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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 6/5/21

Terry McBride

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MLD DFS Lineup Picks Today DraftKings FanDuel Tournament Strategy Home Runs

The chopped-up Saturday slate of MLB DFS action has daily fantasy baseball contests in all corners. This article will focus on the evening main slate for both DraftKings and FanDuel, but includes the 4 pm games in the home run rating section (but not the power index). Pitching and stack breakdowns are focused on the highly interesting six-game evening slate. For a full breakdown of the afternoon, you can find the MLB DFS Strategy Show on YouTube or your favorite podcast service. The main slate features a trio of excellent pitching options in solid spots and a fourth in a more challenging situation. The selection of bats is somewhat tight, with that many good pitchers going in a six-game slate and the addition of a Coors Field game that is soaking up a heavy portion of public popularity. Getting to the right bats in unique ways is going to be a major challenge for anyone rostering the Coors game, undercutting there and exploring other lineups, particularly those that combine with a second stack well while allowing for high-end pitching selections, seems to be the approach to this slate on both sites.

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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: Asdrubal Cabrera — 4.22

Atlanta Braves: Austin Riley — 6.79

Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle — 7.37

Boston Red Sox: Hunter Renfroe — 16.75

Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo — 6.57

Cleveland Indians: Austin Hedges — 7.61

Colorado Rockies: Charlie Blackmon — 6.02

Kansas City Royals: Hunter Dozier — 5.05

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani — 9.31

Los Angeles Dodgers: Cody Bellinger — 8.80

Miami Marlins: Adam Duvall — 15.37

Milwaukee Brewers: Dan Vogelbach — 9.21

Minnesota Twins: Josh Donaldson — 13.47

New York Mets: Dominic Smith — 6.52

New York Yankees: Rougned Odor — 10.61

Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson — 11.20

Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins — 15.50

Pittsburgh Pirates: Bryan Reynolds — 3.75

San Diego Padres: Eric Hosmer — 4.35

San Francisco Giants: Brandon Crawford — 7.93

Seattle Mariners: Mitch Haniger — 7.89

Tampa Bay Rays: Randy Arozarena — 6.74

Texas Rangers: Adolis Garcia — 7.13

Washington Nationals: Josh Bell — 12.26


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Power Index – Main Slate

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

With three premium pitchers in good spots and a fourth ace in a tough matchup, the six-game main slate has a robust pitching offering and a concentrated pool of public ownership on very specific bats. Among the 12 starters available, Jacob deGrom leads the way in his matchup against the Padres, while Joe Musgrove is on his heels from the opposite side of that same game and Kevin Gausman is in a strongly projected spot against the Cubs. Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw is in excellent form and is on par with the other options – better than Musgrove and Gausman, in fact – on most slates, but in a matchup against the powerful Braves lineup, he will have his work cut out for him. Beyond that quartet, we have a Coors Field game that scratches two pitchers, a Yankee Stadium Red Sox – Yankees game that likely scratches two more, and middling offerings like Alex Cobb and Charlie Morton to round out the slate.

The Mets right-handed ace is hands down the best pitcher in baseball. Jacob deGrom has a ridiculous 45.8% strikeout rate and has allowed just seven runs over his eight starts this season. In 51.0 innings, deGrom has a 1.52 xFIP and a 0.57 WHIP. He generates a massive 21.1% swinging strike rate with his electric stuff, posting high-end strikeout upside in any matchup. deGrom faces a Padres projected that sits at just a 19.8% strikeout rate this season but does not offer an extreme threat, creating runs just one percent above average and stringing together just a .151 team ISO so far against right-handed pitchers. deGrom is pricey and popular on both DraftKings and FanDuel. It is entirely justified. He should be rostered heavily.

On the other side of the game, Musgrove sits far too cheap on both sites for his talent and upside against an underperforming Mets lineup. Musgrove costs just $8,700 on DraftKings and $8,300 on FanDuel, a stone-cold bargain. He has a 33.5% strikeout rate and a 2.64 xFIP with a 0.76 WHIP through 60.2 innings over his first 10 starts. Musgrove faces a Mets active roster that strikes out just 22.8% of the time against righties, seventh-best in baseball, but has just a .130 team ISO and creates runs eight percent worse than average in the split. There is significant upside for a pitcher of Musgrove’s caliber, particularly at these prices. Musgrove should cost $10,000 or more on both sites today. He is a key piece to unlocking the very best of hitting stacks while maintaining pitching upside across both sites.

