A massive 15-game Friday MLB DFS affair is absolutely loaded with quality lineup picks from up and down the salary spectrum. Between top-end aces, quality arms in sneaky spots, a few good value plays at pitcher and a ton of matchups for bats, it should be an excellent night of baseball and a great slate to attack. Several of the top-ranked stacks look a bit top-heavy with ownership, but there are a few plays to jump on near the peak of the board and a large plateau of similarly ranked under-owned teams from which to draw hitters. This is a slate with all appearances of one that will require stretching out to rostering a wide range of outcomes, capturing as much of the well correlated upside as possible. Focusing on just a limited share of stacks with concentrated ownership, or over-rostering individual hitters, is a fast way to the bottom on a slate like this. We will analyze the MLB DFS picks, stacks and pitchers for tonight’s DraftKings and FanDuel lineups.
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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 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.
Home Run Ratings
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Scale: 5-10 Average; 10-20 Good; 20-25 Very Good; 25+ Great
Arizona Diamondbacks: Eduardo Escobar — 4.49
Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr. — 9.92
Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini — 12.10
Boston Red Sox: Alex Verdugo — 6.09
Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez — 12.64
Chicago White Sox: Yoan Moncada — 1.68
Cincinnati Reds: Nick Castellanos — 13.11
Cleveland Indians: Jose Ramirez — 7.15
Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron — 13.04
Detroit Tigers: Jeimer Candelario — 2.74
Houston Astros: Yuli Gurriel — 5.11
Kansas City Royals: Andrew Benintendi — 10.68
Los Angeles Angels: Justin Upton — 19.23
Los Angeles Dodgers: Cody Bellinger — 5.20
Miami Marlins: Corey Dickerson — 5.66
Milwaukee Brewers: Travis Shaw — 12.94
Minnesota Twins: Alex Kirilloff — 4.85
New York Mets: Pete Alonso — 15.39
New York Yankees: Gleyber Torres — 4.59
Oakland Athletics: Seth Brown — 6.19
Philadelphia Phillies: JT Realmuto — 7.10
Pittsburgh Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes — 10.14
San Diego Padres: Wil Myers — 4.08
San Francisco Giants: Evan Longoria — 7.94
Seattle Mariners: Kyle Seager — 4.08
St. Louis Cardinals: Dylan Carlson — 3.80
Tampa Bay Rays: Mike Zunino — 6.53
Texas Rangers: Khris Davis — 9.25
Toronto Blue Jays: Randal Grichuk — 7.26
Washington Nationals: Josh Bell — 3.77
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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.
On the Hill
The Friday MLB DFS pitching slate features a number of solid options from which to draw our starting pitcher picks. The slate is loaded with quality, from Max Scherzer and Zack Wheeler squaring off in an NL East rivalry matchup, to Shohei Ohtani and Blake Snell pitching in good spots but with questions about length, to values like struggling Luis Castillo or underrated Freddy Peralta. There is an abundance of options from the mid-range as well, and plenty of SP2-capable plays that will help pay for top-end starters and quality bats.
Scherzer and Wheeler ranks as the top two starters on the board for FanDuel, and two of the top three on the DraftKings Top Pitchers Tool. Squaring off against one another, the starters are also the two most expensive options on the blue site, while Wheeler comes at a minor relative discount on DraftKings. Both starters will be justifiably popular and stand excellent chances of landing in the top lineups. Of the pair of righties, it is Scherzer who has a better matchup. The opposing Phillies offense sits sixth worst in baseball with a 25.8% strikeout rate against right-handed pitchers this season, and they have created runs 12% worse than average while posting just a .143 team ISO in the split. Scherzer has dominated to the tune of a 36.5% strikeout rate over his first 69.1 innings in 11 starts. He is inducing 16.5% swinging strikes and has a robust 32.1% CSW% with a 3.00 xFIP and a 0.82 WHIP. Scherzer is worth every penny of salary and should be rostered despite any popularity. On the other side, Wheeler has been dealing as well, putting up a 31.7% strikeout rate and a 2.75 xFIP with a 0.93 WHIP in 75.0 innings over 11 starts. Wheeler provides reliable depth in most of his outings, but he draws a Nationals team that strikes out just 22.2% of the time against righties, third-best in baseball this season. Washington has been limited in run creation as well, currently sitting 13% below average in the split and they have lacked power with just a .137 team ISO. This might not be a danger spot for Wheeler, but it is one where he could see his overall ceiling more limited than in weaker matchups.
