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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 7/30/21

Terry McBride



Awesemo's FREE MLB DraftKings Picks Daily Fantasy Baseball & DFS cheat sheet based on Alex Baker's expert projections for today's slate 9/14.

Friday afternoon is sure to be busy ,and several of the starting pitchers slated to take the mound may be on a flight to a new city by the time lock rolls around. Today is an incredibly important day to pay attention to the news (in the course of writing this article, Jose Berrios was traded to the Blue Jays and will not make his schedule start for the Twins tonight). As things currently stand, with every team in action on this slate, there is a fair mix of arms and bats from which to create MLB DFS lineups today on DraftKings and FanDuel. With the entire league in action, there will be several interesting under-owned spots on both sides of the game.

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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 will not always be the absolute top-ranked player, particularly when there is an obvious star in that spot every day.

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Home Run Ratings

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

Arizona Diamondbacks: Kole Calhoun — 4.29

Atlanta Braves: Joc Pederson — 2.77

Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle — 13.49

Boston Red Sox: J.D. Martinez — 10.32

Chicago Cubs: Patrick Wisdom — 12.41

Chicago White Sox: Eloy Jimenez — 15.15

Cincinnati Reds: Eugenio Suarez — 8.60

Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes — 10.63

Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron — 9.87

Detroit Tigers: Jeimer Candelario — 6.62

Houston Astros: Jose Altuve — 6.80

Kansas City Royals: Jorge Soler — 16.23

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani — 9.52

Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager — 8.05

Miami Marlins: Adam Duvall — 12.62

Milwaukee Brewers: Eduardo Escobar — 10.33

Minnesota Twins: Max Kepler — 13.46

New York Mets: Michael Conforto — 5.54

New York Yankees: Joey Gallo — 7.07

Oakland Athletics: Ramon Laureano — 11.09

Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper — 18.88

Pittsburgh Pirates: Bryan Reynolds — 8.12

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 8.37

San Francisco Giants: Darin Ruf — 4.58

Seattle Mariners: Mitch Haniger — 10.26

St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill — 9.58

Tampa Bay Rays: Brandon Lowe — 6.95

Texas Rangers: Adolis Garcia — 6.39

Toronto Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez — 6.13

Washington Nationals: Josh Bell — 14.30

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

On the Hill

The 30-man pitching slate offers up a number of quality names, with a couple of premium aces and a broad range of next-tier arms available. Several starters schedule to pitch are on the trade block and may be dealt before this afternoon’s deadline, since writing the introduction to this article the Twins have traded away Berrios, who was a highly ranked selection on this slate. The top of the board remains strong, however, with Lance Lynn, Corbin Burnes and Chris Bassitt landing as a few of the top-end selections at varying prices and popularity. The slate continues with Sonny Gray in an interesting spot against the Mets, Patrick Sandoval taking on the Athletics, Framber Valdez and Kevin Gausman dueling one another and facing challenging lineups on both sides of the Astros – Giants game, and Logan Gilbert in an interesting value position on at least one site if he draws the start.

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Lynn has allowed one run or fewer in five straight starts, providing reliable depth through the sixth inning and beyond, and giving MLB DFS gamers an excellent shot at win and quality start bonuses every time out. He has a 3.96 xFIP over his 103.2 innings in 18 starts this season, tuning up a 27.4% strikeout rate with a 7.6% walk rate while inducing 12.1% swinging strikes. Lynn has allowed a 7%=,36.2% hard contact .321 expected slugging percentage and .192 expected ERA. Lynn draws a Cleveland lineup that sits in the middle of the league with a 23.9% strikeout rate against righties this season. The active roster has a .176 ISO and a 4.15% home run rate in the split, so there is a bit of a power threat, but overall Cleveland creates runs 11% worse than average by collective WRC+ against right-handed pitching. Lynn costs $10,300 on DraftKings and $10,700 on the FanDuel slate. With so many available options, undercutting the field slightly while still getting to significant shares of Lynn seems like a viable approach for tournament play.

The Brewers will be rolling out another ace-level starter in Burnes for their series opener in Atlanta tonight. Burnes has a 36.6% strikeout rate over 102 innings in 17 starts. He has a 2.18 xFIP with a 0.90 WHIP and walks just 4.5% of opposing hitters while inducing a 16% swinging strike rate and compiling an excellent 33.8% CSW. Burnes allows just a 3% barrel rate with a 28.7% hard-hit rate and 85.4 mph average exit velocity. He keeps the trajectory of average contact well below home run levels at just an 8-degree average launch angle, Burnes puts a major cap on the home run upside for the entire Braves lineup, as can be seen in the power index above. Atlanta’s active roster is typically quite good for power in the split, they have a .192 ISO and a 4.44% home run rate, both marks are among the best in the league. The Braves strike out 24.8% of the time against righties, eighth worst in baseball, and they create runs 1% below average by WRC+. Burnes is popular on DraftKings for $10,200 but he is in far fewer lineups on the blue site.