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San Francisco’s Gausman has long since buried “Kevin Gas Can” and transformed into a high-caliber pitcher. The righty has a 30.9% strikeout rate while inducing 15.6% swinging strikes so far this season. He has completed 70.2 innings over 11 starts, providing reliable depth and a strong shot at a win and quality start bonus every time he takes the hill. Gausman has a 3.05 xFIP and a 0.81 WHIP with just a 5.9% walk rate on the year. He sits in the 71st percentile in average exit velocity allowed, the 74th percentile in hard-hit percentage allowed, and the 75th percentile in expected slugging percentage against. This is a pitcher who is keeping hitters off balance and suppressing opposing offenses. He faces an aggressive Cubs lineup that sits 12th worst in baseball with a 24.9% strikeout rate against righties. Chicago has created runs three percent worse than average, but they sit a tiny step above the league average with a .164 team ISO and 48 home runs in the split. This is not the easiest matchup on the board, but Gausman is a changed pitcher with strong upside, and there are a fair amount of strikeouts in the projected lineup (25.5% current year average). For $11,200 on FanDuel, Gausman is a pay-up option that is currently still drawing ownership, though that could change as we approach lock. On DraftKings, he costs just $8,900 and is a fundamental piece of roster constructions. Starting a DraftKings lineup with Musgrove and Gausman is an interesting approach to the slate that would leave owners with a lot of options when choosing stacks.

Kershaw is the ace in a more challenging spot. The lefty is inarguably one of the best – if not the best – starters of the last 15 years. He has been in sharp form so far in 2021, pitching to a 3.18 xFIP and a 0.97 WHIP over his first 12 starts while completing 70.1 innings. Kershaw is walking just 4.7% of hitters and has induced 51.8% swinging strikes and a healthy 32.0% CSW% on the season. He has been steady in contact metrics as well, sitting in the 73rd percentile in average exit velocity allowed, the 62nd in hard-hit rate, 65th in barrel rate, and 62nd in expected slugging percentage against. The only hesitation with rostering Kershaw on this slate is the pricing in a very difficult spot against the Braves in Atlanta. The team leads the league with a collective .211 ISO against lefties on the year, an outstanding mark for power. They have created runs five percent better than average and have hit 24 home runs in the split so far, among the league-leading teams. Atlanta will be without Marcell Ozuna, but the roster is still loaded with right-handed power and quality hitters. Kershaw is certainly capable of putting up a strong start here, but it seems more likely that he will fall into the mid-range where an effective real baseball start may not play like we would need it to for MLB DFS purposes.

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Coors Field

The offensive haven in Colorado is on the board in a big way once again today. Both sides of this contest are drawing heavy attention across the industry, with more weight coming down on the Athletics than the Rockies. The average projected player ownership for everyone in the Oakland lineup is over 30.0% on the DraftKings slate, slightly more friendly on FanDuel, while the average Rockies are in the mid-teens to low 20% range. The overall offensive upside is clear and should surprise no one. The issue is simply finding unique ways in which to roster the lineup on either side. Getting to Athletics bats alongside the highest owned premium pitchers will be extremely challenging. There simply are not enough affordable unique pathways. Utilizing the lower owned and less expensive Rockies is an approach that helps with building unique lineups, but we would be attempting to weaponize the far inferior lineup in this game. While it makes sense to have plenty of Coors bats on this slate, looking to stay below the field and exploit some leverage spots with bats in other games seems viable given the frequency at which the public will be rostering these teams. Oakland’s leverage score on FanDuel, despite the extremely heavy ownership, on the Top Stacks tool is an interesting wrinkle to consider as well.

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Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are a highly ranked stack that is currently pulling in positive leverage on both sites in an appealing matchup on the road in Atlanta. Los Angeles is facing veteran righty Charlie Morton, and the top-end of the Dodgers lineup is projecting well. Morton is pitching to a 3.30 xFIP and a 1.26 WHIP so far this season, striking out 27.6% of hitters through his first 57.0 innings in 11 starts in 2021. He sits in the 71st percentile in hard-hit rate allowed, the 55th in expected slugging percentage, and the 64 in barrel rate allowed, all respectable marks. Morton’s ability is perhaps part of what keeps the public at bay in terms of Dodgers shares, while their pricing helps as well. The team will be more highly owned on DraftKings, but there are plenty of ways to roster them in unique combinations on the site. On FanDuel, they are simply under-owned and easy to roster given the multi-position eligibility for four players at four different positions in the projected lineup. Los Angeles should be more widely owned than the public is currently getting to them.

Leadoff superstar Mookie Betts slots in as the highest-priced Dodgers bat on the DraftKings slate at $5,100, but he costs a mere $3,900 on the FanDuel slate. Underperforming so far on the season, Betts sits at a .263/.378/.452 slash and just a .188 ISO with five home runs in his 222 plate appearances. Even with that in mind, the outfielder has created runs 35% better than average this season. If the box score watchers or discount hunters leave Betts on the board, it makes sense to soak up additional shares in Dodgers stacks.

