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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 5/3/21

Terry McBride



DraftKings & FanDuel MLB DFS Picks Daily Fantasy baseball home run projections and ownership for tournament GPP

The Monday MLB DFS slate is looking like a fun ride. We have several top-end starters from which to make daily fantasy baseball lineup picks today, and there are a few options that are standing out for their home run sneaky upside as well. The same is true for bats: A few obvious spots are on the board, but there also appear to be several teams that the public is overlooking, which is exactly what we want to identify for GPP success on DraftKings and FanDuel.

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. That will be followed at 3:00 by the Deep Dive show with Alex Baker himself. 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 check out all of Awesemo’s 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.

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

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini — 20.44

Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo — 12.72

Cleveland Indians: Jordan Luplow — 10.02

Colorado Rockies: Trevor Story — 14.12

Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana — 7.83

Los Angeles Angels: Anthony Rendon — 10.38

Los Angeles Dodgers: Will Smith — 7.67

Milwaukee Brewers: Travis Shaw — 7.98

Minnesota Twins: Josh Donaldson — 8.27

New York Mets: Michael Conforto — 9.06

Oakland Athletics: Mark Canha — 11.76

Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins — 10.10

Pittsburgh Pirates: Phillip Evans — 6.72

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 5.98

San Francisco Giants: Alex Dickerson — 4.20

Seattle Mariners: Kyle Seager — 10.52

St. Louis Cardinals: Dylan Carlson — 8.74

Tampa Bay Rays: Brandon Lowe — 11.83

Texas Rangers: Adolis Garcia — 7.21

Toronto Blue Jays: George Springer — 13.16

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.

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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 Awesemo’s DraftKings and FanDuel cheat sheets, Spotlight Pitchers and Spotlight Hitters & Stacks for Monday, May 3.

On the Hill

The Monday MLB DFS pitching slate offers some stark contrasts and several interesting decision points. The slate has a pair of top-end starters in relatively tough matchups, with Walker Buehler taking on the Cubs and Tyler Glasnow facing the Angels. At the top of the next tier of starters, Twins ace Kenta Maeda is in a great spot against the strikeout happy Rangers, Shohei Ohtani is facing the Rays in Tampa, Steven Matz has a tough Oakland lineup to get through, and German Marquez is pitching at home in Coors Field.

The Top Starters Tool for FanDuel is a flat board through the top five starters, with just 2 percentage points separating first from fifth in the probability of being the top option. On DraftKings, the top-end is a bit more stark. My personal top three starters are the same, but in a different order. Of the trio of top options, Maeda might be the most interesting.

Maeda is off to a rough start this season. He has just a 17.9% strikeout rate and a 4.19 xFIP with a 1.76 WHIP over his first 23 innings in five starts. This has the highly proven starter priced down to a bonkers $6,900 on the FanDuel slate and a user-friendly $7,800 on DraftKings. Maeda is deserving of more respect. Last season Maeda struck out 32.3% of hitters over his 66 innings in 11 starts, putting up a 2.63 xFIP and a 0.75 WHIP; he was simply one of the American League’s best starters. The year before, Maeda threw 153 innings over 26 starts for the Dodgers, posting a 27.1% strikeout rate and a 1.07 WHIP. Maeda is a strong strikeout option and he is also excellent at inducing soft contact and limiting hard contact. Heled qualified starters last season, inducing 28.5% soft contact. The next-highest starter was Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo who was at 21.3%. Maeda excelled at limiting hard contact, posting a league-leading 21.5% rate, leading Zack Wheeler‘s 23.1% in second place by a wide margin. Maeda will be helped by taking on a Rangers team that is striking out at a league-worst 30.1% against right-handed pitching this season. Since the start of the 2019 season, the Rangers active roster remains league worst at 26.8%. This is an excellent spot for an underappreciated starter, though the price will draw significant ownership on both sites.