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The Reds will have Gray on the mound for their game against the Mets in New York’s home park. The active Mets roster has had trouble with righties this season, despite a number of quality left-handed bats. New York has a 23.7% strikeout rate that is in the middle of the league but just a .145 collective ISO and a 3.33% home run rate while creating runs 7% behind the curve. Gray, meanwhile, has struggled in his last two turns, following what was a good run of consistency. Gray has a 28.8% strikeout rate with a 3.41 xFIP but a 9.1% walk rate and a 1.41 WHIP. Gray induces an 11.1% swinging strike rate with a 31.1% CSW and he has done well limiting quality contact. He has allowed a 5.9% barrel rate with just 31.4% hard hit and 86.6 mph average exit velocity. Gray has upside on DraftKings for $9,200 and only a little above 10% public exposure. On the blue site, Gray is at a major discount at just $8,100, and he is currently below 10% ownership, making him an excellent look in tournaments.

Rostering two pitchers from the same game is an interesting approach on DraftKings, though it limits the overall win equity available in your lineup and knowingly sacrifices points. On a slate of this size that is probably too much of an opportunity cost, despite the presence of multiple games from which both pitchers would be good plays. The Athletics are in Anaheim to face the Angels and both Bassitt and Sandoval stand out for quality on the board. Sandoval has a 27.9% strikeout rate with a 3.47 xFIP and a 16.3% swinging strike rate over 71.2 innings in 11 starts, while Bassitt has thrown 130 innings in 21 starts and has a 24.9% strikeout rate with a 3.96 xFIP and a 10.1% swinging strike rate. The Angels strike out 23.6% of the time against righties, while the A’s strike out at a 23.1% rate against lefties. Oakland has a slightly higher home run rate in their split at 3.98% compared to the Angels’ 3.77%, but Los Angeles has the better collective ISO with a .178 compared to a .169 for Oakland against southpaws, and both teams create runs slightly better than average in their split.

Another contest that sees a both sides approach to pitching comes in a more challenging matchup for both starters. The Giants and Astros have been among baseball’s best offenses against both hands. The Giants have a 4.53% home run rate against lefties while striking out just 21.5% of the time, while the Astros have a 3.99% home run rate and strike out just 19.9% of the time against righties and create runs 20% better than the average by WRC+. Gausman and Valdez will have their work cut out for them facing these lineups, but both pitchers have been sharp through the season and warrant consideration. Valdez yields an average launch angle of -7.0 degrees, rendering his 42.6% hard-hit rate somewhat moot. Valdez is sitting at just 21.1% for strikeouts and is facing a lineup that is not strikeout prone, this spot has upside for just $9,200 and $9,100 with no ownership from site to site. On the other side, Gausman has a 29.4% strikeout rate over 122 innings in 20 starts, pitching to a 3.52 xFIP and a 0.92 WHIP while inducing a 14.9% swinging strike rate. Gausman is priced up at $10,200 on FanDuel, and he will be unpopular at best. On DraftKings he is drawing slightly more attention given the two-pitcher requirement, though he is not priced well for an SP2 role at $9,400.

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Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays remain prohibitively expensive on the DraftKings slate, which is suppressing their overall popularity as a stack and providing a positive leverage position. With FanDuel leaving the lineup at very affordable prices, Toronto is drawing one of the worst negative leverage marks on the slate. This is a very different play from site to site, Toronto is one of the night’s most likely teams to provide significant scoring at the plate, but on a slate this large with numerous quality options going under-owned on FanDuel it is difficult to justify taking on so much public weight, despite the clearly good spot. On the DraftKings slate, it should be a priority to figure out how to put together this lineup with quality pitching. The team can be rostered from top to bottom in their matchup against lefty Daniel Lynch, who has just a 14.9% strikeout rate with a 6.8% walk rate and a hideous 15.5% barrel rate in his 16 innings over four starts, making him targetable for the brief time during which he will be pitching tonight.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers appear to be one of the more over-owned teams on the slate on both DraftKings and FanDuel tonight. Milwaukee will be backing up their ace in a matchup against Atlanta’s Touki Toussaint. He has made just two starts this season, and he has 108.2 innings of MLB experience. In the full sample, Toussaint has a respectable 24.8% strikeout rate but an ugly 13.2% walk rate. This season, however, he has been extremely sharp in his two outings, posting a 29.4% strikeout rate and just a 3.9% walk rate in the admittedly tiny sample. He has long been a well-regarded prospect who has a quality four-pitch mix that includes a plus curveball with an above average fastball, changeup and cutter. Toussaint has allowed just a 3% barrel rate in his two outings, limiting the average launch angle to 4.8 degrees, though he has yielded a whopping 51.5% hard-hit rate and 95.7 mph average exit velocity, if hitters are able to elevate trajectory the ball will clear the fences at those levels. The Brewers have a 25.2% strikeout rate against righties, the fifth-worst mark in baseball. They have a .164 ISO and a 3.68% home run rate that are both just average, while creating runs 10% behind the curve. The team picked up Eduardo Escobar, who is expected to be in the lineup and should provide a minor boost, but the team is without Christian Yelich and is unreliable for upside. They are drawing strong popularity for their low prices in what may be perceived to be a better matchup than it truly is. With this much of the public going to a bad lineup, this is an easy spot from which to pivot away from the field.

