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MLB DFS Tournament Picks & Home Runs 5/4/22

Terry McBride

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The split-slate Wednesday lands seven games in the evening for an interestingly shaped MLB DFS main slate. The pitching options are razor-thin, with two premium starters drawing massive popularity projections and a handful of lesser contenders vying for position on the Top Pitchers board. With weather concerns in one of the games impacting two key stacks, this slate could go pear-shaped in a hurry. There are several excellent sources of leverage at the plate and on the mound, amidst a number of question marks, making this a day where utilizing Awesemo’s Top Pitchers and Top Stacks Tools that much more important. The tools are an excellent guide rail into finding the correct combinations of stacks and pitchers, while there is nothing wrong with utilizing popular plays, the worst thing one can do for a lineup is to put the most popular bats in the same group as the most popular pitchers. With a heavy concentration of ownership in just a few places tonight, that could be a threatening pitfall when making your MLB DFS picks today.

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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: Ryan Mountcastle — 8.05

Boston Red Sox: Bobby Dalbec — 11.84

Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ — 7.74

Chicago White Sox: Gavin Sheets — 8.03

Cincinnati Reds: Tyler Naquin — 4.59

Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron – 11.22

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani — 6.03

Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy — 6.57

Milwaukee Brewers: Hunter Renfroe — 12.44

Minnesota Twins: Max Kepler — 9.58

New York Yankees: Aaron Hicks — 6.13

San Francisco Giants: Joc Pederson — 4.79

Toronto Blue Jays: Bo Bichette — 10.38

Washington Nationals: Nelson Cruz — 10.32

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

A cool drizzly night in Boston is the primary weather concern for this evening. The forecast has light rain from early afternoon through the evening ending around Midnight, making it difficult to forecast this game to play cleanly. If a window of clear weather emerges the game may be attempted, but as of right now this is definitely one to monitor closely, both the Angels and Red Sox have key hitters that can be played if the game starts under most circumstances, but the young pitchers on either side would be extremely limited by a rain delay.

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

Wednesday’s pitching slate has a pair of premium targets atop the board on both sites, an effective crafty lefty still probably pitching over his head and then a long list of candidates with warts from either bad matchups or simply not being very good at pitching. The top options on either site are Lucas Giolito and Freddy Peralta, who will be facing the Cubs and Reds, respectively. The matchups for the two most talented starters on the board could not be better, leading to large point projections and probabilities, as well as popularity for the two name-brand options. Yankees southpaw Nestor Cortes Jr. had a tougher outing in his most recent start on Friday, but with thin competition on that slate he was still good enough to win and he looks like a playable piece on the board at positive leverage in a tough outing against the Blue Jays in Toronto. On the other side of that contest, Yusei Kikuchi is drawing an effective slate-relevant projection based on the strikeout upside in the Yankees lineup, but the massive amount of hard contact that the lefty allows is difficult to trust against a loaded righty-heavy lineup. Dylan Bundy will be on the mound in Baltimore, facing the club that brought him up as a premium prospect years ago. Bundy is efficiently owned on DraftKings and targetable for leverage on FanDuel, but he is not without question marks. The remaining playable pitchers include Alex Wood in a difficult spot against the Dodgers, Tony Gonsolin with the Giants at the plate, or the weather-threatened young arms in the Angels vs Red Sox game. Both Reid Detmers and Garrett Whitlock are talented pitchers who can find strikeouts, but their already limited innings could be severely capped if the game starts and stops, and there is a good chance it will not play at all. Baltimore’s Kyle Bradish could be a low-cost low-owned option on tonight’s slate. The rookie hurler is a well-regarded prospect who made it through six innings and 81 pitches against the Red Sox in his first start. Bradish is not drawing much attention in a reasonably good matchup against the Twins, a team that can provide plenty of strikeout upside, in his now pitching-friendly home park.

