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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 8/3/21

Terry McBride

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MLB DFS Picks, top stacks and pitchers for Yahoo, DraftKings & FanDuel daily fantasy baseball lineups, including the Braves | Tuesday, 9/7

Tuesday’s MLB DFS slate sees the entire league in action, with 15 games and a number of quality angles from which to approach lineup construction. There is a deep slate of quality pitching options and several gas cans, creating major upside situations. Getting far afield from common constructions is relatively easy on a slate of this size, and the field is likely to behind in several spots given so many premium options. A slate this large dictates primarily full stack constructions. It is a relatively simple exercise tonight to land on upside lineups with low-owned quality pitching. Spreading MLB DFS picks today across a core of the top arms and getting to the positively leveraged highly ranked teams in the Top Stacks Tool is the best path to fantasy baseball success.

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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: Ketel Marte — 6.48

Atlanta Braves: Adam Duvall — 13.17

Baltimore Orioles: Maikel Franco — 10.27

Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 14.30

Chicago Cubs: Patrick Wisdom — 11.07

Chicago White Sox: Eloy Jimenez — 13.02

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto — 9.27

Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes — 16.54

Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron — 7.20

Detroit Tigers: Jonathan Schoop — 8.69

Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker — 7.94

Kansas City Royals: Sal Perez — 10.29

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani — 21.03

Los Angeles Dodgers: Justin Turner — 4.65

Miami Marlins: Jazz Chisholm — 6.81

Milwaukee Brewers: Rowdy Tellez — 3.50

Minnesota Twins: Max Kepler — 10.04

New York Mets: J.D. Davis — 10.18

New York Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton — 16.33

Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson — 14.10

Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins — 12.82

Pittsburgh Pirates: Rodolfo Castro — 6.01

San Diego Padres: Wil Myers — 6.34

San Francisco Giants: Kris Bryant — 10.93

Seattle Mariners: Abraham Toro — 6.56

St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill — 6.41

Tampa Bay Rays: Nelson Cruz — 12.74

Texas Rangers: Nate Lowe — 7.50

Toronto Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez — 11.19

Washington Nationals: Juan Soto — 4.76


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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 Picks draftkings fanduel GPP tournament strategy advice home runs yankees braves blue jays mets red sox giants angels white sox free fantasy baseball rankings projections expert picks las vegas betting odds lines today

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 Tuesday slate has 30 pitchers in action, at least 10 of whom are likely to be competitive for the top score at the end of the night. An additional group of options in the midrange can provide a wide range of outcomes, given the quality of starters and opponents in varying combinations. The slate is topped by rock solid Zack Wheeler who is facing a diminished Nationals team and Walker Buehler in a far more challenging contest against the deadly Astros lineup. Interesting options abound in the mid-price level, with Dylan Cease drawing the Royals, Luis Patino facing the Mariners, Taijuan Walker against the lowly Marlins and Max Fried who will be taking on the Cardinals. With Lance McCullers, Kenta Maeda, Hyun Jin Ryu, Blake Snell, Yusei Kikuchi and even Johnny Cueto coming up as playable options, the deep slate could go in any direction, though each of those final options could easily come up a lemon.

Wheeler and Buehler have been among the safest names in MLB DFS all season. Buehler ranks first in baseball with 18 quality starts in his 21 outings – the quality starts are two more than the closest competitor – while Wheeler is in a tie for third with 15 in the same amount of tries. Both pitchers are reliable for innings, pitching deep into games on the average, Wheeler has thrown 139.2 innings, leading the league, while Buehler has covered 135.2, landing him second overall. They have been sharp in addition to providing length, Buehler comes into the night with a 3.59 xFIP, a 26.6% strikeout rate and a 5.9% walk rate with a 0.90 WHIP. He is inducing swinging strikes at an 11.2% clip and allows a 7.5% barrel rate with a 37.1% hard-hit rate. Wheeler has struck out 29.8% of opposing hitters and walked 5.8% with a 2.78 xFIP and a 1.02 WHIP, inducing a 12.7% swinging strike rate. Wheeler he has just a 4.2% barrel rate and a 29.5% hard-hit rate against, and limits opposing exit velocity to an average of just 84.8 mph. The true difference between them is the opponent. Buehler faces one of the best teams in baseball. The Astros have been atop the league in limiting strikeouts all season, and for the past few seasons, they are currently at a 20.1% rate against righties. Houston has a collective .190 ISO and a 4.37% home run rate that are both among the best in the league and they create runs 22% better than average against right-handed pitching. At the same time, Wheeler will be facing a lowly Nationals team that sits 17th with a 24.1% strikeout rate and has a measly .131 team ISO with a 2.60% home run rate while creating runs 16% worse than average in the split. Between the two, Wheeler provides more safety and relative upside and comes at a salary discount on both sites, though he will be heavily owned. Betting on Buehler’s talent where he is under-owned for his probability of success, particularly on the FanDuel slate, is a strong but risky pivot at the top of the pitching slate.


