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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 5/25/21

Terry McBride



MLB DFS lineup picks today DraftKings FanDuel fantasy baseball free expert rankings projections ownership tournament strategy tips advice optimal lineup optimizer DOdgers Braves Giants Brewers NLDS playoff rosters home run predictions best bets betting picks odds lines parlays

Tuesday’s 13-gameslate looks fascinating. There are a solid handful of premium starting pitchers and some excellent looking spots for bats. As usual with baseball, something unexpected is going to happen, so grabbing a broad range of outcomes on such a large slate is the name of the game. There are a few teams and pitchers who are somewhat less likely than the others, which helps clarify some of the picture, but getting to the correct distributions of starters and stacks is going to be a major challenge with this many high-quality options from which to make MLB DFS picks on both DraftKings and FanDuel today.

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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 — 5.62

Atlanta Braves: Ozzie Albies — 6.33

Baltimore Orioles: Austin Hays — 7.45

Boston Red Sox: J.D. Martinez — 7.99

Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu — 6.85

Cincinnati Reds: Eugenio Suarez — 10.38

Cleveland Indians: Jordan Luplow — 15.86

Colorado Rockies: Charlie Blackmon — 4.93

Detroit Tigers: Nomar Mazara — 7.14

Houston Astros: Carlos Correa — 6.65

Kansas City Royals: Jorge Soler — 7.00

Los Angeles Angels: Justin Upton — 13.85

Los Angeles Dodgers: Will Smith — 6.21

Milwaukee Brewers: Christian Yelich — 8.61

Minnesota Twins: Josh Donaldson — 11.05

New York Mets: Dominic Smith — 5.71

New York Yankees: Luke Voit — 15.45

Oakland Athletics: Seth Brown — 14.63

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 2.53

San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt — 9.78

Seattle Mariners: Kyle Lewis — 5.49

St. Louis Cardinals: Dylan Carlson — 5.51

Tampa Bay Rays: Austin Meadows — 4.67

Texas Rangers: Khris Davis — 11.35

Toronto Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez — 6.27

Washington Nationals: Josh Bell — 9.07

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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 picks draftkings fanduel daily fantasy baseball expert home run projections rankings yankees indians angels ownership

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 a wealth of quality arms from which to make MLB DFS pitching selections today, gamers can afford to play the ownership and leverage game among the top tier starters. Between Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Lucas Giolito, there is a collection of potential (and former) Cy Young Award winners in matchups of varying quality. Jack Flaherty would normally be immediately behind that group, but his projection is somewhat suppressed by the tough matchup against the White Sox. The second-tier starters include upstarts like Joe Musgrove – who is in a great spot, Corbin Burnes, Tyler Mahle and Kevin Gausman; plus a few veterans maintaining or reestablishing their quality in Corey Kluber and Zack Greinke, though both veterans rank well down the board on both sites. With numerous value pitchers also in play, the pitching slate could truly go in many different directions, covering a broad range of outcomes is advisable.

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When he is fully healthy, it is almost inarguable that deGrom would be the best starter on even a loaded pitching slate like the one in play for MLB DFS today. deGrom is just returning from a brief stint on the injured list, and gamers will no doubt remember that he had a 5.0 inning outing that required an early exit after making a start that was delayed by lingering injury earlier this month. Prior to that, deGrom was mostly rolling. He has an otherworldly 46.1% strikeout rate over his first 40.0 innings in six starts, putting up a 1.77 xFIP and a 0.60 WHIP. deGrom had been pitching reliably deep into games, completing at least six frames in every April start, and getting through 8.0 in one and a full 9.0 in another. He is well worth the money, but the injury is reason for hesitation. It is unlikely that the Mets would run their prize asset out there if they were not fully confident in his healthy, but it is equally unlikely that they will push him too far in a midweek contest in May. The matchup is fantastic. DeGrom is facing a Rockies team that is around the league average against righties with a 23.8% strikeout rate, but that creates runs 33% worse than average in the split. This is an offense that deGrom should carve up. The only question is for how long.

Scherzer is a fantastic pitcher in a tricky spot. He ranks near the top of the board on the Top Starters Tool and is one of the highest projected pitchers in the site’s projections. Still, Scherzer draws a powerful Reds offense that sits fourth in baseball with a .187 team ISO against right-handed pitching. Cincinnati creates runs 11.0% better than average in the split while striking out just 22.9% of the time. Their 55 home runs against righties stands second in baseball. Scherzer is one of the game’s best. He is an elite option in any matchup, and he stands a strong chance of overcoming this lineup. He has a 3.08 xFIP and a 0.85 WHIP on the season. He has an outstanding 35.7% strikeout rate and just a 5.6% walk rate this season, inducing 16.0% swinging strikes this year, up from the 14.7% mark he posted in 2020. Hitters have gotten to Scherzer for a little more power over the 2020-21 combined sample so far. He yielded 10 home runs in 67.1 innings last season, a 1.34 HR/9 and he has already given up eight in just 56.1 innings this season, a 1.28 HR/9. This is not to say that Scherzer is targetable with bats, but he might be more vulnerable than his strong projections let on. He should be rostered frequently, but the matchup is not totally safe.