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White Sox ace Lucas Giolito is out to a good start to his 2022 season after completing 31 starts and pitching to a 3.75 xFIP with a 27.9% strikeout rate last season. This year Giolito has made three starts and he has struck out 37.9% of opposing hitters while pitching to a sparkling 2.42 xFIP and inducing a whopping 18.6% swinging-strike rate. Giolito did miss a start with an abdominal strain suffered in his first outing, but he came back strong with 99 pitches in a seven-strikeout performance against the Angels last Friday. Giolito is a top-end ace and he is playable in any matchup against any opponent. This season the righty has yielded a bit of premium contact with a 43.3% hard-hit percentage, but he was at a 34.2% mark for the full season last year, which is more in line with expectations from a large sample. Giolito is facing a Cubs team that is sporting just a .114 ISO that ranks 24th in baseball and a 24.2% strikeout rate that sits 25th against right-handed pitching. Chicago has managed to create runs 10% above average in the split despite those marks and a 1.41% home run rate that sits 29th best in the game. Giolito is justifiably popular with ownership above 50% on DraftKings and pushing 30% on FanDuel. On a slate thin on premium options, it makes sense to simply eat the chalk and roster the White Sox ace at or around the field’s level while focusing on differentiating with bats, regardless of the negatively leveraged posture against the field.

The Brewers’ elite pitching staff had one right-handed ace face this lousy Reds lineup and find a dozen strikeouts in just five innings. While he may not equal that outrageous production, Freddy Peralta stands a great chance of posting a dominant start of his own. The Reds’ active roster has a 23.2% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching and they have created runs 19% worse than average in the split, they are non-threatening to most starters. Peralta has been solid this season, though his surface-level numbers may not make that apparent. Peralta has a 3.32 xFIP to his 5.00 ERA and has struck out 29.5% of opposing hitters this season. The righty walks too many, last year he had a 9.7% walk rate and this year he sits at 10.3% over his first 18 innings in four starts, but that is part of the equation that leads to his effectiveness. Peralta struck out 33.6% of hitters over 144.1 innings last year, and he should be in line to sit down a high number of Reds hitters via the strikeout tonight. The righty has induced a 13% swinging-strike rate and he has been effective around the zone with a 30.1% CSW%. Perhaps his best asset last year was the ability to limit hard contact when hitters managed to connect, Peralta allowed just a 31.1% hard-hit percentage and 86.6 mph of average exit velocity, something with which he has struggled slightly in the early part of 2022. Over his first four games, Peralta has yielded a 43.5% hard-hit rate, though that comes with just a 6.5% barrel rate and 87.3 mph of exit velocity on average. This is an excellent pitcher when he is on form, there is no reason to doubt that Peralta can post a monster fantasy score for his cheap $8,900 on DraftKings or $8,800 on FanDuel, the main concern is the weight of his popularity. Both Peralta and Giolito will be owned by a massive swath of the field, the Brewers righty is projected for more than 55% popularity on the two-pitcher site and he sits as the most popular individual on the FanDuel slate at 36.4%. The leverage situation is tricky, but Peralta is worthwhile even with the weight, particularly given the dearth of quality options up and down the slate.

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Nasty Nestor Cortes Jr. is a baffling pitcher to face. The southpaw gets by with middling stuff by keeping hitters completely off balance throughout their plate appearance. Cortes changes his timing, arm angle, release point, velocity and break on an array of average pitches, rarely cracking 92 mph with his fastball. The southpaw has several effective options for swing-and-miss, including a cutter and sinker that work extremely well in conjunction with the other pitches in his repertoire. Cortes makes hitters look silly despite the lack of plus pitches, this season the lefty has a 35.9% strikeout rate over his first 20.2 innings this season while pitching to a 2.06 xFIP and a 0.87 WHIP. Cortes was sharp in 93 innings after coming to the Bronx last season as well. He found his approach and command and delivered a 27.5% strikeout rate and a 4.18 xFIP seemingly out of nowhere. The mustachioed man on the mound may still have a lot to prove in the long-term, but his current level of effectiveness is undeniable and has him in play for MLB DFS despite a tough opponent. Cortes is facing the Blue Jays, a team loaded with powerful patient bats, but one that is sitting around the middle of the league in most collective hitting categories this season. Toronto’s active roster has a .141 ISO that sits 17th, as well as a 22.9% strikeout rate and a 2.14% home run rate that both rank 18th in the split. The Blue Jays have surprisingly created runs 3% below average against lefties this season. Cortes can be found ranked third on the Top Pitchers Tool on both sites. The lefty is projected to be owned around half the rate at which he is a top-2 starter on DraftKings and at about 25% of his probability of being the top starter on FanDuel. Cortes is a strong positively leveraged option on the mound on both sites.

