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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 5/1/21

Terry McBride



MLB DFS Lineup Picks Today DraftKings FanDuel Home Runs

The Saturday MLB DFS main slate is the offering on a multi-slate day. With six games on deck, we have just enough to choose from to keep things interesting, particularly the pitching decision points. The small slate features several excellent starters in high-end matchups, as well as a couple of upside arms in good spots. There are several go-to options for bats as well, but it is likely the public will be heavily concentrated on the best options, so taking up some contrarian positions against a few starters could be a good way to get away from the field. This article will take a look at the best available MLB DFS picks and cover home runs for the main slate on both sites tonight.

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. I will also be running the GamePlan show from 5:30 to 6:30 this afternoon as an MLB Live Before Lock for subscribers only. 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.

Be sure to find all of our MLB FanDuel picks today, including cheat sheets, articles and expert data.

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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: Wyatt Mathisen — 1.53

Atlanta Braves: Marcell Ozuna — 8.51

Boston Red Sox: JD Martinez — 14.09

Colorado Rockies: Ryan McMahon — 6.83

Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout — 21.14

Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy — 8.27

Milwaukee Brewers: Dan Vogelbach — 10.27

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 13.55

San Francisco Giants: Wilmer Flores — 11.10

Seattle Mariners: Kyle Lewis — 6.27

Texas Rangers: Nick Solak — 8.11

Toronto Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez — 6.18

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.

Note – The power index is yet to catch up to the ballpark metrics for Toronto’s temporary stadium. The reality is that the Braves and Blue Jays should likely rate higher.


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. Make sure to check out the ownership projections for critical updates and monitor the top stacks tool throughout the day for changes.

If you need more daily fantasy baseball picks today, check out our DraftKings and FanDuel cheat sheets, Spotlight Pitchers and Spotlight Hitters & Stacks for Saturday, May 1.

On the Hill

For a slate with just 12 options, there is a wealth of pitching from which to make our MLB DFS picks today. The field will be drawn toward the big name at the top in Blake Snell, while the other premium starter on the board, Brandon Woodruff, is in a tougher matchup and drawing far less attention for facing the Dodgers. Zac Gallen has a fantastic matchup against the Rockies, who struggle both on the road and against right-handed pitching in general, but he will be highly owned on both DraftKings and FanDuel, as will Eduardo Rodriguez in an even better spot against the strikeout-happy Rangers. Dodgers starter Dustin May and Giants righty Anthony DeSclafani are both projected for far less ownership than their probability of success tonight, while Charlie Morton is drawing similar numbers though he is in the highest totaled game of the night, playing on the Little League field in Dunedin, FL where the Blue Jays are currently making their home.

Snell and Rodriguez stand above the field in my personal model, and both are among the options at the top of the board in the Top Pitchers Tool, but they will be highly owned. Snell is at a bargain price on both sites, coming in at just $9,500 on DraftKings and a hilarious $8,800 on FanDuel. The Padres ace has a 33.0% strikeout rate and a 3.14 xFIP in his first 20 innings this season, though he has walked 12.8% of hitters and has a bumpy 1.45 WHIP. Snell is one of baseball’s elite strikeout artists, but he is in a spot against a stingy Giants team that has struck out just 18.8% of the time against lefties this season, good for a tie for fifth-best in baseball. The Giants have a .184 team ISO and have created runs 11% better than average so far this season in the split, making it a potentially tougher matchup than it may seem on the surface. Still, Snell is an excellent option and worthy of eating some chalk, particularly at these prices.

Eduardo Rodriguez is taking on a Texas Rangers lineup that has been better against left-handed pitching than right so far this season but still strikes out at a 25.8% clip in the split, 10th-worst in baseball. They have a meager .113 team ISO and create runs 21% worse than average against southpaws, so this is a targetable spot. For his part, Rodriguez has been striking out 29.2% of hitters so far this season, though the sample sits at only 23 innings over four starts. The lefty missed all of 2020 but put up a 24.8% strikeout rate and a 3.86 xFIP with a 1.33 WHIP in a full 203-inning 2019 season. We can rely on a pitcher who is a bit above league average for strikeouts but is probably pitching over his head with his current 2.81 xFIP and 0.87 WHIP. Against this Texas team, we can expect a strong start. Rodriguez costs just $8,700 on DraftKings and lands at $9,500 on FanDuel, which is doing nothing to sway the public. He will be popular on both sites.

