — 9.75

Tampa Bay Rays: Mike Zunino — 8.08

Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo — 6.60

Washington Nationals: Kyle Schwarber — 11.60

Power Index

This is intended to capture the full range of home runs 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 (pitcher bats not included in non-DH games), and the second is for the top six hitters in the projected lineup.

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MLB DFS Optimal Stacks & Leverage Plays

This section will feature a few standout MLB DFS spots and teams to look at for potential plays here. Make sure to check out the ownership projections for critical updates and monitor the top stacks tool throughout the day for changes.

On the Hill

Today’s MLB DFS slate offers several interesting pitchers from which to make picks. The Padres’ Joe Musgrove is looking like an ace early on and is priced up and popular after his most recent outing. For those who missed it, Musgrove twirled a gem of a no-hitter, the first in franchise history, earning himself a lifetime supply of free beer in the process.

Musgrove is in a terrific spot again tonight. The Padres have the strikeout-happy Brewers in town without superstar Christian Yelich in the lineup. Musgrove has upside toward another dominant start tonight. He has a 35.8% strikeout rate in his 19 innings so far, up from the 33.1% he posted last season after making a big leap forward, and his 1.91 xFIP and 0.47 WHIP are top notch. Musgrove is worth the heavy salary in this spot, but the public will be on him in large shares. There are other options to which to turn, but rostering a good amount of Musgrove is a smart approach.

The Angels and righty Dylan Bundy will be at home to face the Rangers, a team that has a second-worst 30.0% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season. Bundy is right on pace with his 2020 season so far, putting up a 28.6% strikeout rate in his 19 innings; he was at 27.0% in 65 innings last year after putting up just a 23.1% mark the year before. Bundy made specific changes to his pitch mix upon arriving in Los Angeles (of Anaheim), and he has been a different pitcher during his stint there. He stands an excellent chance of putting up a necessary score tonight, with major strikeout potential on deck. Bundy ranks behind only Musgrove in the Top Pitchers Tool.

Dodgers starter Dustin May has spectacular stuff and has been electric in his 10 innings this season. May has a 31.8% strikeout rate, a 1.97 xFIP and a 1.16 WHIP so far. Prior to this year, he was at just a 19.6% strikeout rate despite popular clips on social media of his ridiculous two-seam fastball. That pitch always had the capacity to hitters like Manny Machado look silly watching called third strikes buzz past them at 100 mph with 18 inches of horizontal break, but now he is putting it to perfect use.  May has fantastic upside and is facing a Mariners team that ranks 18th in baseball with a 25.7% strikeout rate against righties this year. The Mariners active roster stands 29th in baseball dating to the start of the 2019 season, with a 26.1% strikeout rate in the split. They rank 19th with a .173 ISO and create runs 4% worse than average in the split over the same sample. This is a premium starter against a weak team, and he will be under-owned on both sites. May’s upside and leverage looks like a shining beacon of hope at the end of the MLB DFS night.


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(Quick note: if it says 1-5, it means hitters 1-2-3-4-5. Otherwise, I will specify spots)

SF – 1-2-4-5-6 – La Stella – Yastrzemski – Belt – Longoria – Posey

(Crawford or Slater also fine if in No. 6 spot)

The Giants are in Philadelphia’s bandbox to take on right-handed starter Chase Anderson in what is profiling to be a big spot for power potential, as seen in the index above. The Giants rank well by MLB DFS points projections also, standing among the top few options on both sites on the Top Stacks tool. They will be popular and slightly over-exposed on FanDuel, while there is leverage available on the DraftKings slate as of the early afternoon.

The Giants profile well because of the matchup with Anderson. Saying that Anderson has a bit of a home run problem is like Tommy Callahan saying he has “a little bit of a weight problem.” In 2020, Anderson yielded 11 home runs in just 33.2 innings. The year before it was 23 in 139 innings, while the mark stood at 30 in just 158 innings in 2018. That translates to a 1.71 HR/9 in 2018, a 1.49 mark in 2019 and a brutal 2.94 in 2020. This season Anderson has made two starts, pitching nine innings total and yielding two home runs, putting him right on track, which in some metaphor confusion happens to also be completely off the rails. Anderson is a highly targetable pitcher here. While the Giants are not a stack we land on frequently, they offer significant upside potential on a short slate.