Righty Dylan Bundy has generally failed to blossom into the beautiful pitching flower that he was projected to become, but he is an effective MLB veteran at this point in his career, and he comes at a fair price in a strong matchup. Bundy has made four starts, completing 21.1 innings this season while pitching to a 22.6% strikeout rate and an excellent 3.6% walk rate. Bundy has a 3.05 xFIP and a 0.94 WHIP with a 12.2% swinging-strike rate this year. The righty has a 32.3% hard-hit percentage and he has allowed just 87.5 mph of average exit velocity. Over 19 starts and 90.2 innings in 2021, Bundy had a 21.2% strikeout rate and a bumpy 4.66 xFIP, while allowing too much premium contact and putting too many men on base. He is certainly not someone to blindly deploy against any opponent, but in a matchup against the hapless Orioles, there is under-owned upside available. Bundy is facing an active roster that has a .107 ISO and a 1.41% home run rate against righties this season, the 26th and 30th ranked spots among baseball’s 30 teams. The Orioles have not been much better in the strikeout or run creation departments, they have a 23.9% strikeout rate that sits 23rd and they have created runs 16% worse than average in the split. Bundy is positively leveraged on the blue site and efficiently owned on DraftKings, and he should be rostered at least with the field if not beyond that level.


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Coors Field

“So here we are again, to experience the bitter scalding end, and we’re the only ones who can perceive it. But others sing of beauty and the story that’s unfolded, as one that deserves praise and ritual.” – Greg Graffin

These lyrics come to mind whenever Coors Field is on the slate. The favorite ballpark of many public is typically one that gets dramatically over-leveraged as the mere fact that the game exists draws enthusiastic clicks from MLB DFS gamers. The difficulty in that equation, and the reason that we frequently discuss getting away from the Coors crowd, is that in an extremely event-based game, the value of extremely popular events is diminished by virtue of that popularity. Unpopular events are far more impactful to a lineup’s ability to leap up the standings board, which is where leverage and probability come into play. The teams in Colorado tonight are undeniably in a good situation for run creation, the game has the highest total on the board and the ballpark plays very well for additional base hits. The Nationals reminded everyone of how even a bad team can put up a large run total in this park on any given slate, and with production coming from less popular sources they were in the top lineups of the night, but that is a rare feat. Including Coors Field in your plans for the evening is advisable, no one is suggesting a full fade, but undercutting the field, particularly around the most popular players, is still a better approach than rostering everyone at the same or higher levels than the public.

On the Nationals side, gamers were able to squeeze value from the performance of Josh Bell and Yadiel Hernandez at fair ownership last night, Bell has projected for less than 10% popularity on FanDuel once again, while most of the back end of this lineup falls into single digits. On DraftKings, Bell is carrying a 14.3% popularity projection and most of the bats on the team are in the mid-teens. The top bats in the lineup, Juan Soto and Nelson Cruz, are both carrying mid-20s ownership projections and flawed leadoff hitter Cesar Hernandez will be similarly popular as a correlation play. The Nationals are facing Rockies lefty Austin Gomber, who has a 23% strikeout rate and a 3.59 xFIP while allowing an excellent 26.7% hard-hit percentage over four starts. The quality pitcher will have to tangle with Cruz’ power in the split, but he has an opportunity to make it through clean innings if he continues to limit quality contact. Gomber is not a play on either site on the mound, but he has the talent to cap Washington’s upside on the slate.

On the other side, the Rockies lineup is still missing Kris Bryant, who is dealing with a sore back and landed on the IL. The team is facing Washington punching bag Patrick Corbin, who has a 4.47 xFIP and a hilarious 2.08 WHIP while allowing a 41.9% hard-hit rate this year. The washed-up lefty will be contending with premium right-handed power in the form of Randal Grichuk and, more specifically, C.J. Cron, who may hit 42 home runs tonight alone. The power-packed duo should be hitting third and fourth in a lineup that also features Connor Joe, Charlie Blackmon, Ryan McMahon and Brendan Rodgers, with a few other pieces that can be included for popularity, price and positional considerations. The Rockies are popular into the 20% range on FanDuel and the mid-teens on DraftKings, between the two Coors teams they are the stronger option for offense and they offer positive leverage despite the inflated raw ownership totals. With roughly 15% popularity across the team stack on both sites, an undercut is still worth consideration simply to allow for a greater spread of shares to less popular teams, particularly when pitching is so concentrated around only two prime options. The Rockies are best deployed alongside an under-owned pitcher like Nestor Cortes Jr, with popular arms on the mound they will be a challenge to roster in unique configurations.

Then again, the title of that song is Pessimistic Lines.