Max Muncy hits from the left side of the plate and has 13 home runs and a .265 ISO in his 231 plate appearances. With eligibility at both first and second base on both DraftKings and FanDuel, Muncy helps with flexibility of roster construction and player combinations. The infielder will be under-owned for his upside, particularly at just $3,800 on the FanDuel slate. The public seems behind the curve on a player who hit 35 home runs in both of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the former coming in just 481 plate appearances, coalescing into a .319 ISO. Over his 589 opportunities in 2019, Muncy had a .265 ISO and created runs 34% better than average. Muncy is a major cog in the Dodgers offense. He is underappreciated for MLB DFS purposes. The infielder has a .265/.424/.530 slash with a .265 ISO and 13 home runs in just 231 plate appearances so far this season, creating runs 65% better than average.

Veteran third baseman Justin Turner slots into his typical three spot in the lineup and is drawing single-digit ownership on the DraftKings slate for just a $4,300 price tag. The right-handed hitter is sitting at .270/.364/.454 with a .184 ISO while creating runs 31% better than average so far this season, despite what could be considered a downtick for him in the triple-slash. Turner is productive and underpriced across the industry, but he is not drawing the attention he should be on a six-game slate. This is a hitter with a career .291/.368/469 slash. We can expect improvement from an already productive player in an excellent spot in a fantastic lineup.

Cody Bellinger’s return gives an instant boost to the middle of the Dodgers lineup. The lefty has both first base and outfield eligibility for $4,500 on the FanDuel slate while slotting in at just $4,400 on DraftKings, where he is only an outfielder. Bellinger is drawing ownership on the latter site while he sits in single digits for the money on the blue site. There is extreme upside in the bat. We can safely ignore the .179/.304/.333 in his 46 plate appearances this season. This is a superstar MVP-caliber hitter who mashed 47 home runs with a .305/.406/.629 in 660 plate appearances in 2019. Bellinger has been on a Hall of Fame track with his offensive production in his first few seasons. There is major potential for an outburst in the short term and a virtual lock for a return to excellent production in the long term. Bellinger can be rostered with reckless abandon in all formats. This is one of the best hitters in baseball, though he will be highly owned and potentially a spot from which to pivot if looking for a one-off on DraftKings.

Lefty Gavin Lux follows in the projected lineup, slotting in as a $3,700 shortstop on DraftKings and a $2,900 middle infielder on FanDuel. He will be under five percent ownership on both sites despite the fair pricing. Lux has hit five home runs this season but has struggled with the hit and on-base tools, coming in at just .242/.298/.394 over his first 181 plate appearances this season. Lux has a .152 ISO and has created runs seven percent worse than average, but there is clear upside in the player as part of a stack when he comes in at such low overall ownership. In 523 plate appearances across AA and AAA in 2019, Lux hit 26 home runs and stole 10 bases; he added two long balls and two more swiped bags in an 82 plate appearance cup of coffee at the end of the season. The mid-range power and speed upside are real. Lux has value for MLB DFS lineups today.

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If catcher Will Smith lands in the lineup, he should be a strong consideration for shares on the DraftKings slate. The backstop hit 35 home runs in just 466 plate appearances across AAA (20) and the Majors (15) in 2019. He has extreme power upside. Smith may sit for general catcher rest. If so, we would see Austin Barnes, likely later in the lineup. Barnes is a hitter who provides occasional upside. This season, he has a .241/.351/.373 slash in his 98 plate appearances, putting up a .133 ISO but creating runs 10.0% ahead of the average. Barnes is at the minimum price on FanDuel and just $3,400 where catchers are required. He is not out of play though he should also not be over-rostered.

Chris Taylor provides flexibility on FanDuel with second base and outfield eligibility, though he is just an outfielder on the DraftKings slate. The right-handed hitter has a .282/.405/.483 slash this season and has hit seven home runs in just 210 plate appearances. He owns a healthy .201 ISO and has created runs 50% better than average. Despite all of that clear upside, the public is currently projected for less than two percent ownership on the hitter tonight. Taylor is a major upside piece in the Dodgers lineup. He will be under-owned in a great spot.

Veteran outfielder AJ Pollock is affordable on both sites and is drawing more ownership than his more productive teammate. Pollock has been solid this year, putting up a .265/.321/.439 slash with a .173 ISO and four home runs over his first 106 plate appearances. He has created runs nine percent better than average so far and brings a capable stick to the bottom of the Dodgers lineup. Pollock is a viable option to help turn over the batting order. If he hits eighth, he makes a more intriguing play as a wraparound option than he does as a seven-hitter and an end-cap to mid-lineup stacks. The current year numbers and the excellent on-base percentage that Taylor provides make him the more appealing option if deciding between the two.

HR Call: Hunter Renfroe — Boston Red Sox

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 Awesemo.com. 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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