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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 5/15/21

Terry McBride



MLB DFS Picks DraftKings FanDuel Tournament Strategy HOme Runes Optimal Lineup Picks Today

Saturday’s main slate of MLB DFS contests has 10 games loaded with interesting angles on both DraftKings and FanDuel. With a Coors game that has some looming weather threats and some very interesting pitching pricing on both sites, we have a number of question marks heading into the mid-afternoon. The Toronto temporary park should be in play for offense, and it seems like a good bet to expect more runs than the six we saw scored there yesterday. The pitching values on both sites range into the extreme end, though the two options priced at $3,900 on DraftKings offer little, other than salary relief. With a few starters underpriced on the FanDuel slate, MLB DFS players can get to some very appealing bats with their stacks. Of course, there is always the option to simply pay up to Trevor Bauer, who is easily the best pitcher in the best spot on both sites, and one of the easier MLB DFS lineup picks today.


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 each team.

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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Note: Today’s home run picks include the 4pm slate of games but the power index below does not.

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

Arizona Diamondbacks: Eduardo Escobar — 8.73

Atlanta Braves: Austin Riley — 7.92

Baltimore Orioles: Austin Hays — 10.22

Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 5.17

Chicago Cubs: Joc Pederson — 12.65

Chicago White Sox: Yasmani Grandal — 9.06

Cincinnati Reds: Nick Castellanos — 11.04

Cleveland Indians: Jose Ramirez — 2.39

Colorado Rockies: Ryan McMahon — 6.23

Detroit Tigers: Nomar Mazara — 13.14

Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker — 6.10

Kansas City Royals: Jorge Soler — 8.05

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani — 9.18

Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy — 11.58

Miami Marlins: Jesus Aguilar — 8.11

Milwaukee Brewers: Travis Shaw — 1.72

Minnesota Twins: Max Kepler — 10.15

New York Yankees: Luke Voit — 11.73

Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson — 9.80

Philadelphia Phillies: Didi Gregorius — 6.74

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 10.68

Seattle Mariners: Mitch Haniger — 11.17

St. Louis Cardinals: Dylan Carlson — 11.15

Texas Rangers: Willie Calhoun — 5.63

Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — 7.52

Washington Nationals: Juan Soto — 15.75

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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.

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 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

Saturday’s MLB DFS slate offers an interesting range of pitching options. Trevor Bauer stands atop the pile, as both the most talented arm and the pitcher in probably the most appealing matchup. He is an obvious candidate for significant ownership on the slate, which should surprise no one. The other high priced option, Carlos Rodon of the White Sox, is a viable option, though he has been exceeding his career history so far and is in a tougher matchup. The board clears of salary from there, though Aaron Nola is relatively close on the DraftKings slate. On FanDuel, no pitcher other than Rodon and Bauer costs over $10,000. Several of the top-ranked options on the board are very affordable pitchers in very strong spots. Atlanta’s Ian Anderson has been excellent so far in his young career, and faces a plus strikeout matchup against the Brewers. In addition, Luis A. Garcia of the Astros is in a solid spot against the swing-happy Rangers.

Bauer is the slate’s top option, given the matchup against the weak Miami Marlins offense. The righty has delivered for the Dodgers so far, putting up a 34.7% strikeout rate with a 3.24 xFIP and a 0.81 WHIP in his 50 innings over eight starts. Bauer is likely to give us the length required to pick up the win and quality start bonuses where required, adding to his appeal. The starter has been excellent and reliable in recent memory. Last season, Bauer threw 73 innings and posted a similar 36.0% strikeout rate with a 3.26 xFIP and a 0.79 WHIP, pitching his home games in a lesser park for pitching. Bauer is facing a Miami lineup that sits seventh-worst in baseball, with a 26.0% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season. The Marlins have just a .131 ISO in the split and create runs 11% worse than average, making this an excellent spot for Bauer to put up a ceiling score.