Snell has completed 6.0 innings only once this season. In his two most recent outings, he lasted 3.2 and 3.0 innings, yielding five runs and seven runs respectively. Snell has a 32.1% strikeout rate and is inducing 12.8% swinging strikes this season, putting up a 3.60 xFIP but a 1.60 WHIP. The high volume of base runners has been caused largely by an unsightly 14.2% walk rate, which has contributed to Snell’s short starts. He is priced down for the lack of production, coming in at $9,200 on DraftKings and well below that at a mere $7,900 on FanDuel. At that price, and in a matchup against the Mets, Snell could provide upside. New York sits in the middle of the league with a 23.1% strikeout rate against southpaws this season. They have created runs well in the split, landing 6% above average, though they have hit only 15 home runs and carry a .152 team ISO, both somewhat below average this season. If the real Snell shows up for this contest and he harnesses the walks, he could have a solid outing, but the field is getting to him at uncomfortable levels on FanDuel, where he is tracking to owned at a rate more than three times his likelihood of success. On a 15-game slate, there are reasons to explore other options when a pitcher becomes overexposed to that degree, particularly when there are questions about his ability to deliver a quality start or even win bonus.
Peralta has been dazzling to start the season. He sits at a 37.2% strikeout rate, inducing 15.2% swinging strikes, over his first 56.2 innings in 10 starts. Peralta has a 3.34 xFIP and a 0.92 WHIP that maintains quality despite an inflated walk rate that is currently 10.8%. If Peralta could rein in the free passes just slightly, it is frightening to think of how good he will become. He sits in the 98th percentile of expected batting average against, the 90th in expected slugging percentage against, the 76th in hard hit rate and 78th in average exit velocity allowed, and the 96th percentile in strikeout rate. He throws a dominant fastball-slider combination and mixes in a changeup to lefties and a curveball that he throws to both hands. All four pitches sit below a .350 expected slugging percentage against and generate better than 33% swing and miss. Peralta is an unheralded star of a pitcher at these rates. DraftKings has taken notice and priced him correctly at $10,400, but Peralta is cheap on the FanDuel slate, where he costs just $8,700. Peralta is taking on a Diamondbacks team whose active roster sits 12th in baseball with a 23.5% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season. Arizona is below average with just a .142 team ISO and 38 home runs in the split, however, and they have created runs 12% worse than average. This is a targetable spot with a pitcher of Peralta’s caliber.
Ohtani has had a few weird days on MLB DFS pitching slates, the worst of which came when he scratched from a start entirely after hitting traffic, with only moments to spare before lock. When he has pitched, Ohtani has delivered an average of around 5.1 innings, facing an average of 22 hitters. He has delivered with a 32.5% strikeout rate, but struggles with walks at 16.9%, pushing his WHIP to a 1.24 mark. Ohtani has a 3.87 xFIP over his 36.1 innings in seven starts. The depth may not be the most reliable in the league, but He is in a solid matchup. Ohtani’s Angels are facing the hapless Mariners lineup. Seattle sits ninth worst in baseball with a 25.4% strikeout rate against righties this season. The Mariners have a .159 team ISO that sits slightly above average in a league struggling with power outages, but they create runs 11% worse than average in the split and have hit just 41 home runs, ranking them in the bottom third of the league. If Ohtani completes 6.0 innings, there is a strong chance he is in the mix for a top starter spot, while there is upside to a ceiling score.
