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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 5/2/21

Terry McBride

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MLB DraftKings DFS picks daily fantasy baseball cheat sheet Monday May 10 with Rafael Devers based on projections and ownership

The Saturday MLB DFS main slate quickly went from May Day to mayday, with Dodgers starter Dustin May making an early exit straight to the injured list and knocking out a chunk of the field who were on big bats early. Those who were in line with yesterday’s Tournament Strategy article should have been boosted by bats and by having a varied portfolio of arms, so hopefully things were not a disaster. The offensive outbursts were in line with expectations and highly stackable, leading to some great results for FanDuel players with Awesemo badges all the way up the ladder. Today’s slate is loaded with 10 games and a lot of quality pitching to choose from. The same situation is on the board in the Atlanta – Toronto game. That park is going to be a hotspot for offense all season, particularly when Florida begins to get very hot. This article focuses on the main slate, which kicks off at 1:05 p.m.

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. 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.

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.

Check out all of our top-notch baseball content and free baseball picks.

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

Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr. — 21.37

Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 33.64

Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez — 7.87

Chicago White Sox: Tim Anderson — 7.96

Cincinnati Reds: Jesse Winker — 14.60

Cleveland Indians: Jose Ramirez — 7.55

Detroit Tigers: Robbie Grossman — 6.75

Houston Astros: Alex Bregman — 5.30

Kansas City Royals: Jorge Soler — 8.30

Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager — 13.84

Miami Marlins: Corey Dickerson — 8.49

Milwaukee Brewers: Avisail Garcia — 4.01

Minnesota Twins: Nelson Cruz — 2.73

New York Yankees: Mike Ford — 10.86

Pittsburgh Pirates: Colin Moran — 10.97

St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill — 27.99

Tampa Bay Rays: Randy Arozarena — 13.88

Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo — 11.07

Toronto Blue Jays: Randal Grichuk — 7.81

Washington Nationals: Starlin Castro — 6.37

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 – Some adjustments have been made to better reflect the nature of the current home park for the Blue Jays.

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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. 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

At times, the MLB DFS gods choose with seemingly obvious pitching selections. Today appears, on the surface, to be such a day. Max Scherzer takes on the Marlins at the very top of the board as the top play of the day on both sites, while there are several other high end options in good spots to which gamers can pivot on FanDuel or pair with Scherzer on DraftKings.

The Nationals hurler stands alone atop the board, but he is drawing significant public ownership. That attention is warranted, of course. Scherzer has a 32.8% strikeout rate in his 30 innings this year, right in line with where he has been as one of the more dominant starters in baseball over the past few seasons. In 67 innings in 2020, Scherzer struck out 31.2% of hitters, and that mark was 35.1% over 172 innings the year before. He will see very little challenge from the Marlins lineup today. Miami’s active roster is sixth worst in baseball, striking out 26.6% of the time against right-handed pitching. They have just a .107 team ISO and create runs 17% worse than average in the split. This is a justifiable smash spot for Scherzer. Pairing him with differentiated stacks or SP2s is the move, and skipping him is inadvisable despite the extreme popularity.

White Sox ace Lucas Giolito is every bit the pitcher that Scherzer is at this point. He has a 30.3% strikeout rate across his first 25 innings this season, putting up a 3.16 xFIP. Last year Giolito was at a 33.7% strikeout rate, and he hit 32.3% the year before. The issue for Giolito is that he is in a tougher matchup than Scherzer is facing, at least anecdotally. When looking at the actual numbers the Indians have produced this season, that argument begins to crumble. The team has a 25.7% strikeout rate so far against right-handed pitching, uncharacteristic for them, but there are some mighty three-true-outcomes bats in the lineup now and that adds up. The team has a .179 ISO that is one of the better marks in the league in the split but still not anything to fear in terms of power, and they have created runs 15% worse than average so far this season against righties. This could be a sneaky-good spot for one of the best arms in baseball at the moment, though it is not a secret. Giolito will also be extremely popular and owned to a greater degree than his probability of success across the industry.

Those who have followed along this year know about the infatuation with Tyler Mahle and his arsenal, but he will be popular on this slate as well. A pitcher who seems to be going under the radar is Marlins starter Trevor Rogers. Rogers broke into the league last year with an excellent 30.0% strikeout rate over his first 28 innings. In that same number of innings this year, the strikeouts are up to 34.9% and the walks are down from 10.0% to 9.2%. Rogers has a 3.03 xFIP and a 1.00 WHIP, excellent marks to start the year. Rogers has made the leap by inducing 17.6% swinging strikes, a monster number for any pitcher. That is up from 13.0% last season and likely to eventually regress somewhat, though that is not a certainty — he could just be that good. Rogers is taking on a Nationals lineup that is watered down without Juan Soto, but is still striking out just 21.1% of the time against southpaws. Still, there is potential for upside on a pitcher who the public is not paying much attention to, at a fair price against a bad lineup.


