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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 7/15/21

Terry McBride

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Free expert MLB DFS Lineup Picks Today DraftKings FanDuel Home Runs tournament strategy GPP trade deadline rumors Yankees Red Sox Blue Jays Braves White Sox Dodgers las vegas betting odds predictions projections yahoo fantasy baseball rankings free

Baseball gets the season’s second half started in style this evening, with the Red Sox in the Bronx to write another chapter in their storied rivalry with the Yankees. With just one game on the slate, we are looking exclusively at hitters for FanDuel Single-Game tournaments, while DraftKings MLB DFS Showdown players pick up the ability to roster the full game, adding depth and complexity to the contest on that site. With significant differences in approach to single-game contests, there are interesting wrinkles in MLB DFS tournament strategy from site to site tonight. Let’s look at some of the best GPP options and fantasy baseball picks for MLB DFS lineups tonight.

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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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Note: With just one game, home run ratings are presented slightly differently again today, instead of covering teams these are the individual ratings for the projected starting lineups in my home run model.

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

Red Sox home run ratings have been updated from the originally published version to reflect the pitching change as of 2:50 p.m. ET.

Red Sox

Enrique Hernandez — 11.92

Alex Verdugo — 9.35

J.D. Martinez — 15.98

Xander Bogaerts — 11.85

Rafael Devers — 15.43

Hunter Renfroe — 14.40

Christian Arroyo — 5.26

Christian Vazquez — 8.01

Bobby Dalbec — 11.97

Yankees

D.J. LeMahieu — 5.77

Aaron Judge — 12.66

Gary Sanchez — 10.22

Giancarlo Stanton — 13.91

Luke Voit — 8.72

Gleyber Torres — 7.43

Gio Urshela — 5.28

Tim Locastro — 2.69

Brett Gardner — 4.29


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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

Eduardo Rodriguez opens the Red Sox second half on the mound in a difficult pitching environment. He had a solid first half, throwing 89.2 innings in 17 starts and posting a quality 27% strikeout rate with just a 5.5% walk rate. Rodriguez has a sharp 3.37 xFIP and induces swinging strikes 11.2% of the time, though he allows hitters to reach base with too much frequency, his 1.37 WHIP has the starter walking a constant tightrope. Rodriguez allows a 7.4% barrel rate and a 12.5-degree average launch angle, but just a 33.7% hard-hit rate and 87 mph average exit velocity, sparing him from being abused by opposing power. Rodriguez has a .383 expected slugging percentage against that ranks in the 55th percentile in baseball. The opposing Yankees have been quite good against lefties this season despite the general doldrums in which their offense has been mired. The active roster has a 4.48% home run rate that sits third in the league in the split, while their collective .174 ISO sits ninth, and they create runs 10% better than average by WRC+. New York’s collective strikeout rate in the split is just 22.8%, around the middle of the league, while the projected starting lineup has a 23.7% average strikeout rate against both hands for the season. There is a bit of strikeout upside on the table for Rodriguez, but he is not entirely safe in this ballpark and with the heavily right-handed Yankees’ ability to get bat on ball against lefties.

In an afternoon change, the Yankees will be starting Domingo German, which has created a significant spike in the home run expectations for the opposing Red Sox from where they stood against originally slated lefty Jordan Montgomery. German has a 4.39 xFIP and a 1.22 WHIP with just a 21.9% strikeout rate in 81 innings over 15 starts. He induces a 13.2% swinging strike rate, which is a surprising mark for the low overall strikeouts. He has had difficulty finishing hitters off but sits in the 95th percentile in chase rate. The Red Sox active roster has a 3.87% home run rate against righties, better than their mark against southpaws and good for 10th best in baseball. The collective .187 ISO is tied for third-best against right-handed pitching and the team creates runs 4% better than average by WRC+ in the split. Boston’s 23.9% strikeout rate against righties sits in the middle of the league. German is not a safe start, and his upside is limited given the significant possibility that he sees just three or four innings, if that much.

