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

Terry McBride

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A BOSTON RED SOX fan made an incredible play during Wednesday's ALCS Game 5 when a shattered bat came flying his way in the second inning

Small slate Saturday gives way to a more robust set of games for MLB DFS, with eight on tap for Sunday afternoon’s main slate. Now that teams dipping into third and fourth starters from some of these teams, it’s time to raise expectations for offense for some of the more prolific bats. Vegas seems to agree; game totals are coming in higher than they were earlier in the week when every team had their ace starter on the hill. Temperatures are slowly warming across the country as well, which should have a bit of an impact. All of that gets baked into projections and home run data, so there’s no need to run around checking temperatures. Sunday’s eight-game slate brings us a few powerful lineups in excellent looking spots. There should be plenty of power and scoring available.

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The split-slate kicks off at 7:10 p.m. ET on both sites. The Awesemo team will be here for all of it, providing updates to tools and data throughout, and Live Before Lock airs from 4 to 5 p.m. ET. Speaking of tools, if you aren’t visiting the Top Stacks Tool on a regular basis, 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 am going to give one of the top choices from each team.

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

Arizona Diamondbacks: n/a

Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr. — 11.14

Baltimore Orioles: Anthony Santander – 8.41

Boston Red Sox: J.D. Martinez — 18.49

Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ – 11.76

Chicago White Sox: n/a

Cincinnati Reds: Mike Moustakas — 16.15

Cleveland Indians: Eddie Rosario — 17.83

Colorado Rockies: n/a

Detroit Tigers: Nomar Mazara — 7.40

Houston Astros: n/a

Kansas City Royals: Salvador Perez — 10.70

Los Angeles Angels: n/a

Los Angeles Dodgers: n/a

Miami Marlins: n/a

Milwaukee Brewers: Keston Hiura — 11.39

Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano — 9.95

New York Mets: n/a

New York Yankees: Jay Bruce — 5.86

Oakland Athletics: n/a

Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper — 7.08

Pittsburgh Pirates: Colin Moran — 6.00

San Diego Padres: n/a

San Francisco Giants: n/a

Seattle Mariners: n/a

St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill — 7.48

Tampa Bay Rays: n/a

Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo — 10.32

Toronto Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez — 11.54

Washington Nationals: n/a

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MLB DFS Optimal Stacks & Leverage Plays

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

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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.

BAL at BOS — BOS 2-3-4-6-8

The Red Sox are at home taking on rookie lefty Bruce Zimmermann and the Orioles in what should be a fun AL East matchup with the potential for some offensive fireworks on both sides. Drawing a rookie in his second career start should be good for the Red Sox, as is the platoon split in general for their lineup. In his lone start last season Zimmermann threw seven innings to the tune of a 22.6% strikeout rate and a 5.11 xFIP, numbers that are largely irrelevant in a one-game sample. In his minor league career Zimmermann has rated as below league average in strikeout rate, and he grades out unspectacularly in traditional scouting metrics, with his only plus rating being for command.

The Red Sox field a powerful and dynamic lineup that can be teams several ways. While they did not shine last season, there is plenty of talent to like for MLB DFS purposes, and they could make noise on the offensive side of the game all season long. Boston imported Enrique Hernandez, utility-man extraordinaire, and he will be leading off in today’s lineup. Hernandez is a swiss army knife on the field and brings a decent stick to the plate. He had just a .230/.270/.410 slash with five home runs in 148 plate appearances last season, however, a down year after his .237/.304/.411 with 17 home runs in 460 plate appearances the season before. He put up a .174 ISO and created runs 12% below average that season. Hernandez is ultimately more a cog in the machine than he is a highly productive option on his own.

Alex Verdugo is another import from the Dodgers, and Boston’s primary return in the Mookie Betts deal. Verdugo came into the league with a strong prospect pedigree and has largely delivered. In 2019 he put up a .294/.342/.475 slash with 12 home runs in his 377 plate appearances. Last season he saw 221 opportunities and improved across the board, posting a .308/.367/.478 slash with a .169 ISO and 6 home runs, adding four stolen bases in the process. Verdugo has an excellent hit tool and enough power and speed to do damage for MLB DFS owners. If the Red Sox stack goes off, he is likely to be a part of the action.

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J.D. Martinez is the team leader in the home run model and one of the higher marks on the board overall for today’s slate. Martinez had a cold year at the plate in 2020, hitting just seven home runs and turning in a weak .175 ISO while creating runs 23% less frequently than league average. The star slugger was coming off a season that saw him post a .304/.383/.557 slash with 36 home runs in 657 plate appearances however, which makes it difficult to trust the small sample last season. The power upside is still there and the bat is still more than capable, particularly in a great spot against a rookie southpaw.

Shortstop Xander Bogaerts slots into the cleanup role on Sunday, with Rafael Devers getting a day off. Bogaerts is a fantastic right-handed hitter. In 2020 he continued his spectacular play, putting up a .300/.364/.502 slash and hitting 11 home runs in his 225 plate appearances. The shortstop added eight stolen bases to that tally, making him an MLB DFS beast for a team that largely struggled through the short season. In 2019 Bogaerts posted a .246 ISO on his way to 33 home runs in 698 plate appearances. There is real power and plenty of skill in that bat.