The power-packed Athletics are headed into Coors for an interleague contest with the Rockies and they rank as the most likely team to finish as the top stack on the night. They will be exceedingly popular on both sites, despite a matchup against Jon Gray, who does know how to pitch in his home park. Gray sits at just a 19.5% strikeout rate over his 60.2 innings in 11 starts this season, with a 4.27 xFIP and a 1.24 WHIP. While he is not the most targetable pitcher on the slate by talent, this is a strong spot based on the park factors and quality of the Athletics offense. On the other side of the game, the Rockies are trending toward going slightly under-owned on both sites. Colorado is not a good team, but they have several decent players at good prices and low ownership. The matchup against Frankie Montas, who owns a 1.41 WHIP this season, bodes well for the opportunity for Colorado to create some runs tonight.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals appear to be interesting to the public at large tonight. Kansas City is the leading team in the power index above and they are appealing in a matchup against Minnesota’s Matt Shoemaker. He has just a 14.7% strikeout rate this season and has put up an ugly 5.07 xFIP and 1.43 WHIP over his first 10 starts. He has struggled allowing premium contact and home runs over the past few seasons. This year he has a 1.79 HR/9 yielding 10 long balls in just 50.1 innings and a 37.1% hard hit rate. He sits in the 12th percentile of expected slugging percentage against and the 16th of expected ERA against, while landing in merely the fifth percentile in strikeout rate. Oddly, Shoemaker is in the 86th percentile of chase rate, but that merely indicates an inability to finish hitters off when looked at next to the strikeout rate. The Royals are coming up as one of the slate’s more negatively leveraged teams on both sites, but individually there are players who are under-owned, perhaps making this a spot to roster stacks at below the field’s ownership but individuals as one-offs at slightly more. Most of the ownership appears to be attached to Jorge Soler and Salvador Perez on FanDuel, with Perez the only player above 10.0% ownership projected on DraftKings. Stringing together combinations of the Royals other hitters, from Whit Merrifield, Carlos Santana and Andrew Benintendi up top all the way through the No. 9 spot, could work, but keep an eye on ownership along the way as things get closer to lock.
Boston Red Sox
Boston ranks as one of the top teams on both sites, and they are drawing positive leverage for the spot. The Red Sox will be facing Michael King at the outset. King will likely only pitch through the first three innings at most, before handing things off to the Yankees bullpen. He has struck out just 20.4% of hitters in his hybrid role between a short starts and multi-inning bullpen appearances. He has a 4.42 xFIP and a 1.32 WHIP, while inducing just 8.0% swinging strikes and generating only a 25.5% CSW%. King is targetable with bats of the quality that the Red Sox are bringing to town. Boston sits second in baseball with a .193 team ISO against right-handed pitching, hitting 52 home runs and creating runs 6% better than average in the split.
Enrique Hernandez leads off for the Red Sox most nights. He has a .228/.284/.383 slash through his first 176 plate appearances that truly calls the batting order decision into question. In fact, Hernandez has just a .310 on-base percentage for his career and has been under .300 each of the last two seasons. He has a .154 ISO and five home runs this season but is creating runs 18% below average. This is a strange spot for a hitter with those numbers to appear in a lineup. Hernandez can provide flashes of MLB DFS quality, but he is not a mandatory piece of this offense unless he provides a necessary salary or ownership release valve.
Outfielder Alex Verdugo is a much better option at similar pricing on both sites. He will stand to benefit from the matchup and the ballpark, and he is having a strong season so far. Verdugo sits at .286/.347/.453 with seven home runs and four stolen bases across his 213 plate appearances so far. Verdugo creates runs 19% better than average this season. He makes a great play on FanDuel at just $2,900 and under 10.0% ownership. On DraftKings, he costs only $3,300 and will be justifiably popular for the price. He should not be skipped, but he is the most highly owned Red Sox bat on the site.