Milwaukee Brewers

In addition to offering an excellent pitching option on this slate, the Milwaukee lineup also appears to be in a premium spot for scoring in a matchup against Vladimir Gutierrez. The right-handed starter has a 13.3% strikeout rate over 17 innings in his first four outings this season, following close on the heels of the 17.7% rate he managed in 22 starts and 114 innings last year. Gutierrez is not good. The righty had a 5.11 xFIP and a 1.41 WHIP with a 9.3% walk rate last year and he has yielded free passes at a ridiculous 18.1% rate this year. Gutierrez has a 7.04 xFIP and a 1.94 WHIP, he has yielded a 39.6% hard-hit rate and a 5.7% barrel rate on a 20.7-degree average launch angle this season. All of this leads to premium projections for the Brewers lineup, but the team is crushingly popular as well. Every player in the projected Brewers lineup costs less than $5,000 on DraftKings and $3,500 or less on FanDuel, almost all of them are projected for double-digit ownership. The Brewers rank fourth by their probability of success on the DraftKings slate and third by the same metric on the blue site, but they are by far the most negatively leveraged play on the board on both. Ignoring the popularity, go-to Brewers bats would include Kolten Wong, Willy Adames, Christian Yelich, Andrew McCutchen, Rowdy Tellez and Hunter Renfroe through the middle of the lineup. Yelich is slashing just .213/.316/.375 with a .163 ISO and three home runs so far, the former MVP will be rostered in the mid-20s on both sites despite the struggles. Adames is off to a slow start in his triple-slash but has managed six home runs with a .253 ISO, while both Tellez and Renfroe have hit five home runs to this point. Tellez is sporting a .275 ISO while Renfroe sits at a .232, both players are drawing strong home run projections tonight. Catcher Omar Narvaez is playable, as is veteran outfielder Lorenzo Cain, while infielder Luis Urias is potentially sneaky – relatively as he sits around 10% popularity anyway – in his return from the injured list. Urias saw three plate appearances and contributed with a run and an RBI. He is a $3,700 third baseman on DraftKings but a $2,500 play with three-position eligibility on the FanDuel slate. Urias quietly hit 23 home runs while creating runs 11% better than average last year. He is interesting as a part of popular stacks but potentially more useful as a shoehorn who can help other roster combinations worth by virtue of his quality for the price and positional flexibility. The full Brewers stack is dramatically over-owned, getting different with these bats is tricky, they must be combined with lesser owned arms and secondary stacks, but they have plenty of clear upside against this gas can pitcher.

Los Angeles Angels

With the risk of postponement or in-game delay looming, the Angels are likely to go under-owned in the event that the game actually plays. The stack rates as a mid-range option by its probability of being the top-scoring play of the night, and the Angels lineup is pulling positive leverage on both sites. Los Angeles is slated to face Garret Whitlock, a hybrid righty power arm who has thrown 16.2 innings and made two starts this season. Whitlock has a 31.3% strikeout rate and a 6.3% walk rate over that stretch, improving on the 27.2% and 5.7% marks he posted over 73.1 high-leverage bullpen innings last season. Whitlock will be limited by a pitch count ceiling regardless of the weather. He reached 61 pitches in a three-inning outing in his last start, striking out just two Blue Jays in the process, and he threw 48 pitches in a four-inning start in his prior outing. Whitlock could be further limited if this game starts and stops, making it essentially a bullpen game for Boston. The Angels lineup is in the middle of the board with a 6.8% probability of being the top stack on FanDuel and a 7.1% chance of doing the same on DraftKings. Those rates compare favorably with all of the non-Coors Field games on the board, but the Angels are low-owned and appealing to greater degrees than most of the competition. The Yankees are the only higher-ranked team with positive leverage on either site outside of Coors. This season the Angels’ active roster ranks fourth in baseball with a .177 ISO against right-handed pitching, they have a 3.47% home run rate that sits fifth in the split and they have created runs 14% better than average against righties. The team strikes out at an aggressive 23.1% clip, the 20th-ranked lineup in the split, but they have significant fantasy point-scoring upside that is not properly appreciated by the field on this slate.

The Angels lineup has morphed from a top-heavy group filled with holes and question marks to a more established premium selection of bats in a hurry to start the 2022 season. This is exemplified by new leadoff man Taylor Ward, who has been off to a torrid start in slashing .371/.480/.710 with five home runs and a .339 ISO over his first 75 plate appearances. Ward saw 237 opportunities last year, turning in eight home runs with a .188 ISO and creating runs 11% better than average, so the quality is not out of nowhere, but the small sample has eye-popping numbers, including a WRC+ that sits 146% better than average. While Ward will certainly slip from these heights over time, he is well worth a roster spot for $5,200 and just 1.4% popularity on DraftKings and certainly for $3,900 and less than 5% ownership on the blue site.