Marwin Gonzalez in the five spot creates some salary savings on FanDuel, though he is not at a huge discount on DraftKings. Gonzalez is a better real life player than he is a strong MLB DFS option, he plays all over the field and has had strong years at the plate. Overall he is less likely the .211/.286/.320 slash hitter from the short sample last year, and more like the player from several seasons in Houston. In 2019 Gonzalez put up a .264/.322/.414 slash, hitting 15 home runs in just 463 plate appearances. He is a solid role player but not a standout.

A player not worth considering strongly for today’s slate is Hunter Renfroe, who is underpriced for his talent on both sites. Renfroe posted a disappointing .156/.252/.393 slash in his limited 139 plate appearances last season, but has demonstrated his talent throughout his career. In 2019, Renfroe hit 33 home runs and stole five bases in his 494 plate appearances, posting a .273 ISO.

Catcher Christian Vazquez is a solid option at the position. He has posted back to back solid seasons at the plate, first breaking out in 2019 with a 23 home run performance in his 521 plate appearances. Last season he hit seven while putting up a .283/.344/.457 slash with a .173 ISO and created runs 15% better than the average. He is worth a number of catcher shares on today’s FanDuel slate, particularly when rostering Red Sox stacks, though he is very expensive on DraftKings at $5,200.

Second-year man Bobby Dalbec is one of the Red Sox top prospects. He received the call to the Show last season, seeing 92 plate appearances and hitting eight home runs while putting up a monster .338 ISO (short sample alert). Dalbec has power for days, but the hit tool is a question mark. If he is able to put bat on ball with frequency, he has the opportunity to star for the Red Sox, for now he is a late lineup power upside sleeper. He can move into the endcap spot for Red Sox stacks as a last-ditch option for a dinger, though he does not grade out for great power or as a strong consideration in traditional thinking about a wraparound play given the lack of speed.

Christian Arroyo is a mix-in option from the nine spot in the lineup, nothing more.


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CLE at DET: CLE 3-7 — Ramirez — Rosario — Reyes — Rosario — Naylor

The Cleveland Indians are smashing through the top of the home run model for today’s slate, leading the overall team power index in their matchup against the Tigers and Tarik Skubal. A short look up and down the board for primary stacking shows a few different interesting combinations for this lineup. The primary pieces from Cleveland land toward the heart of the batting order.

Leadoff hitter Jordan Luplow makes for a great start given his $2,300 price on DraftKings and $2,400 on FanDuel. Luplow has a bit of power, a bit of speed and a reasonable on-base and hit tool. Last season he struggled through 92 plate appearance that don’t warrant much mention, but in 2019 he put up 15 home runs and three stolen bases with a .372 on-base percentage in his 261 plate appearances. Given regular playing time, Luplow has the opportunity to have a nice year for the Indians.

Infielder Cesar Hernandez typically stands out for his ability to get on base in front of bigger bats. Take or leave Hernandez, but he is in a position to be highly correlated with the rosterable teammates. He is somewhat overpriced on the DraftKings slate at $4,400, but is still playable.

Jose Ramirez is one of the team leaders in the home run model, the star third baseman stands out with his 17 home runs in 254 plate appearances last year, a season after putting up 23 in 542 opportunities. He adds speed as well, Ramirez stole 10 bases last year and 24 the season before, creating an MLB DFS dream combination of skills. He is the critical piece of the Indians offense and should not be left out of stacks.

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Newcomer Eddie Rosario has a strong track record for power from his seasons in Minnesota. He slots into the lineup behind Ramirez, cleaning up for what should be several good on-base hitters in front of him, which should create plenty of RBI opportunities. Rosario his 13 home runs and drove in 42 last year for the Twins, putting up a .257/.316/.476 slash in 231 plate appearances. In 2019, Rosario blasted 32 homers in his 590 plate appearances, putting up a .224 ISO and creating runs three percent better than the average.

Powerful Franmil Reyes has a terrific home run mark in the model as well. He mashed nine over the wall last season in just 241 plate appearances, a year after his Cleveland breakout that saw him hit 37 in 548 opportunities. There is plenty of power in the bat, though Reyes has a propensity for trending toward an all-or-nothing play.

Amed Rosario was one of the primary returns from the Mets in the Francisco Lindor deal. He is a solid former top prospect who has put up strong numbers for MLB DFS purposes in the past. In 2019 Rosario hit 15 home runs and stole 19 bases in a full season for the Mets, which is a rare enough combination of skills to make him appealing at just $2,300 on FanDuel and $3,600 on DraftKings.

Rosario hits in front of Josh Naylor, the last truly interesting hitter in today’s lineup. Naylor has sneaky power upside; in 279 plate appearances in 2019 he hit eight home runs; but he followed that up with just one last year in 104 chances. Naylor has long been a power project in waiting; he has 70-grade raw power in traditional scouting metrics; 60-grade game power. It simply needs to translate to performance. As a dart throw, there are worse options to round off a mid-lineup stack.

HR Call: J.D. Martinez — Red Sox


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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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