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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 5/7/21

Terry McBride



MLB DFS DraftKings FanDuel Tournament Strategy Optimal LIneups Home Runs

As usual, Friday brings a massive MLB DFS slate that should be a ton of fun. With 14 games on deck, strong pitching options are oddly lacking and seem very likely to creates some outlier offensive performances across the league. That, of course, means that the baseball gods will probably throw a few no-hitters and 10-strikeout games instead. The hitting slate seems loaded, and finding the right stacks and home run candidates among the standout spots is going to be an interesting exercise. A few daily fantasy baseball pitchers appear more targetable for offense than the other weak options, however, providing some clear places to get started with constructions and stack-plus-pitcher combinations for MLB DFS lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel.

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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.

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

Arizona Diamondbacks: Eduardo Escobar — 4.67

Atlanta Braves: Austin Riley — 8.41

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini — 10.68

Boston Red Sox: Hunter Renfroe — 24.80

Chicago White Sox: Tim Anderson — 2.00

Cincinnati Reds: Mike Moustakas — 12.12

Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes — 4.51

Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron — 10.22

Detroit Tigers: Wilson Ramos — 10.35

Houston Astros: Michael Brantley — 10.23

Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana — 5.97

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani — 6.32

Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager — 10.42

Miami Marlins: Adam Duvall — 8.13

Milwaukee Brewers: Avisail Garcia — 6.98

Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano — 19.49

New York Mets: Dominic Smith — 6.28

New York Yankees: Gleyber Torres — 9.16 (using Giancarlo Stanton would be cheating)

Oakland Athletics: Sean Murphy — 5.07

Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper — 7.37

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 13.91

San Francisco Giants: Wilmer Flores — 9.14

Seattle Mariners: Mitch Haniger — 28.11

St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado — 2.16

Tampa Bay Rays: Austin Meadows — 7.48

Texas Rangers: Nate Lowe — 10.63

Toronto Blue Jays: Randal Grichuk — 8.95

Washington Nationals: Juan Soto (Q) — 15.96

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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.

MLB DFS picks draftkings fanduel daily fantasy baseball lineups home run picks projections predictions power rankings Friday May 7

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MLB DFS Pitchers, Optimal Stacks & Leverage Plays

This section will feature a few standout MLB DFS spots and teams to look at for potential plays here on DraftKings and FanDuel. 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

A messy pitching slate has a few interesting decision points on both DraftKings and FanDuel. The top of the board has just a few premium arms, some with names that may not yet be familiar to the casual MLB DFS fan. This could lead to some interesting distributions of public popularity, as there are bigger names with lower probability of success to whom the public may be drawn. The top option in both the site’s Top Pitchers Tool and my personal projections is Miami’s Trevor Rogers, who has been electric this season, though he is both pricey and popular.

The Marlins rookie southpaw is taking on a lousy Brewers lineup in his home park and he projects extremely well in the matchup. Rogers is striking out 33.8% of hitters so far across his 33 innings in six starts. He has a 10.0% walk rate that is higher than desirable, but he has gotten through relatively unscathed, putting up a 3.30 xFIP and a 1.06 WHIP. The Marlins gave Rogers a 28-inning cup of coffee in 2020. He responded with a 30.0% strikeout rate and a 3.67 xFIP in the sample, though he also walked precisely 10.0% of batters last season. For $10,400 on FanDuel, Rogers is a pricey option with reasonably low ownership for such a strong projection. He is not wildly contrarian, but he is not extremely over-exposed either. On DraftKings, Rogers is a bargain for just $8,800, he should be rostered frequently and with enthusiasm. He is facing a Brewers team that strikes out 29.2% of the time against left-handed pitching this season, fifth worst in baseball. This is a strong upside play on both sites.