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At the Dish

Boston Red Sox

Enrique Hernandez leads off the Red Sox projected starting lineup. He is slashing .237/.316/.430 over his 316 plate appearances this season. Hernandez has a .194 ISO and has hit 11 home runs this season. However, his on-base skills and hit tool are not ideal at the top of this lineup ahead of incredible run producers. Hernandez is a reasonable play from this spot in the lineup, but in a salary vacuum he would not be one of the top choices in this game.

Alex Verdugo slots into the second spot in the lineup. He has been good in his second season in Boston, slashing .278/.346/.425 with a .147 ISO, nine home runs and four stolen bases. Verdugo has created runs 8% better than average for the season and he does a decent job of setting the table for the team’s core. For $7,000 on the FanDuel slate and $11,400 as a DraftKings Captain play, Verdugo is an inexpensive option for quality. He is slashing just .207/.254/.252 with a .045 ISO and he is creating runs 62% worse than average against same-handed pitching but shines against righties. Against the opposite hand, he is slashing .316/.391/.517 with a .201 ISO and a 143 WRC+ on the season and should be rostered frequently. Verdugo is unlikely to sit this one out after the pitching change, though expected call-up prospect outfielder Jarren Duran also hits from the left side of the plate and could slide into one of several spots in the lineup.

J.D. Martinez has no problems obliterating pitching from either hand. He costs $8,000 on FanDuel and has a $14,100 Captain price tag on the DraftKings slate. Martinez has hit 17 home runs, has a .256 ISO for the season and a 145 WRC+ . He has the best mark in a lineup loaded with home run upside in the model this evening, but he is costly and popular.

Xander Bogaerts represented his team in the All-Star Game, a just reward for a stellar first half. Bogaerts has a .321/.385/.545 triple-slash this season with a .224 ISO and 15 home runs. He is 49% ahead of league average in run creation, though he lands as the most expensive Red Sox bat by a full $1,000 on the blue site tonight. He is expensive at $14,400 in the Captain spot on DraftKings but is well worth consideration.

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Rafael Devers hits from the left side and has an absurd .367 ISO against righties this season. Devers is slashing .282/.350/.564 with 22 home runs across his 369 plate appearances this season, and his home run upside shot through the ceiling after the model updated from lefty Montgomery to right-handed German on the mound.

Hunter Renfroe seems underpriced on both sites tonight given the power upside. Renfroe has hit 13 home runs this season and he has a .196 ISO, creating runs 8% better than average over his 312 plate appearances. For the season, his .495 expected slugging percentage sits in the 86th percentile, while his 12.8% barrel rate is in the 83rd. Renfroe is a strong right-handed power hitter with upside in this spot, though he is better across the board against lefties.

Christian Arroyo is a bit of an afterthought compared to the stars ahead of him in the lineup, but he has been quietly productive over his 163 plate appearances in 2021. Arroyo is slashing .264/.323/.429 with five home runs and a .176 ISO, creating runs 6% better than average in the non-qualified sample. Arroyo has always profiled with a better hit tool than power. His home runs are a bit of an outlier, but he is in play as a mix and match option for salary relief on both sites.

Christian Vazquez has been a disappointment after he hit 23 home runs in 521 plate appearances in 2019 and another seven in 189 tries last year. Vazquez dropped from a .201 ISO in 2019 to a .173 mark last year, though his run creation jumped from two to 15% above average by WRC+ year over year. Vazquez’ triple-slash also climbed from .276/.320/.477 in the power-packed season to .283/.344/.457 last year. The numbers have cratered across the board this season, but Vazquez is slashing just .261/.308/.351 and is creating runs 21% below par. He has struggled at the plate, but if he comes in at low ownership, there is known ability in an any given slate sense.

Bobby Dalbec rounds out the Red Sox lineup with his powerful bat that provides both home runs and a steady breeze given the significant swing and miss that he brings. Dalbec has hit 10 home runs in 258 plate appearances, posting a .190 ISO, but he has a whopping 36.8% strikeout rate as he tries to hit every pitch onto Lansdowne Street, regardless of whether he is in a home or road game. Dalbec makes an interesting end cap to a low-owned Red Sox stack from later in the lineup, but he is unreliable for turning the lineup over given the .264 on-base percentage.