The Dodgers have a ridiculously talented rotation. Dustin May struck out 10 Padres his last time out and brings a devastating arsenal of pitches to the mound every time he starts, and he is the team’s fifth starter. May’s swinging strike rate has taken a major leap this season, though we are talking about just a 21-inning sample. The right-hander has induced swing-and-miss at a 14.1% clip while getting 20.2% called strikes for a stellar 34.3% CSW%. His overall strikeout rate is up to a monster 37.2% so far, and he has a 1.65 xFIP with a 0.94 WHIP. May is on his way to becoming one of the top arms in baseball if these trends continue. While we can likely expect some regression in the long-term, the matchup against the Brewers couldn’t be better for upside today. Milwaukee is striking out at a 26.7% clip against right-handed pitching this season, fifth-worst in baseball, and they have just a .152 team ISO in the split while creating runs 19% worse than average. This appears to be a great spot for May, and he is slipping past the public on both sites. With positive leverage and significant upside, May has a chance to break the slate in half tonight.

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Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks have absolutely tuned up left-handed pitching so far this season. The team has a .271 ISO and just an 18.8% strikeout rate so far in the split. The ISO is best in the league by a wide margin, with the next-highest team, the Cubs, standing at .217. There is obviously significant noise in the small sample so far, but there is no arguing with the excellent strikeout rate and the run production that has been a league-leading 43% above average against southpaws this season. The Diamondbacks are cheap on both sites, but this is a bit of a warning rather than a sales pitch. The team is getting significant attention on both sites, and they come up as the most negatively leveraged team across the industry.

The team is taking on Rockies lefty Austin Gomber, who makes for an interesting case study himself. Gomber has a rough 5.14 xFIP and an even uglier 1.57 WHIP in his first 23 innings with Colorado. The lefty has a 22.3% strikeout rate that aligns with the 22.7% mark he put up last season. He is at best league average in the statistic. Gomber has done extremely well so far in his major league career to avoid allowing premium contact and keeping the ball in the yard. In 2020 he was in the 96th percentile among starters in avoiding barrels, while he sat in the 70th percentile in hard contact allowed and 80th percentile in expected slugging percentage allowed. There is certainly concern about the sample size and the predictive nature of these specific marks, but Gomber’s propensity to limit opposing power is clear throughout his professional career. Gomber was reliably under the 1.00 HR/9 mark across most of his stops coming up the ladder in the St. Louis system and had a spectacular 0.31 mark, allowing just one home run in his 29.0 innings in 2020. Hitters only got two barrels on him all season last year, though he has already given up six this season, leaving a jump from a 2.7% rate to a 9.8% rate that begins to get concerning.

Taking into account that Gomber’s ability to limit power has some track record but is still in its infancy at the Major League level, it still seems like undercutting the public’s exposure on the Diamondbacks stack and looking to some of the higher-ranked and lower-owned options above them on the Top Stacks Tool makes a ton of sense today. In addition to the potentially capped upside the pitcher has a chance to create, they are simply over-owned for their odds of being the best play on both DraftKings and FanDuel.

ATL – Pick ’em

Atlanta is in a spectacular spot today. They stand well above the field as the best stacking option, taking on lefty Travis Bergen in an opener role, followed by the Blue Jays bullpen. There are quality arms in the pen for Toronto. As a unit, they have a 4.01 xFIP that ranks 13th in the league, and they are striking out 24.8% of hitters, 14th best in baseball. Unfortunately for all of Toronto’s pitchers, the team is playing its home games in what is literally a minor league baseball stadium this season. Adding in the positive hitting environment created by the Florida weather, and we have a ballpark that will play like Coors Field East all season. This game has the day’s highest run total by a full two runs, with the Braves carrying a 5.59 implied run total in the mid-afternoon. Atlanta’s confirmed lineup is expensive but well worth it for their explosive upside.

Ronald Acuna Jr. needs no introduction from the top of the lineup. He is simply one of the game’s superstar players. In a recent game against the Phillies, Acuna hit a screaming 100+ mph one-hopper directly to shortstop Didi Gregorius, who fielded the ball cleanly and made a strong throw to first base. Gregorius is known for having a strong throwing arm, and he put mustard on the ball. Acuna beat the throw, legging out an infield single on what is an out for anyone else in baseball. He has blazing speed and immense power. The outfielder is out to a .341/.443/.705 start with a .364 ISO and eight home runs in 106 plate appearances, adding three stolen bases. He is creating runs 103% better than average to start the season. This is someone we can confidently roster in all situations, but you knew that, and so does the public. Acuna will be at or above 30% ownership across the industry tonight.