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Gausman appears to be mispriced on the DraftKings slate at just $7,200, making him a strong consideration for SP2 shares. He ranks in the upper-middle section of the starters board for the site today but provides a strong value metric despite public ownership that outpaces his probability of being a top two option on the site. Gausman is having a strong season. He has a 29.6% strikeout rate with a 3.21 xFIP and a 0.80 WHIP over his first 59.2 innings. In exactly the same sample size last season, Gausman was at 32.2% strikeouts and a 3.06 xFIP with a 1.11 WHIP, so the numbers are very real and sustained. While Arizona’s active roster sits 10th in baseball with just a 23.1% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching, they have created runs 12% worse than average and have just a .153 team ISO, suggesting that Gausman is exposed to only limited threat. He provides a strong safety net as a value SP2 on DraftKings, at only around 15% public ownership on DraftKings it is easy enough to press beyond the field to gain some upside. Gausman is in play but from a wildly different price tier on the blue site, where he costs $10,800.

Similarly, Burnes is a starter who is priced up higher on FanDuel and who gains some ground for his discounted salary on DraftKings. The price discrepancy is not nearly as wide, Burnes is a still costly $9,100 on DraftKings, but he is a quality option in consideration for some pitching shares. He has dominated so far in 2020, posting an outrageous 44.7% strikeout rate and walking just 1.3% of hitters while tuning up a 1.36 xFIP and a 0.62 WHIP. Burnes’ excellence is not only sustained from last season’s 36.7% strikeout rate, but he has also made dramatic strides this year, though it seems some minor regression has to be in the mail. When considering that Burnes is facing a Padres lineup that is second-best in baseball with just a 20.3% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching, this could be the start of that regressive trend. He is still among the more likely options for a strong score in MLB DFS today, but he carries a bit of risk as well.

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Perhaps the best option on the slate on both sites, Joe Musgrove slips into one of the leading spots on the Top Pitchers Tool on both DraftKings and FanDuel today. Musgrove is taking the mound for the Padres, dueling with Burnes throughout, but it is the Padres pitcher who has the far better matchup. The Brewers active roster is currently third worst in baseball with a 26.6% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching. They have just a .138 team ISO and have created runs 20% worse than average in the split. Meanwhile, Musgrove’s strong breakout season has continued unabated. He has a magnificent 34.7% strikeout rate and a 2.47 xFIP with just a 0.86 WHIP over his first 51.0 innings, famously including a no hitter earlier in the year. Musgrove has been dominant to start the year and there are few reasons to expect him to stop in this spot. He is underpriced on the FanDuel slate at just $8,400, that is arguably true on DraftKings as well, despite a $9,500 price tag. Musgrove is not drawing enough public ownership on either site, given the upside in his talent and the oppositions lack thereof. It is noteworthy, however, that the Brewers are returning to health and just got superstar Christian Yelich back from injury. Over the last two weeks, the team has struck out at a 25.6% clip against right-handed pitching, representing a minor improvement. This remains a strong spot for Musgrove.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins are the leading team for probability of being the top stack on both DraftKings and FanDuel in Awesemo’s Top Stacks tool today. They are also currently tracking to be the most over-owned team on the board in public ownership projections. The powerful Twins lineup is facing Orioles’ rookie Dean Kremer, for a little while at least. Kremer may not be long for the game, given the upside suggested by the MLB DFS projections that the opposing Twins are pulling down. Minnesota will be highly owned, but there are areas of low individual ownership that can still be exploited in constructing stacks. The decision point comes down to rostering a second premium pitcher or the highly owned Twins hitters on DraftKings in many of the top projected builds. Ultimately, the Twins stack is in a great spot, but they are difficult to roster at such overexposure on FanDuel, particularly when there are 26 teams from which to choose.

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Oakland Athletics

The Athletics are a frequent check-in for this space. They hit for solid power and does a good job creating runs against both hands, Oakland ranks ninth in baseball with a 104 WRC+ against righties, and sixth with a 117 mark against lefties this season. Oakland will be facing Mariners rookie Logan Gilbert, who is likely in over his head in the Majors at this point in his development track. Gilbert made one start in AAA earlier this season and had nine in AA in 2019, prior to the pandemic wiping out minor league baseball last season. Before that, he had not appeared above high-A ball. Gilbert is a quality prospect. He struck out 28.7% of AA hitters in those nine starts, but it is likely he is simply not ready. In two starts in the Show, Gilbert has completed just 6.2 innings, giving up two home runs but striking out seven hitters. He has a basic fastball, slider and curveball arsenal, averaging a middling 94 mph with the four-seamer that he has used 59% of the time so far. This is a targetable profile, particularly given the hitters that the Athletics can throw at him. The projected batting order profiles phenomenally well in the home run model for today’s slate. Hitters like Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are obvious, but Ramon Laureano, Mark Canha, Seth Brown and Sean Murphy should not be ignored.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants will not be on the other side of the bay from Oakland tonight, instead they find themselves in the desert facing the Diamondbacks and righty starter Corbin Martin. Martin has made just one start, throwing five innings and yielding three runs on two home runs and four walks. Martin is a middling prospect; he has posted mostly mid-20% strikeout rates at any advanced level of the minors throughout his career. The Giants, meanwhile, have hit 46 home runs against right-handed pitching this season, posting a .176 team ISO in the split. They strikeout too much, last in the league this season at 28.1%, but there is upside in this offense on the road tonight and the public is trailing the play by a wide enough margin to make them an interesting stack on both DraftKings and FanDuel.