J.D. Martinez is pulling in a team-leading mark in the home run model, and he is underpriced at just $4,900 on DraftKings where he is pulling in single-digit ownership. Martinez is a $4,000 outfielder on the FanDuel slate, and he is drawing essentially no attention. This is a mistake. Martinez has delivered a .317/.387/.566 slash with a .249 ISO through 230 plate appearances, hitting 12 home runs and creating runs 59% better than average.
With the highest DraftKings price on the team, $5,100 shortstop Xander Bogaerts is not drawing the ownership that his talent warrants in this spot either. For a mere $3,300 on FanDuel he will be more popular, but not prohibitively so. Bogaerts has a .312/.373/.538 start to the season, hitting 10 home runs and creating runs 49% better than average. Hitting between Martinez and the thunderous lefty bat that follows is one of the prime spots in all of baseball, Bogaerts takes advantage of this regularly and he makes for a strong play across the industry.
Lefty third base thumper Rafael Devers has hit 14 home runs this year, tied for fifth in baseball, and he is tied for second with 18 doubles. This results in a titanic .305 ISO and a 149 WRC+. For those not keeping track, that mark puts this trio of Red Sox hitters in the heart of the order at an average of 52% better than average creating runs in 2021. Devers will be moderately popular on FanDuel but under 10% owned on DraftKings. He is yet another terrific play and stands a strong chance of depositing a home run into the short porch in right field.
Hunter Renfroe hides in the back end of the Sox lineup but has been delivering quality throughout the season. Renfroe has a .261/.301/.460 slash through his first 173 plate appearances, hitting seven home runs and posting a .199 ISO along the way. He has created runs 6% better than average and packs some power in behind the core hitters in the middle to add a modicum of protection. Renfroe peaked at 33 home runs in 494 plate appearances with San Diego in 2019, there is significant power upside on any given slate.
Danny Santana has made some recent appearances and lands in the No. 7 spot in one projected lineup. Santana has a .143/.250/.429 slash over his first 32 plate appearances, but he has hit two home runs and stole a base already. Santana teased with his 28 home runs and 21 stolen bases in 511 plate appearances with Texas in 2019 but made just 63 plate appearances last season and never had approached those heights in previous years, including in the minor leagues. This is a questionable hitter to roster, but he is not lacking in low-owned upside on FanDuel. At nearly 10.0% projected ownership on DraftKings he is a much more difficult ask.
[osBestBetsSingleGameOdds league=”mlb” date=”06/04/2021″ team=”red sox”]
Catcher Christian Vazquez costs just $3,300 on DraftKings and will be owned under 5.0% by the public, making him a terrific option on the site. He has hit three home runs and owns a .251/.294/.359 slash on the season. He has just a .108 ISO and has created runs 21% worse than average this year. Despite that, he hit 23 home runs in 521 plate appearances for Boston in 2019, posting a .201 ISO and creating runs 2% better than average. In a shortened 2020, he still hit seven home runs in just 189 plate appearances and created runs 15% better than average. The public is sleeping on a strong catcher option where they are required to roster the position.
Corner infielder Bobby Dalbec slots in at first and third base on FanDuel, while landing at just first base on DraftKings. Dalbec has struggled significantly with his hit tool this season, which was expected. His bat has always had a hole in it, but Dalbec typically has been able to make up for it when he connects. In his first 92 plate appearances in the Show last season, Dalbec mashed eight home runs and had a .338 ISO. He hit 27 across 562 plate appearances in AA and AAA in 2019 and has long been regarded for his plus-power. Dalbec is approaching the minimum price on both sites. He has just a .197/.248/.367 slash with five home runs in 157 opportunities this season, but he is a strong low-owned power option, knowing that gives up a probable plate appearance down the lineup.
HR Call: Carlos Santana — Kansas City Royals
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