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The Mets will have Walker on the mount in Miami, a good spot that elevates most pitchers. Walker has been respectable on the mound this season, coming in around league average across the board. He has a 23.7% strikeout rate with a too-high 9.3% walk rate across 99.1 innings in his 19 starts. He has pitched to a 4.24 xFIP, a 1.20 WHIP, 9.1% swinging strike rate and 28.5% CSW. Walker has yielded a 7.7% barrel rate and 39.3% hard hit, with a 12.3-degree average launch angle and 89.5 mph of exit velocity, all of which trend somewhat toward home run trajectory. Walker’s numbers are also creeping toward targetable for run creation and sequential hitting given the elevated walk rate, the average-at-best strikeout rate and barrel rate. The Marlins active roster is bad across the board, coming in with a league-worst .125 ISO against righties, a 24.7% strikeout rate that stands eighth from the bottom of the league, a 2.59% strikeout rate that is in the bottom third and they create runs 21% worse than average. Walker has upside for a few additional strikeouts, but he is drawing concerning levels of popularity for a slate this size, given his underlying numbers and generally unremarkable level of talent.

Mahle is drawing significant attention on both sites as well. He will be pitching in his home stadium, a bit of a bandbox that plays well for power, which is not a great way to start off an MLB DFS pitching selection. Mahle has been a favorite of this column all season, largely delivering when called upon, but in this spot there are clear concerns. He has a sharp 28.2% strikeout rate on the season, and he has pitched to a 3.85 xFIP with a 1.23 WHIP, walking too many hitters at 9.1%. Mahle induces a 12.2% swinging strike rate and has a steady 29.4% CSW and he has been good at limiting quality contact. Hitters have been able to barrel the ball in 7.6% of batted ball events, but Mahle limits the overall production by with a 34.7% hard-hit rate. Mahle’s walks have been up in recent starts, and he has been a bit of a roller coaster since early June, but he is steady overall. The opposing Twins are likely to field a lineup with an inflated strikeout rate, though the active roster stands at a 22.6% mark in the split against righties. Minnesota hits for power in the split, they have a collective .181 ISO with a 4.14% home run rate, and they have created runs one percent ahead of the curve. Mahle is likely to find a few bonus strikeouts in this lineup, but he is a bit of a risk to get through the outing clean, and he does not provide the same steady depth as the top-end options, over an equal 21 starts Mahle has delivered 111.2 innings and merely six quality starts. He is underpriced at $7,900 on FanDuel, which is pulling significant popularity, while his $10,000 price on DraftKings is not scaring many away either. Mahle is another pitcher who is a strong candidate to deliver an upside start, but he is going to be in a quarter of all MLB DFS lineups tonight.

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Patino takes the mound for the Rays in their spacious home ballpark. He has been sharp over his 31.2 innings in six starts this season, striking out 26.7% of Major League hitters while pitching to a 4.56 xFIP and a 1.17 WHIP. He has walked 7.4% and induced a 12.3% swinging strike rate, though the below average 27% CSW and 9.2% barrel rates both need to pick up. The 34.5% hard-hit rate is respectable, however, and Patino is one of the most highly regarded pitching prospects in the game. Over an additional 29.1 innings at Triple-A this season, he has a 3.33 xFIP with a 33.6% strikeout rate. He will be facing a Mariners team that has average power against right-handed pitching but sits third worst in baseball with a 25.3% strikeout rate in the split. Seattle has a collective .157 ISO and a 3.72% home run rate, but they create runs eight percent worse than average against righties. Patino has upside at just $6,800 with under 10% ownership on the blue site and $7,400 on DraftKings.

