A usually small Thursday getaway day slate of MLB DFS action is further split with four games in the afternoon and an evening main slate that includes just four games on FanDuel and four plus a seven-inning contest on DraftKings. This article will focus on the main slate and the fifth game is included in home run picks. The slate is further split along pitching lines; you are either with Trevor Bauer or you are with the field on this one. Bauer is the slate’s only true ace and he stands several rungs above every other option, according to the Awesemo MLB DFS projections. His ownership, according to Awesemo’s daily fantasy baseball ownership projections should be spectacularly high, but so is his relative upside. Getting to Bauer and landing on the right bats from among the available options after making that choice is likely the critical path to success, though other starters will not be off the board completely. On the offensive side of the game, MLB DFS lineup picks and stacks are only abundant when not paying up for Bauer.
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: Pavin Smith — 4.68
Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman — 3.20
Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 11.46
Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo — 7.09
Chicago White Sox: Luis Robert — 15.43
Colorado Rockies: Ryan McMahon — 9.33
Detroit Tigers: Jonathan Schoop — 9.83
Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager — 10.06
Milwaukee Brewers: Travis Shaw — 7.55
Texas Rangers: Willie Calhoun — 6.04
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 index does not account for a 7-inning game for the White Sox and Tigers, adjust expectations accordingly.
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
If last night seemed like an ugly pitching slate, tonight is like the classic beautiful person who only hangs out with less attractive friends. Bauer is that diamond in the rough on tonight’s slate, but he gleams so brightly that more than 60% of the field is going to be on him on FanDuel with only one pitcher slot. On DraftKings, the number is even higher but at least it’s against a larger overall total on the two-pitcher site. Bauer is in a strong spot taking on a Brewers lineup that is fifth-worst in baseball with a 27.2% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season. The team has hit for modest power in the split so far, putting up a collective .151 ISO that ranks in the middle of a league currently sapped of power. The Brewers still struggle to create runs in the split, however, putting up a WRC+ that ranks 19% below average against righties. There is every reason to believe Bauer will dominate, as he has so far delivered a 37.8% strikeout rate across his 32 innings in five starts. His xFIP is an excellent 2.82 and he has a microscopic 0.66 WHIP. The only questions here are what lineups look like with Bauer that will not be identical to 25 other lineups in the contest. He is by far the best pitcher available.
When Kyle Gibson is the no questions asked second best starter on a slate, there will be some offensive fireworks. He has the second-highest salary on the slate, but he ranks further down the board given a tough matchup against the Red Sox. Boston is among the league leading teams creating runs against right-handed pitchers, currently sitting 14% ahead of the average. They hit for good power in the split and strike out around the league average, Gibson could be in an underrated danger spot, particularly considering the price tag.
Adbert Alzolay is currently sapping the Braves mighty lineup of power in my home run model and custom power metric, and it does not quite add up. He does not project particularly well in my model, though he ranks third for Awesemo in the Top Pitchers tool and looks like a solid pivot for leverage, particularly on the FanDuel slate where he is trending for less ownership than his probability of success. Alzolay posted a solid 33.3% strikeout rate in his 21 inning sample last season and sits at 29.8% in 15 innings this year, with a 3.33 xFIP and a 0.93 WHIP. He was excellent at limiting hitters launch angle and good at missing barrels in his short sample last season. This year that has changed slightly and the numbers may be yet to catch up on the power index. Still, at his price and strikeout upside, Alzolay absolutely should be considered for GPP shares on this slate.
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As mentioned above, the metrics the power index giving for the strong Braves offense against Alzolay are not entirely reliable. The team typically hits right-handed pitching extremely well, and there is some small sample size bias. Still, there are some underlying reasons to buy-in that it could be a lower than expected power night for Atlanta. Even with that in mind, on such a short slate, they could easily get there without hitting home runs. The team stands out as one of the top ranked options on Awesemo’s top stacks board and is worthy of consideration, even with the heavy public ownership.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are taking on Gibson and are priced-down on FanDuel to absurd degrees. The team is more appropriately priced across the industry on DraftKings, but they will have significant room for leverage, with the public trailing their probability of being the top stack by a wide margin. The Red Sox loaded lineup stands to give fits to a pitcher who is striking out just 20.7% of hitters so far this year in 27 innings. Last season Gibson sat down only 19.3% of hitters and the year before that mark was 22.7%. Gibson is at best a league average strikeout pitcher and has been a target for power and baserunners in the past. Last year he had a 1.53 WHIP, in 160 innings in 2019 it was a 1.44. If the public is leaving the Red Sox alone it makes sense to pounce on the opportunity. With wildly different pricing from site to site, the Sox will be lower-owned and highly appealing on DraftKings. Their ownership will be around expectation on FanDuel, but that keeps them very much in play on a short slate.
