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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 5/14/21

Terry McBride



Tonight's NBA & MLB DFS picks, news, notes & lineups for DraftKings and FanDuel, as well as look at the day's betting picks & player props 5/20/21.

The MLB DFS Friday slate has 13 games and plenty of options for pitching and bats for lineup constructions of all shapes. The slate includes a Coors Field game, as well as a game at Toronto’s temporary home — a minor league stadium in Florida that has created runs like Coors East. Add in an Arizona game that might be played with the roof open in near 100-degree heat and we have several premium environments for offense. With a handful of premium aces on the mound, as well as a few lesser-known options who look highly interesting, there are plenty of directions to turn for pitching. On a slate this size, with this many good options, we can use the public ownership projections to play the leverage game with both our pitching and stacking decisions. Full stacks are the approach for a slate of this size, we want to be leaning into the probability that two teams will put up unique outlier games, rather than hunt for individual one-off slate breakers on both FanDuel and DraftKings tonight.


Tracking the top MLB DFS pitchers will be key, as will monitoring the public ownership distributions on stacks via the Top Stacks Tool. Let’s get into the MLB DFS picks for DraftKings and FanDuel, as well as some home run candidates for Tuesday.

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: Daulton Varsho — 5.99

Atlanta Braves: Marcell Ozuna — 9.54

Baltimore Orioles: Austin Hays — 10.14

Boston Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts — 7.21

Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez — 17.50

Cincinnati Reds: Eugenio Suarez — 4.88

Cleveland Indians: Jose Ramirez — 12.34

Colorado Rockies: Trevor Story — 4.45

Detroit Tigers: Jonathan Schoop — 7.76

Houston Astros: Yordan Alvarez — 14.35

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 15.15

Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy — 5.90

Miami Marlins: Adam Duvall — 9.71

Milwaukee Brewers: Avisail Garcia — 3.17

Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano — 11.47

New York Mets: Michael Conforto — 12.48

New York Yankees: Aaron Judge — 15.69

Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson — 23.09

Philadelphia Phillies: Alec Bohm — 21.17

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 8.04

Seattle Mariners: Jarred Kelenic — 6.82

St. Louis Cardinals: Dylan Carlson — 5.81

Tampa Bay Rays: Randy Arozarena — 6.59

Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo — 7.41

Toronto Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez — 8.50

Washington Nationals: Kyle Schwarber — 4.96

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

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On the Hill

Tonight’s MLB DFS pitching slate has a number of options at the top of the board and an interesting section through the middle for value plays on FanDuel and second starters on DraftKings. The two-starter site will be particularly interesting tonight, with a few very strong value plays in the form of David PetersonJoe Musgrove and even Griffin Canning. The slate is topped by legitimate aces including Clayton KershawTyler Glasnow and Max Scherzer, each of whom will draw significant public attention at a heavy price tag. The top-end starters are worth paying for on this slate, given the quality bats available at reasonable prices, but there are also stacks that are highly priced-up on the slate, making the value range important to lineup constructions.

Glasnow appears to be heading toward the most popularity among the aces on FanDuel, where he lands $2,000 less expensive than Scherzer and $500 less than Kershaw. With additional shares going to Musgrove, who is significantly underpriced for his talent, the other two premium aces are slipping slightly below where they should be owned by the field, creating opportunity for those willing to pay up to be contrarian.

Kershaw has been lights out over his first 44 innings in 2021, putting up a 26.1% strikeout rate and a 3.23 xFIP with a 0.99 WHIP, and he is facing the anemic Marlins offense. Miami ranks 10th-worst in baseball with a 25.4% strikeout rate against lefties this season. They have created runs 5% worse than average in the split and have hit just 12 home runs, ranking them in the middle of the league. There is significant upside for Kershaw in this spot, even at a heavy salary. Getting to him with positive leverage on the FanDuel slate is an added bonus. He is an excellent consideration for SP1 ownership on DraftKings, despite the popularity.

Scherzer is the better of the two options on the two-pitcher site, however, landing with a projected public popularity that ranks favorably with the potential that he will land as a top two pitcher tonight. Scherzer has been nothing short of dominant, as usual, with a 2.94 xFIP and a 0.78 WHIP alongside his 35.5% strikeout rate through 46 frames over seven starts in 2021. The Nationals righty is expensive on both sites, his $12,500 is borderline prohibitive on the FanDuel slate, but the high prices are keeping him under-owned in a good spot against the Diamondbacks. If Arizona chooses to leave the stadium roof open on a nearly 100-degree night in the desert, it would be a minor ding to the upside of the pitcher, but there would still be major upside. Arizona’s lineup has been frisky this season and they strike out at just a collective 22.6% rate against right-handed pitching so far, but they have created runs six percent worse than average and have just a non-threatening .155 team ISO in the split, Scherzer is in no real danger.

