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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 4/7/21

Terry McBride

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MLB DFS Picks DraftKings FanDuel Tournament Strategy Optimal Lineups Home Runs

With a loaded day long slate of MLB DFS on tap, we’re getting started early around here today. The 10-game main slate is loaded with high-end starting pitching and some power bats in interesting matchups. With little time to spare, lets dive right into the DraftKings and FanDuel MLB DFS picks.

The slate kicks off at 1:10 p.m. ET on both sites. The Awesemo team will be here for all of it, providing updates to tools and data throughout, including back to back Strategy Show and Live Before Lock from 11am ET to 1pm 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, though 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

Arizona Diamondbacks: n/a

Atlanta Braves: n/a

Baltimore Orioles: n/a

Boston Red Sox: Hunter Renfroe – 5.75

Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo – 7.53

Chicago White Sox: Yoan Moncada – 10.22

Cincinnati Reds: n/a

Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes – 17.68

Colorado Rockies: n/a

Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera – 7.11 

Houston Astros: n/a

Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana – 5.03

Los Angeles Angels: n/a

Los Angeles Dodgers: Will Smith – 8.72

Miami Marlins: Adam Duvall – 8.76

Milwaukee Brewers: Keston Hiura – 8.13

Minnesota Twins: Nelson Cruz – 17.31

New York Mets: Pete Alonso – 10.94

New York Yankees: n/a

Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson – 10.43

Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins – 7.31

Pittsburgh Pirates: n/a

San Diego Padres: Eric Hosmer – 6.53

San Francisco Giants: Evan Longoria – 10.16

Seattle Mariners: Evan White – 1.68

St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado – 4.50

Tampa Bay Rays: Brandon Lowe – 9.91

Texas Rangers: Nick Solak – 7.36

Toronto Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez – 10.67

Washington Nationals: n/a

Crush your MLB DFS contests with tools and data from the #1 DFS Player

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)

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.

MIN – 1-3-4-6-7 – Garver – Cruz – Polanco – Rooker – Sano

The homer-happy Twins offense is taking on lefty Matthew Boyd in Detroit today in what should be a great spot. The lefty starter has his believers, those who will chase the 30% strikeout rate from 2019, but Boyd is very much more the low-20% strikeout pitcher he has been through the rest of his career, including in the minor leagues. In his 12 starts in 2020, Boyd put up a 22.1% strikeout rate alongside a 4.98 xFIP and a 1.48 WHIP while yielding 15 home runs in just 60 innings. In his good 2019 season, Boyd allowed a whopping 39 home runs in 185.1 innings and a 1.89 HR/9 mark (2.24 in 2020). This is a pitcher to target for a few longballs, even if he manages to strike people out around the edges. One can reliably assume that Boyd will be giving up the home runs with runners on base as well, given his propensity for walking hitters.

The Twins bring a lineup loaded with right handed power to Detroit today. Catcher Mitch Garver is leading off in the confirmed lineup. Garver had a down year in his tiny 81 plate appearance sample last season, hitting just two home runs and putting up a .167/.247/.264 slash with a 0.97 ISO, while creating runs at a pace 59% worse than average. The year before, however, Garver was a smash both for the Twins and for MLB DFS. He hit 31 home runs in just 359 plate appearances, posting a ridiculous .357 ISO and .630 slugging percentage along the way. The truth is somewhere in between, but the upside is apparent against a gas can of a southpaw.

Kyle Garlick has seen 76 plate appearances over the past two seasons, managing three home runs, which all came in 2019. He is a 29-year-old quad-A player who is mostly filler in the lineup, though he’ll be hitting second for the Twins today, which makes him relevant at the minimum price on FanDuel and $2,300 on DraftKings. In traditional scouting, Garlick’s tool set never rated above 45 in fantasy-relevant categories. His highwater mark in the minors was in the Dodgers system in 2019, where he hit 23 home runs in 304 plate appearances.

On the complete opposite end of the major league experience spectrum, 40-year-old Nelson Cruz is still a must against any lefty; against a lefty like this, the only downside is that Cruz cannot be rostered twice. In 214 plate appearances in 2020, the ageless wonder mashed 16 home runs, while putting up a .303/.397/.595 slash, a .292 ISO and a WRC+ 64% above average. He hit 41 home runs in 521 plate appearances the year before. There is simply no slowing him down. For his career, Cruz has hit a home run every 16.35 plate appearances against lefties. For perspective, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron hit home runs less frequently than that mark (against both hands) for their careers.

Jorge Polanco is another player who had a down season in the short and wonky 2020, and he has enough talent that gamers can forgive the performance. In 2019, Polanco hit 22 home runs in 704 plate appearances, while putting up a .295/.356/.485 slash and a .190 ISO. He hits with power from both sides of the plate, getting to lefties with slightly more frequency when he has the opportunity.


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Former all-world prospect turned roller coaster ride of a major league career, Byron Buxton is back in vogue for MLB DFS purposes this season. In 2020, Buxton smashed his way to 13 home runs in just 135 plate appearances. The pedigree has always been there, but Buxton was slow to find his stroke in the majors and has dealt with injuries that have hampered his upside. In a fully healthy season the skillset would be tantalizing. In 2019, Buxton hit 10 home runs and stole 14 bases in his 295 plate appearances; he saw just 94 opportunities in 2018, but in 2017 he hit 16 home runs and stole 29 bases in 511 chances. The talent is very real, he just needs to stay on the field regularly. For $3,900 on DraftKings and $3,700 on FanDuel, he is very much in play in mid-lineup Twins stacks.

Outfielder Brent Rooker brings scoutable power upside to the dish for the Twins. In traditional scouting, Rooker has 65-grade raw power and 60-grade game power. This has translated to solid performances on his way up the ladder for the Twins. In 2018, Rooker hit 22 home runs in 568 plate appearances in AA, and he hit 14 in just 274 plate appearances in AAA in 2019. With the opportunity to hit sixth, Rooker is a great spot for MLB DFS purposes at just $2,300 on DraftKings and the minimum price on FanDuel. Getting two players in the top six of this lineup at bargain basement pricing against this pitcher is a free square on today’s slate.

Thumper Miguel Sano should not be forgotten, despite dropping to the seven spot in today’s lineup. Sano has the team’s second highest home run mark on my board and can go deep against any pitcher. The slugger is an all-or-nothing option, however, in 2020 he saw 205 plate appearances and put up a .204/.278/.478 slash but a .274 ISO with 13 home runs. The year before he hit 34 home runs while managing a .247/.346/.576 slash with a .329 ISO. There is power for days against a pitcher who loves giving up the long ball.

Willians Astudillo is an excellent hit-tool catcher who does not cost much from the bottom of the lineup. He does not bring a ton of power or speed however, and he is more of an afterthought and mix-in play than he is a core option within this stack. Andrelton Simmons is occupying the nine spot for the Twins, he is an excellent defender with a bat that tends to go in and out. Simmons is not one of the more highly projected Twins bats, but he could be a mix-in option to differentiate some stacks, with the knowledge that it sacrifices a plate appearance for a mediocre hitter.

HR Call: Miguel Sano – Minnesota Twins (it would be cheating to take Cruz here)


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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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