Carlos Rodon has been excellent to start the year for the White Sox, finally fully delivering on his long anticipated upside. The 28-year-old southpaw has overcome injury and absence to arrive in 2021 fully healthy and taking his regular turn in the rotation. Rodon has put up a huge 37.3% strikeout rate over those 31 innings in five starts so far this season. The lefty has a sparkling 0.68 WHIP and a 2.88 xFIP. Rodon barely pitched in 2020 and made only seven starts in 2019. He threw 34 innings that year and had a 29.1% strikeout rate with a 3.62 xFIP and a 1.44 WHIP. So far this season, Rodon has been getting far more swinging strikes at 16.8% than he has in his career. His called strike rate has dropped from 19.5% last season to 14.8% this year, which could be an indicator that Rodon is simply getting a bit of additional swing and miss out of the zone. If the league catches up to laying off his slider, we could see an impact to the hulked-up strikeout rate. Still, Rodon is a pitcher who was highly billed coming into the league, so it is not difficult to believe he is simply delivering on that promise. The issue today is his hefty price tag on a slate with options, as well as the mere 20.0% rate at which the opposing Royals have struck out against left-handed pitching so far this season. This is not as easy a spot for whiffs as it may seem, though Kansas City has offered little in the way of resistance, putting up just a .116 ISO and creating runs 21% worse than average in the split. Rodon is not in much danger, but he also may not have the extreme upside in this matchup that his salary would require.

Several value pitchers stand out on the slate as well. Tyler Mahle is one of my favorite arms in baseball over the last 18 months or so. The pitcher has made dramatic improvements in his arsenal as has been detailed by yours truly on numerous shows already this year. Those changes have resulted in a 32.4% strikeout rate so far this year, but Mahle is pitching in Coors Field and there are big weather question marks in the game, with both rain and lightning forecasted in the area. The price is right to take GPP shots with the pitcher if we get positive indicators on the weather, as Mahle costs just $7,000 on FanDuel and $8,200 on DraftKings. He is in no way safe in a Coors Field game, but if the weather allows it, he is also not off the board entirely.

Triston McKenzie and Chris Paddack are in interesting matchups and at very cheap salaries. Though both will be popular, they warrant mentioning. Meanwhile, an under-owned Adam Wainwright is throwing his curveball better than he ever has, and the pitch was already essentially a once-in-a-generation offering throughout the pitcher’s career. Overall, Wainwright has regained some velocity on his fastball as well, and he has been strong this season. The veteran righty sits in the 72nd percentile in chase rate, the 67th in average exit velocity allowed, and at a league average 51st percentile in hard hit rate. He has a 23.5% strikeout rate that is up from just 20.6% last season, despite a slightly decreased swinging strike rate of 9.8%. Wainwright costs $8,100 on FanDuel and $8,800 on DraftKings and makes a solid option against a diminished Padres lineup.

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Ian Anderson has been terrific since getting the call to the Show last season. As a rookie, the righty threw 32 innings over six starts, compiling a 29.7% strikeout rate and a 10.1% walk rate with a 3.45 xFIP and a 1.08 WHIP. Anderson has been crisp but slightly below that pace to start 2021. He has a 26.4% strikeout rate with a 10.4% walk rate with a 1.26 WHIP over 39 innings in seven starts this year, but has lowered his xFIP to an excellent 3.14. Anderson is in a terrific spot for strikeouts, as the Brewers active roster is sitting fifth-worst in baseball with a 26.3% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching. The team has been bad in general, creating runs 22% worse than average and putting together just a .144 team ISO in the split. Anderson is a pitcher who already has a track record of sapping opposing power, the Brewers home run marks are way down as can be seen in the power index above. There appears to be little danger for the starter here, especially considering his appealing pricing and ownership.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are one of many teams ranked in the middle of the Top Stacks Tool, but they are easily the best option, getting positive leverage on both DraftKings and FanDuel. This makes them an interesting spot to look for offbeat MLB DFS lineup picks today. The team is facing excellent Phillies starter Aaron Nola, who has a 27.3% strikeout rate and a 3.46 xFIP with a 1.03 WHIP so far this season. Nola could easily have a good game and keep the Blue Jays’ bats off the board, but this contest is taking place in a minor league stadium in Florida that has largely played for runs and power production so far this year. Leaning into contrarian bats in an underrated park against a good pitcher is certainly a GPP-only approach – but if it connects, it could yield tournament-wining upside, especially given the Blue Jays potential for production. The young Toronto lineup has limited strikeouts to just 22.8% against right-handed pitching so far this year, eighth-best in baseball. Though they have only been around the league average overall with a .163 team ISO and three percent below average creating runs against right-handed pitching, the team has hit 40 home runs in the split this season, good for a third-place tie with the Cardinals. There is MLB DFS GPP upside in getting to under-owned Blue Jays’ bats tonight.