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New York Yankees

D.J. LeMahieu is just one of many Yankees who have disappointed across the season’s first half. After two outstanding seasons in the Bronx, bringing back LeMahieu was the team’s big investment in the offseason, he has underwhelmed, posting a .270/.351/.367 triple-slash with a .097 ISO and seven home runs. LeMahieu has scraped his way back above average by run creation, and the on-base percentage is solid atop this lineup, but he should offer more. LeMahieu is one of the better bets in baseball for a strong second half.

Aaron Judge is having a strong year at the plate. He is slashing .282/.375/.526 and he has hit 21 home runs with a .244 ISO. Judge is creating runs 47% better than average to this point in the season. He barrels the ball a ludicrous 19.7% of the time and has a 95.8 mph average and 57% hard-hit rate, both of which sit in the 100th percentile. His .611 expected slugging percentage stands in the 99th percentile, and his .553 xwOBAcon is among the very best in baseball. Judge ranks second to only his upcoming teammate in home run upside in my model, he will be popular, and he is pricey on both sites, but well worth the investment.

Gary Sanchez has been hitting for enough power to stop poorly informed Yankees fans from calling for his head during every plate appearance. He has blasted 15 home runs in 268 plate appearances and he has a .239 ISO while creating runs 14% better than average. He is somewhat miscast as a No. 3 hitter given the 27.2% strikeout rate and the fact that he is slashing just .217/.328/.457, but Sanchez provides steady MLB DFS upside and tends to go underappreciated. He costs just $6,000 on the FanDuel slate but is a $13,200 Captain play on DraftKings, which will likely keep public eyes elsewhere, making him interesting for GPP Showdown play.

Giancarlo Stanton leads the field in my home run model in the matchup against the Red Sox southpaw. Stanton has hit 15 home runs in 291 plate appearances, and he is slashing a steady .270/.364/.484 with a .214 ISO while creating runs 34% better than average by WRC+. He also sits in the 100th percentile in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, and he has a .454 XWOBACON with a 14.5% barrel rate. Stanton is a somewhat disrespected star who is underpriced on the FanDuel slate.

Luke Voit is slashing .241/.328/.370 with a .130 ISO and three home runs over his first 122 plate appearances this season, he is not the savior Yankees fans have been awaiting. Voit has indisputable upside for power but has not made premium contact frequently enough this season, landing at a 41.7% hard-hit rate and a 29.5% strikeout rate. Voit is creating runs 3% worse than average across the small sample, he can hit one out of the park against anyone, but the overall quality of the hitter is more limited than his reputation.

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Gleyber Torres has been shockingly bad over his 477 plate appearances in 2020 and 2021. Torres hit 38 home runs in 604 tries in 2019, since then he has hit six, three last year and three this year. Torres has been healthy and seeing regular turns at the plate, he has 317 plate appearances this season and is slashing just .240/.326/.308 with a .068 ISO and a WRC+ 18% worse than average. For a player who was forecast as a perennial All-Star candidate and a premium infield power hitter, this is an alarming drop off in quality. Torres barrel rate dropped from 10.1% in 2019 to just 6% this season, and he has an average exit velocity of just 86.4 mph, which sits in the eighth percentile. As it stands, Torres is borderline unplayable in his current form, were it not for the known upside of seasons past he would not be an MLB DFS consideration.

Gio Urshela has hit over his head since joining the Yankees, but he is not a premium option on a wider scale. He is slashing .275/.315/.441 with 11 home runs in his 314 opportunities, though he has just a .166 ISO. Urshela has been steady in the run creation department, he currently lands 7% above average and is one of the playable options from late in this Yankees lineup, though expectations should always be tempered.

Tim Locastro and Brett Gardner wrap up the projected Yankees lineup. They have hit five combined home runs in 387 collective plate appearances, they are both sub-Mendoza hitters, Locastro is slashing .182/.266/.255 and Gardner is closing out his career with a .194/.310/.304. Neither outfielder has much to offer at the plate at this point, they are afterthoughts and salary offsets at the minimum on both sites.

HR Call: Aaron Judge — New York Yankees

To get even more action down on tonight’s MLB slate, check out the betting markets and Awesemo’s expert MLB betting picks 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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