Last night’s small split slate gives way to a gigantic Friday of MLB DFS action with 14 games on deck. There are a wealth of high-end pitching options on the slate today, including several top-tier aces in excellent matchups. A few seemingly dominant starters are in worse matchups than others and ownership is all over the place, so it will be an important day to monitor projections heading towards lock. On the hitting side, several standout stacks and home run candidates are emerging across the DraftKings and FanDuel, both for upside and value, though leverage is more difficult to come by.
The Awesemo team will be here for all the action with daily fantasy baseball advice on the morning Strategy Show – which you can find on YouTube or your favorite podcast network and The Deeper Dive at 3 p.m., taking you through the main slate. We will constantly be updating all the tools and content. 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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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 — 6.63
Atlanta Braves: Austin Riley — 13.08
Baltimore Orioles: Maikel Franco — 9.23
Boston Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts — 10.33
Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant — 3.44
Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu — 6.28
Cincinnati Reds: Jesse Winker — 7.77
Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes — 2.40
Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron — 20.13
Detroit Tigers: Jonathan Schoop — 11.29
Houston Astros: Yordan Alvarez — 7.63
Kansas City Royals: Salvador Perez — 11.58
Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani — 13.33
Los Angeles Dodgers: Justin Turner — 3.50
Miami Marlins: Adam Duvall — 11.00
Milwaukee Brewers: Keston Hiura — 9.49
Minnesota Twins: Josh Donaldson — 8.63
New York Mets: Pete Alonso — 26.61
New York Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton — 27.00
Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson — 22.30
Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins — 13.46
San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 4.91
San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt — 3.41
Seattle Mariners: Ty France — 6.63
Tampa Bay Rays: Brandon Lowe — 5.56
Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo — 13.41
Toronto Blue Jays: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. — 4.23
Washington Nationals: Josh Bell — 4.09
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 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
After a few nights stuck with ugly pitching selections, MLB DFS players are spoiled with a wealth of quality options tonight. The slate includes several top-end aces like Gerrit Cole and Yu Darvish in quality matchups; Shane Bieber, perhaps the best pitcher in the game right now, taking on a difficult White Sox lineup; and quality arms like Nathan Eovaldi, Lance McCullers, Drew Smyly and Andrew Heaney going in upside matchups. On the DraftKings slate, there are a couple of standout SP2 options, while there are a few pitchers with misprices that give them appeal on FanDuel.
Deciding between the aces will come down to leverage and matchups tonight. My personal model projects Cole at the top with Darvish right behind him and Bieber bringing up the rear a few spots further down the board. The matchup is not a cinch for Bieber, but his stuff is electric and he could easily post the night’s highest total. He has been utterly dominant for the last two-plus seasons, putting up a 39.3% strikeout rate in his 36 innings in 2021 coming on the heels of a 41.1% rate across 77 innings last year. Bieber is taking on a White Sox lineup that has been elite limiting strikeouts against righties so far this season, however, at just 21.4%, second-best in the league in the split. The team creates runs 19% better than the average in the split so far this season as well. A pitcher this elite will typically overwhelm even the best of lineups, but there is enough in the Chicago numbers to justify making Bieber the number three option, considering the matchups for the other two aces.
Cole is taking on a Detroit Tigers team that has been one of the most inept offenses in baseball for years. The team is currently worst in the league, striking out 30.8% of the time against right-handed pitching this season. Cole is a right-handed starter who is striking out 42% of hitters this season. Sometimes the math on these things just does itself. Darvish ranks second on the board in the model and comes at a discount to his colleagues, making him spectacularly appealing in a matchup against the Giants. On DraftKings, Darvish is simply mispriced at $9,500. On the FanDuel slate he is less expensive than the other aces by about $1,000, which is significant savings that can be spread to bats when rostering the pitcher. He has a 30.3% strikeout rate so far this season to go with a 3.54 xFIP and a 0.85 WHIP, while the Giants are second-worst in the league in the small sample, striking out 27.9% of the time in the split this season. In a larger sample, extending to the start of the 2019 season, the Giants active roster is actually one of the best in baseball and should regress toward their norms, but they don’t seem likely to do all their catching up against a strikeout artist like Darvish tonight.
Heaney is a mid-range option on FanDuel but is likely to be the leading SP2 option on the DraftKings slate. Heaney is top-tier strikeout pitcher when he is on. He will be taking on a Mariners lineup that is fourth from the bottom against lefties, striking out 29.3% of the time so far this year. They have created runs at a pace 13% worse than the average and are not flashing much upside for power to threaten Heaney. For the ludicrous $6,800 price tag on DraftKings, the only thing that will get in the way of an excellent start for the money is Heaney’s occasional control issues. As an SP2 this is a smash spot.
Eovaldi ranks out extremely well in the model and looks like a good option on the Top Pitchers Tool as well. Eovaldi has long been a solid strikeout option, but he struggles at times with his control and command and lacks a great out pitch, though it could be argued that his curveball developed into one last season. Eovaldi has struggled between the slider and curve as his go-to and when he gets lost in the mix it costs him, as it did throughout the 2019 season when he had a rough 5.90 xFIP and 1.58 WHIP. Last season things came into form and Eovaldi put up a 26.1% strikeout rate and a 3.32 xFIP with a 1.20 WHIP. He is at 22.7% and a 3.21 xFIP through 28 innings this year and is facing the best strikeout matchup for a right-handed pitcher in the Texas Rangers. Texas strikes out at a 30.8% clip against righties so far this season, the worst in baseball, and they were worst dating back to the start of 2019 in the split as well. This is an excellent spot for a quality arm from the midrange.