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Infielder Marcus Semien is priced up at $5,200 on DraftKings, but sits at just $3,200 on FanDuel. Semien has produced early for Toronto, going .265/.331/.463 with a .197 ISO and eight home runs in his first 163 plate appearances. The righty bat has created runs 22% better than average so far this year, making it seem like Semien has certainly left his struggles of 2020 behind in Oakland. The shortstop went just .223/.305/.374 last season, hitting only seven home runs with a .152 ISO a year after having an outside shot in the MVP race at .285/.369/.522 with 33 home runs in 747 plate appearances. If Toronto gets that version of Semien all year, this team will be among the best in baseball.

Bo Bichette costs $5,200 on DraftKings and will barely be owned. On the FanDuel slate, he lists at $3,800, appearing to draw very little attention for his talent. Bichette has hit eight home runs in 163 plate appearances already this season, adding even stolen bases to the tally. He has a .272/.319/.483 slash with a .212 ISO. Bichette is well worth paying for, and has created runs 23% better than average. This warrants inclusion in stacks.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is off to a fantastic .310/.440/.566 start to his season. He has hit nine home runs in just 159 plate appearances and is beginning to deliver on his promise as one of the game’s best young bats, following in his Hall of Fame father’s massive footsteps. The younger model is an excellent option for production, and is barely getting rostered on either site. He costs $5,600 on DraftKings and $3,800 on FanDuel, but is easily affordable given the pitching value on both sites.

Teoscar Hernandez has been solid so far, making 89 plate appearances after missing some time in April. Hernandez has a .289/.337/.482 slash with five home runs already. The outfielder is at a discount, costing just $3,300 on the blue site and only $3,800 on DraftKings. Hernandez should not be skipped and is a proven bat. Last season, he hit 16 home runs in 207 plate appearances, putting up a .289 ISO and creating runs 46% better than average. In 2019, he hit 26 home runs in 464 opportunities. This is an underpriced power bat in the middle of a sneaky-good stack, so don’t skip him.

Randal Grichuk is seemingly always undervalued for his power upside. The outfielder costs just $3,900 on DraftKings and $2,600 on FanDuel and makes for a strong value play in stacks, as well as a potentially sneaky cheap one-off consideration. Grichuk has a .276/.319/.455 slash to start the year and has hit six home runs in his 144 plate appearances. He is not an extreme all-or-nothing option for home runs, but rather, a productive hitter who creates runs 16% better than average so far this year.

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Cavan Biggio is another multi-generational infielder in the Blue Jays lineup. The lefty slots in at both second and third base on FanDuel and third base only on DraftKings. Biggio has struggled to just a .204/.331/.333 slash with a .130 ISO this season and has been eight percent below average creating runs. This is an upside player for MLB DFS purposes, however. Biggio stole six bases and hit eight home runs in just 265 plate appearances, and is a 20-20 threat over a full season.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is another struggling young bat, with just a .205/.224/.283 line to start the year.  Still, the outfielder was at .308/.348/.534 with a .226 ISO, hitting 11 home runs in 224 plate appearances last season. In 2019, the younger Gurriel hit 20 home runs in his first 343 plate appearances in the show. Displaying obvious upside with his .264 ISO, there is clearly more than we have seen this season, but Gurriel is ridiculously priced at $2,200 on FanDuel and $2,900 on DraftKings.

Rowdy Tellez has just a .182/.213/.286 to start the season, but has hit two home runs and is a lefty bat with a .230 career ISO against right-handed pitching, while striking out just 23.5% of the time. Tellez is not a focus, but he is interesting for a few late-lineup shares. If he bats higher in the order in this spot, he gains relevance. Danny Jansen is simply a mix-in option at catcher on DraftKings, where we are required to roster one.

HR Call: Aaron Judge — New York Yankees

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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