Enrique Hernandez has his Boston career off to just a .240/.282/.417 start but he has hit three home runs in his 103 plate appearances, putting up a .177 ISO. That is right around the hitter that Hernandez has been over the last three seasons. He is delivering on expectations and is an OK option from the top of the lineup. The appeal comes when using his salary and ownership to offset some of the more expensive and popular plays on this team, as well as from the idea that Hernandez will at least occasionally get on base ahead of his teammates.
Outfielder Alex Verdugo costs just $2,800 on FanDuel but $4,600 on DraftKings. Verdugo saw 377 plate appearances with the Dodgers in 2019, 221 in Boston last season and 93 this year, plus 111 in two early cups of coffee with the Los Angeles. In those 802 opportunities, roughly 100 more than the highest-end leadoff hitters see, Verdugo has hit 23 home runs and stolen 10 bases, putting up a .172 ISO and a .293/.347/.465 slash and creating runs 17% better than average. He is already a good player and is underpriced as part of this stack.
J.D. Martinez is a name that most MLB DFS players should know at this point. Martinez is expensive on DraftKings at $5,700, but his $3,800 mark on FanDuel is affordable while he is going under-owned early at just 14.5% public exposure. He has crushed his way to a .337/.410/.685 so far in his 100 plate appearances, hitting seven home runs and putting up a gigantic .348 ISO. The power and hit tool are all the way back. Getting ahead of the public on Martinez makes sense in stacks and as a one-off if his low ownership projection holds heading toward lock.
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts is a cheap star at the position, coming in with just a $3,300 price tag on the blue site, while $5,500 on DraftKings makes him more difficult to stack with the appealing teammates. Bogaerts is off to an excellent start with a .348/.389/.551 slash, a .202 ISO and a WRC+ 62% above average. He has three home runs on the season and is a major engine for production in the heart of Boston’s lineup.
Third baseman Rafael Devers is another player with a $2,000 price difference from site to site. He is a bargain on FanDuel and at a fair price on DraftKings. He is in a great spot for his prodigious power to stand out. He is carrying a home run mark second only to Martinez on the team. So far this season, Devers has a .271 ISO, hitting six home runs in just 97 plate appearances and creating runs 58% better than average. One of the best third basemen in the American League, Devers had 11 home runs in just 248 chances last season, following his 2019 breakout where he hit 32 in 702 tries. Devers is an excellent option, though he will be heavily owned where he is cheap.
Christian Vazquez has been one of the better options for power from behind the plate over the last two seasons, hitting seven home runs last year and 23 in 521 plate appearances in 2019. Vazquez costs just $2,200 on FanDuel where he catchers are not required. On DraftKings he is at a more reasonable $4,300 but under 10% public exposure, which makes him an appealing option at the position. Vazquez has two home runs in 81 plate appearances in 2021, going .250/.296/.382 so far, with upside for more.
Franchy Cordero could hit anywhere between seven and nine, if he is in the lineup at all. His bat is loaded with long-anticipated raw power; traditional scouts consistently graded Cordero with 70-grade raw power on his way up, but with limited opportunities over the last five years, Cordero has just 12 Major League home runs. Those have come in only 366 plate appearances for the now 26-year-old outfielder, so there is obvious upside for pop. The issue tends to be his career 36.9% strikeout rate in the same sample, with a .230/297/.405 slash and a WRC+ 11% below average. Cordero is there to hit a home run if including him in a stack tonight; expecting more would be foolish.
Bobby Dalbec is another mighty slugger at the end of the Red Sox lineup. He hit a titanic eight home runs in just 92 plate appearances in his 2020 debut, putting up a .338 ISO. This season he is out to just a .234/.290/.375 start with one home run and a .141 ISO, but that is over a 69 plate appearance sample. Dalbec is another major power prospect with 70-grade raw pop, though the hit tool has never been highly regarded. This is another bat to roster for home run upside.
Marwin Gonzalez hits from both sides of the plate and is in one of the versions of the projected Red Sox lineup. Gonzalez offers only lineup differentiation and salary relief. He is not the hitter from utility days in Houston. Last season Gonzalez had just a .211/.286/.320 slash in 199 tries, and this year he is off to a .197/.333/.288 start over 81 plate appearances. There could be more upside than those lowly marks, but Gonzalez is not one of the highly appealing MLB DFS picks today.
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