First baseman Freddie Freeman is getting similar attention on the FanDuel slate while drawing a bit less ownership on DraftKings, though he is still a popular MLB DFS pick in the Braves lineup. Freeman brings his powerful lefty bat out to the sandlot for this one while he is at just a .237/.372/.495 slash to start the year, Freeman has put up seven home runs and a .258 ISO in his 113 plate appearances. There is nothing wrong with the hitter, and we can expect a full return to norms in the slash. The power has not gone anywhere.

Outfielder Marcell Ozuna is not drawing enough ownership given the discount from his fellow stars in this lineup on the DraftKings slate, where he is still pricey at $5,100. At just $3,300 on FanDuel, Ozuna is drawing attention. He will be similarly owned to his teammates. The outfielder has an ugly .202/.295/.313 slash and a .111 ISO to start the year, but he hit 18 home runs in just 267 plate appearances last year, putting up a .298 ISO for the season. There is plenty of upside. It would be nice to see the public’s ownership projection on the blue site come down before lock, though that seems unlikely. Ozuna is a strong play on the DraftKings slate.

Continuing that trend, star second baseman Ozzie Albies will be higher-owned on the FanDuel slate than on the competing site. The switch-hitter is a good option on DraftKings for $5,100, while he is also underpriced on the other side of town for $3,100. Albies has made 100 plate appearances this season, hitting five home runs and posting an excellent .273 ISO. His strikeout rate stands at just 16.0%, down significantly from the 24.2% rate he posted last season. It could be argued that Albies has gotten unlucky so far as well. He has just a .227/.300/.500 slash, but a .217 batting average on balls in play. There is solid upside in a player who also steals around 15 bases a season.

With DraftKings requiring a catcher, it is inexplicable that Travis d’Arnaud would be under 10.0% owned for a $4,900 price tag. The backstop was one of the better options for offense at the position last season. In 2020 he put up a .321/.386/.533 slash with nine home runs in 184 plate appearances. So far this year, he has underperformed, going just .215/.250/.342 with a .127 ISO, but there is plenty of upside in this spot. d’Arnaud begins to help with some differentiation on FanDuel, where catchers are rostered less frequently, though he is still getting to around a 15% mark in public ownership projections.

Shortstop Dansby Swanson is a go-to option in the middle infield when rostering Braves stacks. Swanson hit 10 home runs in his 264 plate appearances last year, carrying a .190 ISO for the season. The former first overall pick has struggled out of the gate this year, however, with his strikeout rate spiking to 29.5% from the already-high 26.9% he had last year. Swanson has an unappealing .189/.267/.316 slash and a .126 ISO to start his 2021 season, but we know the talent is real, and if the public is casting him aside more frequently than teammates, it makes sense to include Swanson in stacks.

Corner infielder Pablo Sandoval lands at third base on FanDuel and adds first base eligibility on DraftKings, where he costs just $2,700. Sandoval is at the bare minimum on the blue site. The pricing is what is drawing attention from the public. The reclamation project has the second-highest ownership projection on the team at over 25.0% on DraftKings but just a 13.8% mark on FanDuel. As a value play on that site, he makes sense, but avoiding his over-exposure from the seventh spot in the lineup is easy enough where we need the strategy.

Austin Riley is far more appealing for under five percent ownership on DraftKings. He is a pay-up to be contrarian option from late in the lineup at $4,200, but there is very real power upside on any slate. Riley slots into the same third base spot as Sandoval, making him an excellent pivot on both sites. He gets a bit more ownership on FanDuel, where he costs just $2,500 and is a strong value, but there should be enough upside for the price that we can still use him over Sandoval if so inclined. Both players are better options on that slate tonight.

Christian Pache is an excellent defender in the outfield. Unfortunately, that is worth exactly 0.0 fantasy points. Pache has just a .133/.161/.200 slash for the season and a .067 ISO in his 31 plate appearances. The outfielder has struck out in 41.9% of those opportunities. He is more of a hole at the bottom of the lineup than he is a sneaky play, though he should eventually flash more power. Pache managed to hit 12 home runs in his 538 plate appearances across AA and AAA ball in 2019 and has 55-grade raw power projections in traditional scouting. As someone who could manage to surprise everyone by turning on a pitch and driving it into the seats on any given slate, Pache should not be entirely ruled out in a major upside stack. He has excellent speed as well, adding to the appeal as a lower-owned wraparound play.

HR Call: Jared Walsh – Los Angeles Angels

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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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