Tyler Glasnow sits as the top ranked pitcher on the Top Starters tool in the early afternoon. He has had a stellar start to the season, striking out 39.2% of hitters over 37 innings in six starts. He is just 20 innings shy of the 57 he threw last year and is slightly ahead of his previous pace of 38.2% strikeouts, while cutting his walks from 9.2% to 7.7% and lowering his WHIP from 1.13 to an excellent 0.80. Glasnow has been electric to start the season and shows no signs of slowing down. He is, however, in a tough spot against the Angels lineup that is second-best this season with just a 21.1% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching. Los Angeles has a .170 ISO that sits 10th in a power-starved split, while their excellent 122 WRC+ (creating runs 22% better than average) is second only to their cross-town neighbors the Dodgers at 123. The Angels have flashed home run upside in the split as well, hitting 26 home runs against right-handed pitching, sixth most in the league. Glasnow still stands an excellent chance of putting up a strong start, but the Angels ability to avoid the swing and miss could put an unexpected ceiling on his overall upside, bringing him back toward the field. Still, this remains the best spot for a big upside game as well. Apex pitching tends to overcome even the best of lineups.

If you haven’t spotted the trend, this is a space that is willing to embrace some risk, which is personified today in the form of Rockies starter German Marquez. Marquez is taking on a respectable Giants lineup in the horrific hitters haven that is Coors Field. So why does Marquez warrant a mention? Contrary to what many may think, Marquez is better at Coors Field than he is on the road. For his career, the entirety of which has been spent with the Rockies, Marquez has a 3.83 xFIP on the road and a 3.42 mark at home. He strikes out 23.3% of hitters while travelling, 24.4% when he sleeps in his own bed. He has a slightly lower walk rate on the road and a higher WHIP at home, while allowing a few more home runs, but part of the WHIP can be attributed to a .347 BABIP against at the park. Marquez is always a sneaky-good option when pitching at home in the right matchup. The Giants have not necessarily been a targetable team over the last two seasons, striking out just 22.5% of the time against righties, 10th best in the league. However that number has been plummeting given the team’s performance in the split this season. The Giants sit third-worst in baseball with a 28.8% strikeout rate against righties this season. San Francisco has a .159 collective ISO in the split and have created runs 17% worse than average. Embracing a bit of risk in Coors to get to a microscopically-owned Marquez is a radically different approach to a few pitching shares.

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BAL — 1-5 — Mullins — Hays — Mancini — Franco — Stewart

The Orioles are leading the power index today, smashing through the ceiling from one through nine. Baltimore is taking on the Mariners’ bullpen, which will likely be led by righty Erik Swanson for a few innings to start. Swanson was recalled from the alternate site yesterday but did not pitch out of the pen in Sunday’s game, leaving him as the likely option to open. He is extremely targetable and is a big part of the bump for the Orioles’ power metrics. Swanson has thrown 67.2 Major League innings in his brief career; he has allowed 20 home runs. That is not a misprint. Swanson’s home run to fly ball rate last season was an absurd 30%, but the sample was an unfair 7.2 innings. In 2019 he threw 58.0 innings, allowing a 23.0% home run to fly ball rate. Swanson was even at a 1.85 HR/9 mark and a 17.2% home run to fly ball in AAA. The Orioles have a great chance of going yard a few times before they chase Swanson and get into a Mariners bullpen that has actually been quite good this year. The stack ranks fairly well on the Top Stacks board and they will have positive leverage on both sites, as of the early afternoon.

Cedric Mullins has made a statement to start the year, flashing unexpected power to go with his already well-regarded speed. He has a .321/.380/.514 slash with a .193 ISO and four home runs in his 121 plate appearances atop the Baltimore lineup this season. He has cut strikeouts from the 24.2% mark he was at over 153 plate appearances last year to a solid 19.8% while bumping his walks from 5.2% to 9.1%, leading to the dramatic improvement in his on-base percentage. Mullins has created runs 53% better than average this season. He has become a strong option from the top when going to Orioles stacks.

Outfielder Austin Hays is a developing bat who has been long-awaited as he wound his way through the Baltimore system. Hays showed his upside in 2019, going .309/.373/.574 with a .265 ISO and four home runs in a 75 plate appearance cup of coffee. He was more of a regular last year, though he suffered injuries that kept him in and out of the lineup. Hays made 134 plate appearances and put up a disappointing .279/.328/.393 slash with just a .115 ISO and four home runs. He has already matched the home run total from each of those seasons, blasting four in just 61 opportunities his year, helping him get out to an excellent .250 ISO. Hays’ slash sits at .250/.300/.500 and he has created runs 26% better than average. From the top of the lineup, he can help if he gets on base or by driving in runs. If he is on Hays, has underrated speed.