Projected leadoff man Tommy La Stella had a standout year between the Angels and Giants last year, going .281/.370/.449 with a .168 ISO and creating runs 29% better than average. He hit five home runs and stole a base in his 228 plate appearances, and he hit 16 home runs in 2019, but La Stella is primarily an on-base man and a run scorer here. He is $4,000 on DraftKings and hilariously costs just $2,200 on the FanDuel slate, making for a popular but smart selection.

Mike Yastrzemski burst onto the scene over the past two seasons, putting up a .297/.400/.568 slash with 10 home runs in his 225 plate appearances last season, a year after a 21-homer breakout in 411 opportunities in 2019. Yastrzemski took his time getting to the majors, finally arriving at age 28, and he is off to a cold start this season, going just .170/.267/.377 with two home runs in his 60 plate appearances so far, leaving people with lingering question. Though, that is impacting neither his MLB DFS pricing nor popularity, as he is the chalkiest bat on a chalky team.

Lefty Alex Dickerson will be similarly popular, and he costs just $2,300 on the FanDuel slate and $3,800 on DraftKings. Dickerson had a strong 2020 at the plate, putting up a .278 ISO while hitting 10 home runs in just 170 plate appearances. He flashed a solid on-base skill, putting up a .371 mark a year after he landed at just .332 in 190 opportunities. Dickerson has power and some upside for on-base and run scoring potential even if he does not go deep in this one. Like most of the Giants hitters, he is discerning at the plate and typically does not strike out with extreme frequency or give away at bats. In his 31 plate appearances this season, however, Dickerson is at just a .171/.256/.343 with a 28.2% strikeout rate, though he has hit two home runs and the sample is miniscule.

Brandon Belt is the first of a string of quality veteran bats in the Giants lineup. He is a longtime Giants favorite and has been a solid source of power throughout his career. Hitting cleanup for just $2,300 on FanDuel, Belt is another easy click in this stack. He had an excellent 2020 campaign, putting up a .309./.425/.591 slash while blasting nine home runs in 179 plate appearances. The year before had been a downturn, so it was nice to see a return to form for Belt. The return of his power has carried through to this season; Belt already has two home runs in just 40 plate appearances. He is at just a .206/.325/.441 triple slash early in the season, but there is nothing to worry about in those marks at this point.

Third baseman Evan Longoria is off to a dynamite start in 2021. He has hit four home runs in just 52 plate appearances this season after hitting only seven in 209 opportunities the year before. Longoria has an excellent .304/.385/.609 slash with a .304 ISO so far. He is hitting everything hard and has an excellent chance at driving the ball and knocking in runs today.

Catcher Buster Posey is headed to the Hall of Fame when his career is done, but he is not ready to hang up the tools of ignorance just yet. Posey reminded fans and MLB DFS players of his existence with two early home runs this season, and he has carried through to a .265/.342/.441 slash in his 38 plate appearances, putting up a .176 ISO. He should be hitting in an RBI spot in this lineup and should not be left out of stacks. Posey can provide differentiation on sites that do not require a catcher.

Veteran shortstop Brandon Crawford hits from the left side of the plate and provides some upside for mid-range power while allowing for some roster differentiation in a popular stack. Crawford put up a .256/.326/.465 slash with eight home runs and a surprising .209 ISO in 2020, showing that he is still capable of driving the ball. He hit 11 home runs in something of a down year in 2019, but there is upside on a low-owned, low-cost player on both DraftKings and FanDuel tonight.

Right handed Austin Slater may or may not be in the lineup at the bottom of this order. Slater has a high strikeout rate but a solid power presence at the end of the order. He hit five home runs in just 104 plate appearances last season, putting up a .224 ISO and creating runs 52% better than the average in the small sample. Slater is an interesting option and would be more so if he were hitting higher in the batting order. Getting to him while sacrificing a potential plate appearance caps the overall upside, though he could be a sneaky source of power at very little ownership. The salary is higher than several of his teammates hitting in the heart of the order, creating a somewhat unique puzzle for MLB DFS lineup picks today.

HR Call: Brandon Belt – San Francisco Giants


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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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