Cease has completed 108.2 innings in 21 starts, putting up a robust 29.3% strikeout rate, though he has walked 9.3% of opponents as well. He has been sharp, pitching to a 3.96 xFIP with an excellent 14.6% swinging strike rate, though hitters have barreled the ball at an inflated 9.6% rate. Cease’s 35.2% hard-hit rate helps him limit the damage on the well-struck balls, however, typically keeping the 17.4-degree average launch angle allowed to long fly balls instead of home runs. The Royals have limited strikeouts to just 21.7% against righties this season, but that is all they have done well in the split. Kansas City comes into the contest with a .145 collective ISO, a 2.99% home run rate and a collective WRC+ that stands 10% below average. He will be relatively popular on both sites.

Fried faces the St. Louis Cardinals in a quality matchup that sees baseball’s eighth-best team at limiting strikeouts against lefties take on a southpaw with a 23.9% strikeout rate. Fried has pitched to a 3.87 xFIP and has a too-high 8.1% walk rate this season, compiling a 1.34 WHIP, though he allows just 34.9% hard hits and an average exit velocity of 87.1 mph. Fried keeps the ball down with a 6.7-degree average launch angle, though his 7.7% barrel rate is a bit higher than one would like for a contact pitcher. He has induced an 11.1% swinging strike rate in opposing hitters this season, though his CSW is just 28.7%. He has thrown 91.2 innings in 17 starts this season and has not been a reliable source of quality starts. He faces a heavily right-handed Cardinals lineup but stands a reasonable chance of delivering a relevant MLB DFS score. Fried is owned appropriately by the field on both sites.


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New York Yankees

The remodeled Yankees are going to be extremely popular on this slate, with good cause. They now feature a lineup that boasts three of the best home run hitters in all of baseball, along with a host of high-end talent on both sides of the plate. New York is one of the top ranked team stacks on both sites by probability of success according to the Top Stacks Tool, and they stand atop the power index above based on marks in the home run model. The Yankees are facing lefty Alexander Wells in the prime hitting conditions in their home park. Wells has pitched just 15.1 innings in two starts this season and has just a 16.7% strikeout rate and an atrocious 12.5% walk rate. Wells has yielded a 9.8% barrel rate and a ridiculous 52.9% hard-hit rate to this point, with a 92.3 mph average exit velocity. He is the slate’s most targetable pitcher and will not be long for this outing. The prime targets in the Yankees lineup are the obvious names, including D.J. LeMahieu, Joey Gallo, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton right off the top. Anthony Rizzo is slashing .352/.439/.593 with a .242 ISO against fellow southpaws this season and .255/.356/.435 with a .181 ISO in the split for his career, yet for some reason MLB DFS gamers seem to be skipping him in ownership projections in a lefty-lefty matchup that is likely to give way to a bullpen game by the third or fourth inning after the Yankees lineup has begun to produce. Rizzo is a near mandatory part of Yankees stacks in this spot, given the ownership offset he provides. Gary Sanchez, struggling Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade and Greg Allen are likely to fill out the back end of the lineup, though Sanchez is forecast for a night off in some projected lineups. Sanchez and Torres have slate-breaking potential on any given night. The rest of the options are filler and salary helpers. The Yankees will be very popular and difficult to roster in unique combinations tonight, but their power packed lineup stands a strong chance of exploding for MLB DFS points.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox are in a similar spot to their rivals, facing a lousy pitcher but drawing ownership. They will be slightly less popular than the Yankees, however, with a bit more flexibility on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Boston faces weak Wily Peralta who is not wily enough to pitch his way out of this spot cleanly. Peralta has a 14.1% strikeout rate and a 9.4% walk rate with an 8.6% barrel rate in 42 innings this season, making him the slate’s second-most targetable pitcher for run creation and sequencing. He offers nothing but bullseyes for the opposition, coming in with a 5.00 xFIP and just a 7.8% swinging strike rate with a 23.2% CSW that is far below average. The Red Sox should have no difficulty generating MLB DFS points, their lineup is playable from top to bottom, with priorities including Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and Hunter Renfroe, while Enrique Hernandez, Jarren Duran, Alex Verdugo, Franchy Cordero and Christian Vazquez offer a wealth of potential combinations. On the whole, the Red Sox have similar upside to the Yankees and will be easier to stack in unique combinations. They are also more affordable than New York on both sites, lineups pending.