Leadoff man Mike Yastrzemski costs $5,700 on the DraftKings slate tonight, but just $3,100 on FanDuel, which makes him highly popular on that site. The hefty price has him at under 5% projected ownership on DraftKings however, making him a great pay-up spot that helps offset any ownership considerations with an already low-owned stack. Yastrzemski has a .214/.327/.466 slash to start 2021, but he carries a strong .252 ISO and has created runs 17% better than average, making him a quality option industrywide.

Buster Posey is in the No. 2 spot in the projected lineup. Posey is having a throwback season, excelling at a .355/.430/.645 clip this season. He has smashed nine home runs and is carrying a whopping .290 ISO over his first 121 plate appearances this year. Posey has not been that hitter in recent years, but there is certainly a track record to support the production. At just $4,500 on DraftKings he is undervalued at only 13.8% public ownership. Posey is at just $3,800, but he should not be skipped in Giants stacks when he is landing at under 1% ownership on the site, a clear mistake by the public. Posey has created runs 94% better than average this season, short of hearing that he is hitting with a hand tied behind his back tonight, there is no justifiable reason to skip him if building with this team.

Brandon Crawford hits from the left side of the plate and is another Giants veteran experiencing a renaissance early in the season. Crawford has made 146 plate appearances so far, putting up a .256/.336/.543 slash with 11 home runs and a monster .287 ISO, creating runs 38% better than average. Crawford hit just eight home runs in 193 plate appearances across all of the shortened 2020 season, and his career high is 21, a mark he reached in 2015, the only season he hit more than 15 home runs. He is typically between 12 and 14 long balls in a full year, so the power outburst is highly unexpected and could regress at any turn. Still, Crawford is another player not drawing any ownership in what should be a terrific spot.

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Brandon Belt has long been an underrated bat in the bay area. He is the second-highest projected Giants player for public ownership on the FanDuel slate at just 13.4% tonight, and he falls below the 10.0% mark on the DraftKings slate. Belt has hit eight home runs and has a .252 ISO while creating runs 33% better than average this season. His .234 batting average belies his quality. The .353 on-base percentage and .486 slugging are good marks for a hitter who costs just $2,800 on the FanDuel slate. Belt is another lefty who has a great opportunity.

Evan Longoria is the next name on the list of Giants stars from the early part of the 2010s. Longoria mans third base for the team and is priced at just $3,900 on the DraftKings slate, where he is pulling under 5% public ownership. While he is not the superstar he once was, he is still highly capable with the bat. He has hit five home runs in his 152 plate appearances this season, creating runs 11% better than average. The power has been absent this year. Longoria has just a .174 ISO, but he is still getting on base at a .342 clip and is a productive cog in the machine on his worst day.

With another lefty slotting into the No. 6 spot, the Giants are able to throw matchup nightmares at opposing teams, as Alex Dickerson gives them upside for power and production. In 170 plate appearances in 2020, he went .298/.371/.576 while hitting 10 home runs and carving out a .278 ISO, creating runs 51% better than average. This season he has cratered to just a .228/.291/.366 with a .139 ISO and is creating runs 14% worse than average over his 110 plate appearances. There is reason to believe in the quality from last year, in a matchup like this Dickerson is appealing but he is not a secret. He is pulling in the most ownership on this team at over 20.0% on DraftKings. Dickerson is a better play for his $2,400 price and under 15.0% ownership on FanDuel.

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Infielder Donovan Solano provides an underrated hit tool when he is in the lineup. Solano made 203 plate appearances in 2020, going .326/.365/.463, but he had just a .137 ISO. Solano helps create runs with his hitting and ability to get on base, in 2020 he was at a 27% better than average mark, following up the 16% above average that he put up in 2019. That season, Solano made 228 plate appearances and had another strong triple-slash with a .330/.360/.456. If the numbers look low this season it is likely due to the extremely small sample, Solano has made just 67 plate appearances so far in 2021, going .279/.313/.344. There is upside for a few base hits and some run production, Solano helps offset cost and ownership without extreme productivity tax.

Rounding out the lineup, Mike Tauchman is a reasonable play for minor power and some speed on the base paths. He has a .211/.324/.322 slash in 106 plate appearances, hitting two home runs and stealing three bases on the season. He is a public afterthought, pulling under 3% projected ownership across the industry, so this is another player from late in the lineup who can help with constructions. The Giants are lowly owned enough that there is no need the offset players for this MLB DFS stack today, but they are here for the taking.

HR Call: Mark Canha — Oakland Athletics

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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