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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 6/28/21

Terry McBride

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MLB DFS Lineup Picks Today DraftKings FanDuel Home Runs Tournament Strategy

Monday’s slate of MLB DFS action brings a nine-game evening affair that is stacked with offense but also has a few quality pitching options. Getting to the right arm with some lower-owned stacks that connect is the formula for success on a slate like today despite fringe-level pitchers turning in high-end performances with regularity this season. Sticking with the reliable quality from the top end and middle of the board — a long list of names on this slate — is the best approach to sustained success. For GPP play in a nine-game slate, focus primarily on full MLB DFS stacks of two teams on each site when building DraftKings and FanDuel lineups today.

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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 won’t 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: Christian Walker — 10.08

Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle — 7.40

Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 8.87

Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo — 5.71

Chicago White Sox: Tim Anderson — 8.24

Cleveland Indians: Eddie Rosario — 11.27

Detroit Tigers: Jonathan Schoop — 22.59

Houston Astros: Yordan Alvarez — 15.07

Kansas City Royals: Salvador Perez — 6.97

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 9.63

Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy — 9.29

Milwaukee Brewers: Willy Adames — 7.88

Minnesota Twins: Josh Donaldson — 11.83

New York Mets: Pete Alonso — 14.17

New York Yankees: Aaron Judge — 12.86

San Francisco Giants: Alex Dickerson — 7.45

St. Louis Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt — 23.33

Washington Nationals: Kyle Schwarber — 17.33


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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.

Fantasy Baseball rankings projections MLB DFS DraftKings FanDuel picks home runs stacks top pitchers Cardinals Tigers Astros Nationals Yankees Indians vegas odds betting lines expert picks predictions 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. Ensure to check out the ownership projections for critical updates and monitor the top stacks tool throughout the day for changes.

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On the Hill

Monday has a wealth of quality pitching options, including several premium name stars and a few less luminous starters who have been performing well. The slate is topped by Trevor Bauer. He is in a plus strikeout spot in his matchup against the Giants. Bauer is followed closely on the board by Freddy Peralta and Lucas Giolito. Following the trio of high-end options is a quality middle that includes Dylan Bundy, Zack Greinke, surprising Kyle Hendricks and struggling Kenta Maeda. The Giants’ Anthony DeSclafani and the Royals’ Danny Duffy could end up surprising as well despite difficult matchups against the Dodgers and Red Sox, respectively.

Of the entire list, Bauer is the most talented pitcher in the best spot for strikeouts. He has thrown 101.2 innings over his 16 starts this season. He has an excellent 31.9% strikeout rate and a 3.69 xFIP with a 0.97 WHIP. Bauer is inducing 12.6% swinging strikes and has compiled a 30% CSW and a 69th percentile chase rate. Bauer manages to largely avoid trouble despite allowing some premium contact. He is in the 25th percentile in hard hit rate allowed, the 23rd in average exit velocity against and just the 14th in barrel rate allowed; though he lands in the 61st percentile in expected slugging percentage against. This creates an interesting situation in Bauer’s matchup against a Giants team that sits in a three-way tie for fourth worst in baseball with a 25.8% strikeout rate against righties but also has a league-leading .195 team ISO and a 4.34% home run rate in the split. Bauer’s contact profile suggests the Giants could tag him for a solo home run or two, but he is likely to hit a strikeout ceiling and seems relatively safe for the investment on DraftKings and FanDuel, though he will be popular on both sites.

Peralta is dramatically underpriced at $9,500 on FanDuel and at a reasonable $10,500 on DraftKings. Peralta has been one of the best pitchers in the game in the first half of 2021. He has a 36.4% strikeout rate across 81.0 innings in his 14 starts, compiling a 3.36 xFIP and a 0.86 WHIP, though he has walked 10.5% of hitters. Peralta induces an excellent 14.8% swinging strike rate in his opponents, and he will be facing a heavily right-handed Cubs offense that is currently worst in baseball with a 26.5% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season. The Cubs do hit for power in the split, they have a well above average 4.30% home run rate against righties and a respectable .179 team ISO in the split. Despite the pop. Chicago trails the league average in run creation by 8% by WRC+, lending some safety to the clear upside in a Peralta play. Still, with nearly a third of the field projecting to have the Brewers’ righty in their lineups, exploring other options and potentially rostering Peralta at a slight undercut to the field is a playable approach on both sites.

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The third obvious name on the board, Giolito is in perhaps the most difficult spot, taking on a tough Twins lineup. He has a 30.9% strikeout rate over 87.2 innings in his 15 starts. Giolito is pitching to a 3.55 xFIP and he has an 8.1% walk rate with a 1.10 WHIP. He induces an excellent 15.7% swinging strike rate which makes his quality 30.5% CSW perhaps a touch low. He is facing a Minnesota squad that has been powerful against pitching from either hand this season. The Twins are ranked 11th with a 23.1% strikeout rate against righties and they have a 4.22% home run rate that ranks fifth in the split. The team’s .184 ISO is well above average, and they create runs 4% better than the average team by WRC+. Giolito is easily talented enough to get through a challenge from a tough divisional opponent, but he is not as safe as the other premium options. At an affordable $9,800 on FanDuel, Giolito is pulling in roughly half the ownership of his peers, while he has a closer but still reduced ownership share for $10,300 on DraftKings.