Glasnow is the ace drawing the most ownership but he is also likely the option in the toughest matchup. The opposing Mets have several excellent power bats who can go yard on anyone, and some of their hit-tool oriented position players are strong at avoiding the strikeouts. Against an elite strikeout artist like Glasnow it may not matter much, but if we are looking for minor tiebreakers that is a consideration. The Tampa righty has had the afterburners on all season so far, posting an elite 39.5% strikeout rate to go with a 2.71 xFIP and a 0.89 WHIP. Glasnow was at 38.2% strikeouts in his 57 innings in 2019 and 33.0% over 60 innings in 2019, this is by no means a surprise. The right-hander needs only to stay on the mound for a full season to contend for a Cy Young Award, he is one baseball’s apex pitchers. Still, with significant ownership, there is always an argument to be made for avoiding getting beyond the field’s ownership while throwing some contrarian stacks back against the pitcher for leverage.

Which brings us to Joe Musgrove. Through no fault of his own or of the public, Musgrove will be massively over-owned on this slate. He is a terrific option for the money, priced at just $8,000 on the blue site and $8,700 on DraftKings, but this is drawing incredible attention. On a 13-game slate, Musgrove is projected for nearly 35% ownership on FanDuel where we’re only getting one pitcher per lineup. His raw ownership total is higher on DraftKings, but we are working with more room on the site. Musgrove has been excellent in 2021, delivering on his long anticipated upside for his new team almost immediately. The righty has a 2.32 xFIP with a 0.85 WHIP, famously throwing one of the year’s many no hitters. Musgrove has a 34.8% strikeout rate that belies his low salary, a mark that is not out of the clear blue, in 39 innings last year the righty struck out 33.1% of hitters. This is an excellent option in a vacuum, but with so much popularity and so many quality options getting overlooked, it could be an easy point from which to claw back advantage on the field.

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On the other side of Glasnow’s game, Mets starter David Peterson should not be ignored given the pricing and matchup. Peterson is taking on a Rays team that is second-worst in baseball with a 31.4% strikeout rate against southpaws this season. The lefty will be taking on a Rays lineup that has created runs 11% worse than average and has just a .144 team ISO in the split, but the public is largely leaving him on the shelf. Peterson has been pitching far better than the back of the baseball card stats might indicate, delivering a 3.13 xFIP and a 28.6% strikeout rate so far this season. He has a bumpy 1.38 WHIP but just a 9.8% walk rate, getting a bit unlucky with a .323 batting average on balls in play against. Peterson is a terrific option for an SP2 on DraftKings where he costs just $7,400 and is barely cracking five percent public ownership, while he is in play as a pay-down option on the FanDuel slate. Peterson will be below five percent ownership on that site, despite just a $6,600 price tag that lets us do amazing things with stacks.

Cincinnati Reds

We’re briefly pausing before getting to the featured stack to mention that the Reds’ elite offense is currently projecting as under-owned in the Top Stacks Tool on both DraftKings and FanDuel. The Reds are facing German Marquez who is a strong starter and one of the better pitchers in Coors Field, but not so good that he caps their upside in any reasonable way. Coors Field games have true appeal when the field is for some reason not getting to them frequently enough, which appears to be the case as of the early afternoon. If the public continues to ignore a good team in a great park, it makes sense to load up despite the good opposing pitcher. The Reds are expensive, but not unmanageable, considering the hefty prices as a leverage tax is the right perspective for this team if the ownership trends continue.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are another team that is very pricey and going under-owned in public projections for the cost. The projected team lineup is somewhat top heavy as the talent trails off rapidly after we get past Javier Baez in the cleanup spot, but the heart of the order is still star-studded and the Cubs have appeal when they are going off with strong positive leverage. Getting to these bats more frequently than the public is looking like a good angle to take into tonight’s slate. Recommended bats off the top include the obvious names: Willson ContrerasKris BryantAnthony Rizzo and Baez, but we can consider Matt DuffyDavid Bote and Jason Heyward for some shares in diversified stacks.

Philadelphia Phillies – 1-5 – McCutchen – Segura – Harper – Hoskins – Bohm

Our featured stack is not very sneaky on DraftKings and is at slightly negative leverage on FanDuel, but the Phillies stand out for upside and fair pricing on both sites tonight, and they are simply too good to ignore in a game where they add a designated hitter as the visiting club in an American League park. That park happens to play as Coors Field East, the Blue Jays are still playing their home games on a minor league field in Florida, a location that has proven home run happy and productive for offense already this year. The game at Coors is totaled for 10.5 runs on the Vegas board, this game has the second-highest total of the night at 10.