Carlos Rodon costs $11,200 on FanDuel and $10,000 on DraftKings. He has been elite this season, putting up a 37.9% strikeout rate and a 3.08 xFIP with a 0.64 WHIP. Rodon has struggled with injury and inconsistency throughout his career, but he came into the league as a highly regarded talent and is finally healthy and potentially finding himself. The swinging strike rate has spiked above 17.0% this season, while his called strike rate has dropped. If the book catches up to Rodon quickly and hitters start laying off, he could see a decline in the strikeout rate. Facing a Royals team that ranks third in baseball with just a 17.9% strikeout rate against lefties this season, this could be a trickier spot than it appears on the surface. Rodon is going dramatically under-owned on both sites given the pricing, so there is a good reason to roster him, but it would not be surprising if he fails to come through for the heavy salary.

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Zac Gallen is taking on the Mets in New York tonight. He comes as something of a bargain on both sites despite the somewhat difficult matchup. He costs just $8,900 on DraftKings and $8,400 on FanDuel, while ranking as one of the top overall starters by probability of success in the Top Pitchers Tool. Gallen will be under-owned across the industry according to those rankings, making him extremely interesting for the reduced salary. He is striking out 30.3% of hitters across his 20 innings in four starts this season. He has walked 11.2%, a number that certainly needs to come down for him to continue success, but Gallen has gotten away with is so far. He has a 3.95 xFIP and a 1.16 WHIP. Last season Gallen walked just 8.6% of hitters while striking out 28.2% in 72 innings, posting a crisp 3.62 xFIP and 1.11 WHIP, so these numbers are not surprising and there is even room for improvement. Gallen is facing a Mets lineup that has largely struggled to get out of the gate this season. The team has just a .121 ISO against right-handed pitching, though they are striking out at only a 22.8% rate, eighth best in the league. This is an interesting spot. Getting to underappreciated shares of Gallen seems to make sense for GPPs on both FanDuel and DraftKings.

SEA — 1-2-3-4-6 — Haniger — France — Seager — Lewis — White

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There are two teams that explode to the top of the home run model, as can be seen in the Power Index above. The Red Sox are facing Matt Harvey who showed signs of life, hitting 96 mph on the radar gun in a good start against the Yankees recently. It is extremely unlikely that the performance will extend to anything beyond a blip on the map of Harvey’s long term decline. He is highly targetable and the Red Sox look great. However, while Harvey may look like a highly flammable gas can, Mike Foltynewicz is a leaky cannister of nitro glycerin in the sun.

The Rangers southpaw has made six starts this season, pitching a total of 33.1 innings and putting up a 4.29 xFIP with a 22.3% strikeout rate, which puts him around league average. Where he has struggled is in what has been a sustained problem for him in recent memory. He sits in the bottom 10th percentile in hard hit rate allowed; the 17th percentile in barrels allowed; the 17th in average exit velocity allowed and similarly concerning contact metrics. This has resulted in a whopping nine home runs allowed already this season, a 2.43 HR/9 mark that exceeds the already-high 1.77 from 2019 (ignoring the 3 allowed in just 3.1 innings last year). This is a targetable pitcher.

The Mariners have some power in their lineup and make for an interesting stack. The public is slightly behind the curve on DraftKings, slightly ahead on FanDuel, but the Mariners bats seem like a decent upside play as they are inexpensive and the ownership appears to be concentrated on just a few hitters.

Mitch Haniger leads off for the team and stands as one of the top options in my home run model today. He missed all of last season and put up just 283 plate appearances in 2019, but he is a borderline star when he is healthy. Haniger hit 15 home runs and stole four bases in the 2019 sample. This season he is off to a .254/.300/.534 start with eight home runs in just 130 plate appearances. Haniger has created runs 33% better than average this year and has a .280 ISO in the sample, making him an excellent option off the top.

With multi-position eligibility on both sites — albeit at different spots given the first and second base positioning on DraftKings and second and third base on FanDuel — Ty France has both utility and upside for his relatively low pricing. Particularly for just $2,800 and at low ownership on FanDuel, France makes an excellent option if hitting second in this lineup. Last season in 155 plate appearances, France went .305/.368/.468, hitting four home runs and creating runs 32% better than average. This year he has just a .246/.351/.395 slash with a .149 ISO and three home runs in his first 134 plate appearances, but France has still created runs 21% better than average. The on-base skill is real and relevant, and this is an under-owned option in Mariners stacks.