Trey Mancini has been slowly getting back to himself after missing all of last year with his illness. Mancini is at .243/.299/.430 with a .187 ISO, but he has hit five home runs in his 117 tries. Still creating runs seven percent better than average, there is plenty of upside to be had. Mancini hit 35 home runs in his 679 chances in 2019, with a killer .244 ISO and a .291/.364/.535 slash, which is more the hitter one would expect over the season. He will be low-owned just like the rest of his teammates; he makes for an excellent stacking option but would also be interesting as a one-off.

Third baseman Maikel Franco hit 17 home runs in just 428 plate appearances for Kansas City in 2019, following it up with eight in 243 tries last year. He had a .278/.321/.457 slash with a .179 ISO last year, creating runs 6% better than average. This year Franco bat has a .144 ISO and has hit three home runs in his 114 plate appearances. He is rating out as one of the better power options in the lineup in my home run model and looks to be another completely ignored hitter in this stack.

Lefty D.J. Stewart has fairly significant power when he makes contact. Stewart has 60-grade raw power in traditional scouting and has translated it to games at every level, with scouts believing there is potentially a bit more to come. Stewart had a .204 ISO over 540 plate appearances at AA in 2017. He hit 15 home runs over 537 plate appearances between AAA and the Majors the following season, followed by 16 over 419 opportunities in 2019. In a 112 plate appearance season in the short Major League 2020, Stewart hit seven home runs and put up a .261 ISO. He had a terrible front-end on his .193/.355/.455 slash, but the power is obvious and the .355 on-base percentage should not be ignored. Stewart is the definition of a three-true-outcomes hitter. He had a 33.9% strikeout rate and a 17.9% walk rate in that sample. This season he is at a 23.3% strikeout rate and a 12.3% walk rate. If targeting a three-run home run, this is a great bet for it.

Catcher Pedro Severino will have minor ownership on the DraftKings slate, but it is an easy mark to surpass if stacking with this team. He will be untouched on FanDuel for just $2,300 and makes for an interesting differentiation option on an already very low-owned team. Severino is a decent option as a hitting catcher. He had a .250/.322/.388 slash last season, hitting five home runs in 178 tries, though he created runs six percent worse than average. He had a similar 2019, making 341 plate appearances and hitting 13 balls out of the yard but finishing 6% below average in WRC+ again.

Ryan Mountcastle was a first round pick in 2015 and he rose through the Orioles system amassing some exciting numbers along the way. In 2019, Mountcastle made 553 plate appearances at AAA, putting up an elite .312/.344/.527 slash with a .215 ISO and 25 home runs. He struck out 23.5% of the time and walked just 4.3%, which cut into the on-base percentage somewhat. That improved at the Major League level last season. Mountcastle saw 140 plate appearances with the big club. He walked 7.9% of the time and struck out just 21.4%, putting up a .333/.386/.492 along the way. He hit five home runs and created runs 41% better than average in the small sample. This year he has struggled with the strikeouts, plummeting to a 29.8% rate while walking just 3.8% of the time in a 104 plate appearance sample. Mountcastle has just one home run and a lowly .092 ISO. Given the proven hitting pedigree, expect major regression toward norms here. It would be good to be ahead of the curve when Mountcastle begins to come around; he is cheap and unowned on both sites.

Infielders Freddy Galvis and Rio Ruiz provide some sneaky power from late in the lineup. Galvis hit seven home runs in 159 plate appearances last year and an unexpected 23 in 589 tries in 2019. He is not a reliable hitter for average or on-base percentage, but there is power upside for the switch-hitter who should be matchup proof as Seattle gets into the bullpen. Ruiz is a lefty bat who could get matched out later in the game, depending on the scoreboard. Ruiz hit nine home runs in 204 plate appearances in 2020 but put up a .222/.286/.427 slash. These are endcap options who can clear the bases of a mid-lineup stack. They are less appealing as wraparounds, as they tend not to get on base to benefit other hitters.

HR Call: Matt Olson — Oakland Athletics

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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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