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Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are one of the top teams that are actually drawing positive leverage on both sites, making them extremely appealing. This has been an excellent team to get to when they are unpopular all season. While Toronto is not unowned tonight, the field is not where it should be on this club in a matchup against Zach Plesac. He has thrown 80.1 innings in 14 starts this year and he has an extremely limited 15.9% strikeout rate. Plesac allows a 10.1% barrel rate and a 40.9% hard-hit rate. His lone saving grace is a stellar 4.9% walk rate, though even with that mark he is highly targetable for the lack of strikeouts and the premium contact allowed. The Blue Jays have been featured in this space numerous times through the season, their stackable lineup runs eight players deep and should include George Springer, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – who has a legitimate shot at a triple crown this season – as well as Marcus Semien, Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel and Cavan Biggio, with catcher Reese McGuire the lone middling option but playable as a catcher on DraftKings.

Atlanta Braves

The reloaded Braves land as the featured stack in their matchup against Jon Lester, who is making his Cardinals debut. He comes in with a 14.9% strikeout rate in 75.1 innings over 16 starts. Lester has an 8.5% walk rate and a 5.18 xFIP with a 1.59 WHIP on the season, inducing just 8.7% swinging strikes and compiling a 23.7% CSW. He has allowed an 8% barrel rate and is targetable for sequential hitting and run creation, given the free passes, quality contact and inability to get out of a jam via the strikeout. Lester has a 39.1% hard-hit rate and is also a prime target for power upside and the Braves lineup features a few fearsome right-handed power bats and a lot of quality.

One version of the Braves’ projected lineup allows for the possibility that they will let Joc Pederson lead off against a lefty, which they have done several times since acquiring him. Pederson struggles significantly against lefties over his full career, but this season he is slashing .289/.357/.395 in the split, though he has just a .105 ISO. He has created runs eight percent ahead of the average against fellow southpaws, adding to the notion that he could be atop the lineup today. If Pederson does not start, the next featured hitter will likely lead off, while Guillermo Heredia would slot into the outfield later in the lineup.

Ozzie Albies costs just $3,600 on FanDuel and $4,700 on DraftKings despite slashing .264/.323/.489 with 17 home runs, 13 stolen bases and a .225 ISO, creating runs 13% ahead of the average. Albies will not be owned far beyond 10% by the public, and he has upside in this matchup. He has just a 17.8% strikeout rate on the season and will likely be a cog in the run creation machine for the team tonight.

Freddie Freeman is slashing .288/.393/.500 with 23 home runs and a .212 ISO over 463 plate appearances this season. He has created runs 35% ahead of the average, he strikes out just 17.1% of the time and walks 14.3%. Freeman is underpriced at $3,700 on FanDuel but he is not drawing any ownership attention. The latter point remains true on DraftKings, though it is because his salary is up to $5,000.

Austin Riley has one of the team’s stronger marks in the home run model for the day. He has 22 home runs and a .232 ISO over 429 plate appearances, though he strikes out at a 24.5% clip. He has been excellent with the hit tool and on-base skills this season as well, slashing .289/.373/.522 and creating runs 36% better than average by WRC+. Riley is an excellent option in the middle of the Braves lineup.


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Adam Duvall has a .227/.274/.466 triple slash, but he has a .239 ISO and has hit 22 home runs in 351 plate appearances, which is exactly what the Braves are looking for him to produce in his return to Atlanta. Duvall has never been a strong option for base hits, but he ranks second on the team in the home run model tonight.

The Braves also acquired Jorge Soler at the deadline. He is slashing .200/.296/.375 on the season and has struggled for his typical power. Soler has 13 home runs with a .175 ISO this year and has created runs 16% behind the average. The massive upside for home runs remains clear, however, and Soler is inexpensive at $3,300 on the blue site and $3,100 on DraftKings. He will be under 10% owned across the industry, and there are worse dart throws for a potential two home run night.

Dansby Swanson comes into this contest with a 26.8% strikeout rate that is slightly higher than Soler’s 26.6% mark. Swanson is slashing .245/.300/.468 with 20 home runs and seven stolen bases at a premium position for MLB DFS purposes, however, and he is almost always under-owned. As one of the less appreciated shortstop options for power and point scoring, Swanson is a welcome addition to Braves stacks at $3,200 on FanDuel and $4,000 on DraftKings.

Catcher Kevan Smith is slashing .188/.274/.224 with a .035 ISO and no home runs in 96 plate appearances. His career highs came in 2017 when he made 294 plate appearances for the White Sox, delivering four home runs and a .105 ISO while slashing .283/.309/.388 and creating runs 14% worse than average. Smith is not likely to be a playable option, getting shares of him to simply fill the catcher requirement on DraftKings is acceptable, but there are likely to be better options available.

HR Call: Franmil Reyes — Cleveland

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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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