Veteran third baseman Kyle Seager is a known commodity for MLB DFS fans. He is inexpensive at just $2,900 on FanDuel but costs $4,800 on DraftKings where his popularity cuts to under 5%, three times less than on the blue site. Seager has a .217 ISO across his first 132 plate appearances of 2021, blasting five home runs but landing at just a .242/.295/.458 slash while creating runs 14% better than average. Seager has a career .193 ISO against right-handed pitching, getting most of his power on this side of splits. He is in a great spot against this pitcher, but it is no big secret.

Kyle Lewis had a productive short season in 2020, delivering on his long anticipated promise after overcoming devastating injuries sustained in the minors on his way up the ladder. Lewis made 242 plate appearances last season and hit 11 home runs, creating runs 26% better than average. He struck out too much at 29.3% but made up for it somewhat by walking 14.0% of the time, resulting in a decent on-base percentage to go with his reasonable average at .262/.364/.437. This year the walks have plummeted to 5.8% while the strikeouts have also dropped to 23.1%, but the triple slash stands at only .184/.231/.388 across his first 52 plate appearances. This is largely due to a .176 batting average on balls in play in the small sample. Lewis has been hitting the ball hard. He has a .204 ISO with three home runs in the small number of opportunities. This is an upside spot in the matchup and the public is on him at under a 10.0% rate, though that number is likely higher within lineups constructed of Mariners stacks.

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Luis Torrens slots into the middle of the lineup with catcher eligibility on DraftKings while costing just $3,700, which makes him interesting on its own. That he will be owned under five percent by the field adds to the appeal, though Torrens is not a massive upside play based on his track record thus far. He has just two home runs in his 307 Major League plate appearances, with a .079 ISO and a .202/.271/.182 triple slash.

First baseman Evan White has upside for power, but is a limited contact option. In 202 plate appearances last year, White went .176/.252/.346, putting up a .170 ISO and hitting eight home runs. White is not necessarily the all-or-nothing hitter he appears to be; however, he has carried an average 50-grade hit tool in traditional scouting and backed it up in his two largest minor league samples. In 2019, White made 400 plate appearances at AA and went .293/.350/.488 with a .195 ISO and 18 home runs; in 2018 he made 538 plate appearances in high-A and went .303/.375/.458 with a .155 ISO and 11 home runs. While he has struggled with contact in the Show so far, White has more to offer and makes an interesting option in stacks.

J.P. Crawford can provide sneaky upside from time to time. Last season he had a .255/.336/.338 slash in his 232 plate appearances, hitting two home runs and swiping six bases along the way. Crawford was a well-regarded prospect on his way up and could have additional upside. For just $2,200 on FanDuel he makes a fine low-owned mix in option when building Mariners stacks. He has no home runs and just a .049 ISO this season, so if he connects tonight, rostering him provides coveted bonus bragging rights points.

Second base and outfield eligible Dylan Moore is a good option from later in the lineup. Moore had a surprising season in 2020, going .255/.358/.496 with a .241 ISO and eight home runs in his 159 plate appearances, while stealing 12 bases and becoming a popular MLB DFS and season long fantasy player in the process. Moore hit nine home runs and stole 11 bases in 282 tries the year before, but the improved triple-slash last season is noteworthy. Moore has struggled in that department this year, off to just a .129/.250/.247 start with two home runs in 100 plate appearances, though he has stolen six bases already.

Taylor Trammell is another struggling bat with some speed upside at the bottom of the lineup. Trammell has just a .156/.261/.338 slash to start his career, though it comes in only 89 plate appearances. He is carrying a concerning 43.8% strikeout rate, so could be overmatched at this level and need more development time. Trammell has managed to hit four home runs and steal two bases, however, and his .182 ISO suggests that when he is making contact it is of the high-quality variety. There is cheap low-owned upside as a dart throw, though it is not fair to expect Trammell to get on base as a wraparound option with any regularity.

HR Call: Mitch Haniger — Seattle Mariners

To get even more action down on tonight’s MLB slate, check out the betting markets and Awesemo’s MLB betting model.

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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 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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