The Phillies draw Steven Matz who has pitched reasonably well for Toronto so far, though early season buzz about escaping Queens and turning from a frog to a starting pitcher seems to have died down. Matz has just a 23.4% strikeout rate in his 37 innings, putting up a 3.78 xFIP and a 1.27 WHIP. Matz has been targetable for power in the past and he has yielded six home runs in 37.0 innings so far this year, a 1.46 HR/9 mark. In his last season with the Mets in 2020, Matz threw just 30.2 innings, giving up 14 home runs for a Mets record 4.11 HR/9. The Phillies power bats are drawing strong indicators in my home run model and they rank out as one of the top stacks on the board today.

Andrew McCutchen has shown signs of a return to form with the power end of his game so far this season, hitting five home runs over his first 144 plate appearances after putting up 10 in 241 tries last year. The outfielder has just a .227/.347/.395 slash with a .168 ISO but he has created runs nine percent better than average and is affordable at the top of the Phillies lineup on both sites. McCutchen is a career .376 OBP player, he is an excellent option to get on base ahead of the power hitters if he is not going deep himself, despite any early season struggles or small sample indicators to the contrary from last year.

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Jean Segura is projected to hit second for Philadelphia tonight. The infielder has made 91 plate appearances this season, getting out to a .333/.352/.448 start with two home runs and a stolen base, he is a good option to mix and match at low ownership in combinations both with and without McCutchen, leading into the heart of the order. Segura has multiple seasons on his resume of double digit home runs and steals, he has long been a quietly solid option at low cost.

It will not surprise anyone to find Bryce Harper on a list of recommended Phillies bats. The star outfielder can be a roller coaster from year to year, but there is no denying his overall talent and he has top-end upside on any given slate. Harper has a terrific .306/.427/.565 slash to start 2021 and he has hit seven home runs in his 131 plate appearances. This is a strong go-to option, he is expensive at $5,200 on DraftKings and $4,000 on FanDuel, but those prices are arguably still too low for a player with this much talent.

Harper is followed in the lineup by powerful Rhys Hoskins who lands at just $4,100 on DraftKings and $3,300 on FanDuel. Hoskins slots in at first base on both sites and is priced inexpensively because of a bumpy .234/.288/.462 slash to start the year. The slugger still has a .228 ISO and eight home runs in his 156 plate appearances however, which is more at bar than his triple-slash for MLB DFS purposes. Hoskins is someone the field is getting to, given the low pricing, but he belongs in Phillies stacks far more frequently than not.

Sophomore third baseman Alec Bohm has strong indicators in my home run model tonight. The third baseman has hit four home runs in 150 plate appearances this season, equaling the total he put up in just 180 tries (an early version of this article incorrectly had Bohm at 58) last year. Bohm has struggled out of the gate with just a .216/.247/.331 slash, but there is talent and upside in the bat and the year-to-date performance has him priced down and less popular than he should be, particularly on the FanDuel slate. Bohm makes a good option in the heart of Phillies stacks on both sites.

Didi Gregorius hits from the left side of the plate and brings underrated pop and a tangible skill at avoiding strikeouts. So far this season, Gregorius has struggled with the hit tool and getting on base, putting up an ugly .229/.266/.364, but he has hit four home runs. That has not helped in the run creation department, however, the shortstop has a 70 WRC+ for the young season, a mark that will likely improve as time passes. Gregorius is a low-cost low-owned option at shortstop on both sites, he is an important but less mandatory part of this stack.

The back-end of the lineup starts to get a bit ugly, though there is value in Scott Kingery‘s multi-position eligibility and nearly minimum pricing on both sites. Kingery is at a bare bones .071/.071/.000 but that’s over an unfair 14 plate appearance sample. In a more reasonable 124 chances last year he managed a .159/.228/.283 with three home runs. Still, this is a player who hit 19 home runs in 500 plate appearances in 2019, putting up a .258/.315/.474 with a .216 ISO along the way. Kingery is not without talent, it’s just been on vacation for a while, if it comes home tonight he could be a sneaky value play.

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Backup catcher Andrew Knapp is an afterthought on the FanDuel slate, but one of the more popular Phillies on DraftKings, given the requirement to roster a catcher. We can likely do better at the position, though Knapp’s $2,500 salary is appealing for cost reasons alone. The backstop has one home run in 48 plate appearances this season, leaving the team missing regular starter JT Realmuto.

Odubel Herrera brings up the rear for the Phillies. The quad-A outfielder has hit two home runs in his 58 tries so far this year, he has a .231/.298/.385 slash with a .154 ISO so far, but would need to be more reliable getting on base to be considered as a truly strong wraparound option in stacks. He is a mix-in for lineup differentiation and cost savings only.

HR Call: Alec Bohm — Philadelphia Phillies

To get even more action down on tonight’s MLB slate, check out the betting markets and Awesemo’s expert MLB betting locks for today.

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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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