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The Cubs are ranking out well on the Top Stacks Tool today. The team is taking on lefty Wade Miley in what should be a relatively easy matchup despite Miley’s ability to keep the ball in the yard. This is capping the overall power metrics for the Cubs lineup, but they still project well in both the model and the site’s projections. The Cubs’ lineup also comes largely at a discount for both salary and public ownership. They are positively leveraged on both sites and make for an interesting option from near the top of the board. If Anthony Rizzo leads off again he is a great option despite a lefty-lefty matchup, while Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are quality options to stack in with him, though the lineup is better with Ian Happ in it.
New York Mets
The Mets are the surprising leaders in the home run model today, as can be seen in the Power Index above. The team stands out for above average marks up and down the lineup. The team is taking on Chase Anderson who is at his best a league average pitcher for strikeouts and allows too much power and too many baserunners. There is significant upside on the Mets stack today. They are carrying a positive leverage score on the DraftKings slate in the mid-afternoon but are somewhat highly owned on FanDuel. With 14 games on the slate, there are certainly ways to roster even the chalkiest of stacks in ways that will not be duplicated, so there is no reason to skip over a high-end stack like this on the blue site.
CIN – 1-2-3-5-6 – Winker – Castellanos – Votto – Moustakas – Naquin
The Reds are backing up Miley against the Cubs offense, and they could be the team with the better offensive upside in this contest. The team is currently second in baseball with a .204 ISO against right-handed pitching so far this season and they create runs 12% better than average. They are limiting strikeout at about a league average rate, whiffing 24.3% of the time in the split, while they have already hit 30 home runs against righties, second best in the league. Jake Arrieta is currently in the 27th percentile (bad) in average exit velocity allowed, the 18th percentile (worse) in max exit velocity allowed and just the 13th percentile in chase rate this season. He is not much of a strikeout threat at this point of his career, and he gives up a significant amount of hard contact to left-handed bats, which happen to be a staple of the Reds lineup.
Jesse Winker is an excellent young power bat who hits everything hard. Winker is out to a .377/.422/.701 start with an outrageous .325 ISO and six home runs already in just 83 plate appearances. Winker had a .289 ISO for the full 183 plate appearance season last year, so the power and hard hit marks are not outliers. Winker has an excellent shot at a home run or at least a high-end MLB DFS game tonight atop the Reds lineup.
Nicholas Castellanos is priced up to a ridiculous $6,100 on the DraftKings slate yet costs just $3,500 on FanDuel. Castellanos is playing like he has something to prove early on in 2021, starting the year with a killer .319 ISO and seven home runs in just 97 plate appearances, putting up a .308/.351/.626 slash and creating runs 60% better than average along the way. He is easily worth the salary and it is helping keep the public at bay to a degree, making this a great piece of a stack.
Joey Votto is a quality lefty bat hitting third for the Reds and he costs just $2,700 on FanDuel, which is a distinct misprice, the first of three in the heart of this lineup. Those prices are drawing public attention on FanDuel, while they are higher and less attractive on DraftKings. Votto still makes a strong play as a piece of stacks built differently from the public’s build. He has just a .220/.290/.396 slash with a .176 ISO to start the year, but there is a long track record of success and this is a high-end matchup.
Eugenio Suarez is a high-end shortstop option on DraftKings and adds third base eligibility on FanDuel at too low a price. He will be popular at his salary in the middle of the lineup on that site but virtually unowned on DraftKings. Suarez hit 15 home runs in 231 chances last season but had a paltry .202/.312/.470 slash. The season before he was far better, going .271/.358/.572 and hitting 49 home runs in 662 tries. This year Suarez has an awful 37.6% strikeout rate and a pathetic .125/.228/.273 slash with a .148 ISO in 101 chances. He is creating runs at a pace 59% worse than league average, and yet he is in too great a spot to avoid. The power upside is there, so this is banking on it coming through for a change.
With left handed masher Mike Moustakas up behind him, Suarez has protection in the lineup. Moustakas is out to a .261/.364/.478 start, creating runs 28% better than average and hitting for power at a .217 ISO. He has just two home runs but missed time and has only made 55 plate appearances so far. There is plenty of upside for the popular player on this slate, and he should be included in stacks on both sites.
Outfielder Tyler Naquin came to the Reds this season after spending the early part of his career as a utility outfielder in a different part of Ohio. Naquin never broke through with the Indians despite the infrequent flash. Starting out this year with the Reds he has a .262/.352/.574 slash, surprising everyone with a .311 ISO and six home runs in just 71 plate appearances. Naquin is a post-hype prospect now in his age-30 season. It would be an extremely late arrival, but this story has played out in baseball season after season. Naquin is an interesting option from later in the lineup for a limited salary ask and at still-low ownership.
Jonathan India and catcher Tucker Barnhart can be mixed and matched into lineups for differentiation or to work in a catcher where catchers are required. Barnhart can turn on the occasional pitch, delivering some sneaky power upside from time to time, while India has a .239/.316/.358 slash to start his career over his first 79 plate appearances. He is not particularly highly regarded for his power, but he has a 60-grade hit tool upside in traditional scouting, which lends him some appeal as a sneaky option for some shares in stacks.
HR Call: Francisco Lindor – New York Mets
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