Hendricks stands out as a pitcher who is not from the same mold as some of the other names atop the pitching projections today. He has been on a bit of a roll, but overall he is simply below league average in most important metrics. Hendricks has a reasonable 3.84 ERA but a 5.12 expected ERA and a 4.19 xFIP. He has struck out just 19.1% of hitters across his 86.2 innings in 15 starts. He sits in the 55th percentile in hard hit rate allowed, the 64th in average exit velocity against but just the 15th percentile in barrel rate yielded and the eighth in expected slugging percentage against. Hendricks does provide fairly reliable depth and has completed at least 6.0 innings in each of his last eight starts, coinciding with an eight-game win streak. While he may keep up the string of reasonably good real life starts, he lacks significant MLB DFS upside in most spots given the general lack of strikeouts, though he may find a few bonus opportunities against a Brewers team that is third-worst in baseball with a 26.1% strikeout rate against righties. Milwaukee has just a .147 team ISO in the split, and they have created runs a whopping 16% below average with just a 3.34% home run rate. Hendricks offers a modicum of safety and a touch of upside on tonight’s slate, and he will be unpopular given the unfamiliar $9,300 price tag on FanDuel and $9,100 mark on DraftKings. The upside to a Cubs win and the corresponding pitcher bonus may be limited, with Peralta going on the other side, but overall Hendricks could offer low-owned quality.

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Zack Greinke is another pitcher whose crisp ERA hides a bit of a shakier performance, though he has still been good with a 4.15 expected ERA and a 4.22 xFIP over his 98.2 innings. Greinke has made 16 starts on the season and typically pitches deep into games. He is another soft-tossing right-handed starter, down to an 89mph average on his fastball this season. Remarkably, Greinke has managed to stay somewhat effective despite what is now just a 1.5mph differential between his fastball and changeup. He is throwing fewer sliders this season, focusing primarily on the fastball, changeup and curveball mix, but he has a .519 expected slugging percentage against the fastball, while the effectiveness of the breaking and off-speed pitches has been limited. Greinke’s tertiary options are all drawing ugly expected slugging percentage numbers, though he has thrown the slider only 10.1% of the time and his sinker only 6.8%; the eephus has unfortunately only been wielded twice this season. Despite the lack of premium stuff, he is still in the 75th percentile in hard hit rate allowed and the 66th in average exit velocity against. He has allowed a barrel rate of 7.3%, good for the 57th percentile, and an average launch angle of 13.2 degrees, limiting the home run upside against at least to a minor degree. Greinke draws an Orioles active roster that has a 24.8% strikeout rate in the split, 10th worst in baseball. Baltimore has just a .151 team ISO and a 3.16% home run rate that also ranks 10th from the bottom of the league. The team has created runs 17% worse than average in the split this season, giving Greinke sneaky upside at $9,800 and under 15% ownership on DraftKings. He has more appeal at $8,700 and lower ownership on the blue site tonight, though he is rarely fun to roster.


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Houston Astros

The Astros are once again ranked at the top of the DraftKings stacks board, where they are drawing less ownership than their probability of being the best team tonight. The lineup is very expensive and, while there is leverage, they are not individually low-owned. Houston is difficult to roster with the premium pitchers or a high-end second stack, but they have upside. On FanDuel, the Astros rank as the second-best option by probability of success, but they are coming in at appropriate ownership, which is likely to push further into negatively leveraged territory as lock approaches. The Astros should not be left out of stacks for that reason by any means, but pushing above the field’s ownership becomes a more difficult and questionable exercise at that point. Rostering Astros bats has been a common enough occurrence that most MLB DFS regulars know that the go-to names include Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Yuli Gurriel, Yordan Alvarez, Carlos Correa and Kyle Tucker, but the field is still largely sleeping on Abraham Toro. He is a switch-hitter with upside, and he costs just $3,500 on the DraftKings slate while filling in for injured star Alex Bregman. Toro is slashing .239/.327/.370 with a .130 ISO over his first 52 plate appearances, but he profiles for midrange power and plus speed in traditional scouting and he has a strong minor league track record. Toro played most of 2019 in Double-A, going .306/.393/.513 with a .207 ISO and 16 home runs in 435 plate appearances, striking out 17.7% of the time and walking 11%, and adding four stolen bases. He made an additional 79 plate appearances in Triple-A, hitting one home run and going .424/.506/.606 with a .183 ISO and just a 6.3% strikeout rate. Concluding his season with 89 plate appearances in the Show, Toro hit two major league home runs and stole a base but compiled just a .218/.303/.385 triple-slash and a .167 ISO. In 68 Triple-A plate appearances this season, he is slashing .352/.485/.593 with a .241 ISO, two home runs and two stolen bases. He has upside tonight in a matchup against Tom Eshelman, a pitcher with a career 12.1% strikeout rate in 79.1 major league innings.