Following Ward is fellow young upside play Brandon Marsh, who brings an interesting lefty bat to the top of the lineup. Marsh is slashing .262/.329/.410 with two home runs and three stolen bases early in 2022. Last season he hit two home runs and stole six bases while getting on at just a .317 clip, but he created runs 14% below average, this year that run creation mark is up to 18% above average and he has improved his on-base skills. Marsh is a highly regarded prospect who had excellent contact marks in last year’s sample as well. Over the 260 plate appearances, the outfielder racked up a 10.9% barrel rate and a whopping 51.7% hard-hit percentage, rivaling the hard-hit numbers of the two superstars to follow.

Mike Trout is Mike Trout — he belongs in Angels’ stacks at any price and popularity. The best player in the game until further notice has reclaimed his crown in style in the early part of the season. Over his first 89 plate appearances in 2022, Trout is slashing .319/.449/.694 with a titanic .375 ISO and six home runs. He has created runs 130% better than average this season and is projected for just 3% ownership on DraftKings, where he costs $6,100, and 10.6% popularity on FanDuel for $4,200. Trout can be owned in any configuration in any format at these levels.

Shohei Ohtani is missing a start on the mound as he deals with soreness, but he should be in the lineup with a bat in his hands, which gives him significant MLB DFS value against any pitcher. Ohtani has not gotten out to an MVP-caliber start after performing at that level all of last year. He is slashing just .237/.288/.402 with a .165 ISO early on, but he has managed to hit four home runs and create runs 2% better than average. While his salary has not dropped to match the lackluster small sample performance, Ohtani’s popularity has taken a bit of a dip. He has multi-position eligibility on the DraftKings slate for $5,700 and he will be owned by less than 10% of the field, this is a targetable bat at those rates. On FanDuel, Ohtani costs $4,000 and has a 10% popularity projection similar to Trout. The two superstars were excellent for contact last season, Trout turned in an 18.4% barrel rate and a 52.6% hard-hit percentage in his limited 146 plate appearances, while Ohtani carried the team with his league-leading 22.3% barrel rate and 53.4% hard-hit percentage. Both players should be in the majority of Angels stacks in all formats.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon has two home runs and has just a .151 ISO as he continues to struggle to find the form that made him a star in Washington. Rendon hit just six home runs in his limited 249 plate appearances last year, and he is slashing an uncharacteristic .219/.344/.370 but has still managed to create runs 16% better than average through his ability to get on base. At just $3,300 on FanDuel and $4,300 on DraftKings, the third baseman should be more popular than his 3.1% and 3.4% projections from site to site.

First baseman Jared Walsh is a lefty masher who racked up an 11.3% barrel rate and a 41.2% hard-hit percentage over 585 plate appearances last year. Walsh hit 29 home runs with a .232 ISO while creating runs 27% above average. He is slashing just .213/.276/.313 with two home runs and a lowly .100 ISO. He has created runs 27% worse than average this year, but the slump buster performance is coming soon. Getting to this hitter when he is inexpensive and low-owned is advisable, that is the situation tonight. Walsh is priced below $4,000 on DraftKings and sits at exactly $3,000 on FanDuel but he is projected for just 3% popularity on the former site and 1.6% on the latter.

The back of the Angels lineup is less than inspiring. Catcher Max Stassi can provide some unheralded power from time to time. He has two home runs in 57 plate appearances this season and he had 13 in 319 tries last year, and his 107 WRC+ this season matches last year’s output. As a low-cost option where catchers are needed, Stassi is a fine play. If infielder Tyler Wade continues to get on base at or around his .340 pace from this year or the even better .354 mark from his 145 plate appearances last year. Wade has speed and can help with correlated scoring. He has three stolen bases in 56 plate appearances this year and he swiped 17 in the limited opportunities last season. Fellow infielder David Fletcher stole 15 bases last season, but those came in 665 plate appearances with a .297 on-base percentage. Fletcher is a slap-hitter whose primary attribute is the ability to avoid strikeouts, but he is a low-end option for MLB DFS point-scoring and should not be in the majority of stacks unless one becomes desperate for a salary offset.

Home Run Prediction Today: Rowdy Tellez — Milwaukee Brewers


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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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