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Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox were on the board yesterday, with their power at the bottom end of the lineup standing out throughout the day for the low ownership. The team largely delivered, smashing their way to some scores that were critical for MLB DFS success. They look like even stronger options tonight, taking on Mike Foltynewicz. Foltynewicz has struggled to extreme degrees with yielding home runs over the past few seasons, which has been covered in this space already this year. He danced out of trouble against the Angels, allowing no home runs to that powerful team his last time out, but in the four games before that, Foltynewicz allowed a whopping eight homers. He remains a target for power and the Red Sox have that to spare.

Enrique Hernandez is a relatively inexpensive way to get a Sox stack going from the top of the lineup, at just $2,700 on FanDuel and $4,100 on DraftKings, and the public is not rostering him to significant degrees. Hernandez is nowhere near the hitter that some of the other options in the lineup are, but he will be likely to get on base ahead of those bats, making him an important piece of the puzzle who should not be relegated to afterthought status here.

Alex Verdugo is a lefty bat with power and an excellent hit tool. He is inexpensive on the FanDuel slate, particularly if he is hitting second. Verdugo hit six home runs and put up a .308/.367/.478 slash his first year in Boston last season, He is out to a .298/.364/.489 start this year with three home runs, two stolen bases, a .191 ISO and 135 wRC+.

J.D. Martinez has a titanic number in my home run model. He is one of the more likely players to hit one out of the park on any given day, and he has been out to a scorching start to 2021 after struggling significantly in 2020. He was down to just a .213/.291/.389 slash last year, with only seven home runs in 237 plate appearances, essentially a full 2020. Martinez roared back to life this season. He has a .381 ISO and nine home runs in his first 112 plate appearances and is creating runs 126% better than average. Gamers might want to include that in Boston stacks.

Third baseman Rafael Devers hits from the left side of the plate and destroys baseballs. This is another hitter with just a massive number in the home run model today. Devers has an excellent bat and is a good hitter who had a bumpy season last year, striking out far too much at 27.0%. That was up from just 17.0% across 702 plate appearances the year before, Devers has the quality to put up a strong triple slash while also hitting for power. Devers has a .292/.373/.583 slash with a .292 ISO and seven home runs over his first 110 plate appearances, with his strikeouts already dropping back to a 21.8% rate.

Shortstop Xander Bogaerts is another very good hitter in this lineup that is loaded with them. He has strung together back to back excellent seasons after his big breakout in 2019 when he hit 33 home runs in 698 plate appearances. Bogaerts is a star but not priced like it on FanDuel, coming in at just $3,300 in the middle of the lineup. On DraftKings he costs $5,200 which is far more appropriate but is helping keep the public at bay. Across the board, the Red Sox will be lower-owned on that site than on the blue site today.

Christian Vazquez is always in play as a catcher option on DraftKings. He typically goes under-owned by the field and he has one of the better behind the plate power bats in baseball at the moment. Vasquez hit 23 home runs in 521 tries in 2019 and another seven in 189 opportunities last year. He is off to a .250/.287/.364 start but striking out just 18.1% of the time. Vazquez has just a .114 ISO with only two home runs in his 94 plate appearances, but the upside is there.

Marwin Gonzalez is not nearly the hitter that Hunter Renfroe or Bobby Dalbec would give you from late in the Red Sox lineup. Gonzalez has flailed his way to a .086 ISO starting the year, after putting up just a .109 last season. The power is gone, and there is not much reason to roster a .186/.318/.271 hitter from the seven spot in the lineup.

Renfroe and Dalbec offer significant power upside, but both are extreme hit or miss plays. The power is very real, and the home run model is loving both players again today, but they are difficult to stack together given the base-clearing nature that one brings in front of the other. Still, getting both of them at the end of the lineup is not a mistake. If one home run falls short and goes for a double, the other could easily go deep to drive him in. Dalbec has just one home run so far this season in his 81 chances, but he hit eight last year in just 92 plate appearances. Renfroe has hit just two in 72 tries, but had 33 in 494 opportunities in 2019 with San Diego. Neither player is popular or expensive, these are good options to offset some salary and ownership in this stack, while maintaining upside.

HR Call: Rafael Devers — Boston Red Sox


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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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