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New York Yankees

The Yankees added two lefties yesterday: Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo may not make it into tonight’s lineup, some versions of the projected batting order feature him and others do not. The Yankees will also drop the designated hitter for their game in Miami, but the Yankees appear to be going under-owned across the industry tonight in a contest against Zach Thompson. He has made seven starts, compiling a 26.7% strikeout rate with a 7.4% walk rate and a 3.90 xFIP. Thompson’s home run rate is somewhat suppressing the Yankees’ upside in the home run model, but he has allowed an 8.0% barrel rate with a 40.2% hard-hit rate and an 11.1-degree average launch angle that suggest it is only a matter of time, and perhaps opponent, before the correction comes crashing down.

D.J. LeMahieu is likely to slot into his usual leadoff spot regardless of where he plays positionally tonight. He is slashing just .264/.345/.358 this year, down from .364/.421/.590 last year in 216 tries and .327/.375/.518 across a full season with 655 plate appearances in 2019. LeMahieu has just a .093 ISO this season, hitting seven home runs. Last year he hit 10 with a .226 ISO, in 2019 he had 26 with a .191 mark. He is not even creating runs above average, coming into tonight with a 98 WRC+, compared to a massive 177 last year and a 136 the season before. LeMahieu is drawing less than 5% popularity across the industry, and he is priced way down from his former highs, coming in at just $3,000 on FanDuel and $4,300 on DraftKings.

Aaron Judge will likely hit second. He has a .283/.377/.520 triple-slash with 21 home runs and a .237 ISO, creating runs 47% better than average. Judge’s 57.6% hard-hit rate is the 100th percentile in baseball. His average exit velocity is 95.9 mph, also 100th percentile, while his 119 mph maximum exit velocity is the same. His 19.2% barrel rate is in the 98th percentile and his titanic .603 expected slugging percentage is also 98th percentile. Judge strikes out at a 25.1% rate, but he is an extremely discerning hitter who walks 12.7% of the time and is in the 73rd percentile in chase rate. Judge is an excellent option at any price, for just $4,600 on DraftKings and $4,000 on FanDuel.

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Gallo will likely hit third, providing significant protection for Judge in the lineup from the left side of the plate. Gallo has a 43.2% hard-hit rate and an 18.4% barrel rate on the season, and he has hit 25 home runs in 388 plate appearances. He is slashing .223/.379/.490 with a .268 ISO and creating runs 40% better than average. He does an excellent job in the outfield and is likely to take over center field duties for this team. Gallo brings major upside for a hilariously mispriced $3,000 on FanDuel and is extremely playable for $5,100 on the DraftKings slate.

The projected lineup has Gary Sanchez in the cleanup role, though this spot could go to Gall, Rizzo or Giancarlo Stanton.. Any one of the options would be excellent to roster in Yankees stacks. If it is Sanchez, he fills catcher on DraftKings for just $4,400 and he should not be forgotten on the FanDuel slate at $3,000. Sanchez has hit 17 home runs and has a .244 ISO while creating runs 17% better than average this season.

Gleyber Torres or Rizzo will hit fifth. If it is Rizzo, he costs $4,700 on DraftKings and $3,600 on FanDuel and brings 14 home runs and a .198 ISO with a 115 WRC+ to the plate while slashing .248/.346/.446 for the season. He strikes out just 15.7% of the time and walks 9.6%, though that mark is a low point dating back to 2012, Rizzo is typically in the 10.5 to 11.5% range for walks. If Torres is the choice, he can be rostered as a cheap option in the infield despite his struggles this season. Torres slots in at second base and shortstop on FanDuel but just shortstop on DraftKings, and he is slashing .248/.332/.345 with six home runs and 10 stolen bases this season. The power outage remains a concern despite minor signs of a heartbeat in recent weeks, though it warrants mention that several of Torres’ recent home runs were hit to right field in Yankee Stadium and would not have been out of any other park in the league. Torres will be unpopular and easy to roster on both sites for MLB DFS purposes.

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If Rizzo does not play, the Yankees will likely have Rougned Odor in the lineup one last time. He has a 26.6% strikeout rate while slashing .227/.297/.445 with 12 home runs and a .218 ISO. He has created runs 3% better than average on the season, and he comes in with just a $3,400 price and multi-position eligibility on FanDuel, $3,800 at second base on DraftKings. Odor is fine in a pinch, but he is not a go-to bat.

Gio Urshela should slot in at third base and toward the bottom of any version of this lineup. He is slashing .273/.314/.438 with a .166 ISO while creating runs 6% better than average this season. Urshela has 11 home runs, but he is only a mix-in option for MLB DFS purposes.

The final spot in the batting order is likely to be Brett Gardner, though it could go to switch-hitting Greg Allen or Stanton hitting higher up. In the likely scenario that it is Gardner, he is nothing more than a mix-in at this point in his career. Gardner is slashing just .196/.311/.307 with a .111 ISO, four home runs and a lone stolen base. There is very little reason to get to Gardner in more than a few Yankees stacks.

HR Call: Rhys Hoskins — Philadelphia Phillies

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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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