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Boston Red Sox & New York Yankees

The two ancient AL East foes battled over the weekend – if one can call the beating that Boston put on the Yankees a battle – and now both teams are in plus matchups that have then highly ranked on the stacks board on both sites. As with the Astros, these are expensive bats, each team appears under-owned on DraftKings and at the appropriate level on FanDuel tonight. The Red Sox are facing lefty Danny Duffy in Boston, while the Yankees draw Dylan Bundy in the Bronx. Both teams have obvious names throughout their lineups, and both offer significant power upside. Both teams rank similarly, creating runs slightly above average in their respective splits, though Boston’s 22.1% strikeout rate against lefties is a better mark than the Yankees’ 24.6% against righties. New York has a 3.83% home run rate in their split, an above-average mark, while Boston is at a surprisingly below average 2.97% despite a significant number of premium right-handed bats and a reputation for power. The Red Sox’s .158 ISO in their split is essentially the same as the Yankees’ .157 mark against righties. This is basically a toss-up situation, following the leverage or utilizing these teams as an either/or for salary and positional purposes in roster construction seems appropriate.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are showing explosive upside in the home run model, and they rank far better than their talent warrants in the top stacks tool today. The team offers extreme value on DraftKings, with numerous hitters at or around the minimum salary on the site. They are drawing a fairly significant ownership projection and negative leverage for their probability of being the top overall stack, but consideration has to be given to the point per dollar upside potential regardless, these are simply incorrect prices by comparison from team to team. The Tigers are not a talented roster but Cleveland’s Eli Morgan, their opponent, is not much of a pitcher so far. Tigers bats to consider include Robbie Grossman, Jonathan Schoop, Jeimer Candelario, Nomar Mazara and Miguel Cabrera. MLB DFS ownership on FanDuel is concentrated on the first three names on that list, while there is less on Schoop for $5,300 on DraftKings and more on the players who cost half that or less.

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An interesting name on both sites is Daz Cameron, who is projected to hit sixth. Cameron has made just 46 plate appearances this season, hitting three home runs and stealing three bases in the small sample, while compiling a .256 ISO and creating runs 20% better than average. Cameron is a highly regarded prospect who profiles for mid-range power and speed. He made 528 plate appearances in Triple-A in 2019 and hit 13 home runs with 17 stolen bases, though he struggled to just a .214/.330/.377 slash and a .163 ISO. Cameron strikes out too frequently against advanced pitching and has struggled with developing his hit tool, but the power and speed is clear and when it all comes together on the right night. Incidentally, Schoop was the alternate choice for the column-ending home run pick of the day. He has been mashing this season and projects very well in the home run model. Schoop has hit 15 long balls in 310 plate appearances, slashing .271/.323/.475 with a .204 ISO and creating runs 17% better than average for the season to lead the Tigers’ lowly offense. Schoop makes for an excellent pay-up to be contrarian one-off on the DraftKings slate and he is in play in both stacks and one-off situations on both sites overall.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals drop into the featured spot in a matchup against Arizona’s Jake Faria. He has pitched only 4.0 innings in the Majors this season, all out of the bullpen, though he made seven starts and threw an additional 36.2 innings in Triple-A. At the minor league level, Faria was pitching to a 5.33 xFIP and had allowed seven home runs, which is not a promising sign for his prospects in the Show. Faria has major league experience under his belt. Faria threw 86.2 decent innings for Tampa Bay in 2017, compiling a 4.39 xFIP and a 23.5% strikeout rate that would be his highpoint. In 2018 he had just a 17.8% strikeout rate at the major league level in 65.0 innings. He had just a 5.42 xFIP that season. Across the 151.2 innings of major league experience Faria has yielded 20 home runs; in the 2018 season he was in the 18th percentile in hard hit rate allowed, the 24th in average exit velocity allowed and the 14th in barrel rate, as well as just the 11th in expected slugging percentage against. He is not a good pitcher, and he is facing a lineup that is loaded with power, though they have struggled with it against righties this season. The Cardinals’ active roster creates runs 15% worse than average against righties and has just a 3.29% home run rate that ranks below average along with their .148 team ISO. They stand out for a quality 22.4% strikeout rate in the split, however. Combined with Faria’s profile for contact and lack of strikeouts, expect a lot of well-struck baseballs in play in this game. If the Cardinals chase Faria early – or if his workload is managed – they will immediately draw a bullpen that ranks third-worst in baseball with a 4.74 xFIP and worst in the league with just a 20.3% collective strikeout rate.

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Rookie Dylan Carlson has assumed the leadoff role for the Cardinals in recent games and he is projected to hit there once again. Carlson is slashing .265/.350/.408 on the season with seven home runs in his 314 plate appearances. He has a .143 ISO but creates runs 14% better than average and his on-base skills play well ahead of the power bats in the St. Louis lineup. Carlson costs just $2,600 on FanDuel, where he is drawing some minor popularity. On the DraftKings slate the switch-hitting outfielder costs $3,500 and will be under 10% owned. He has home run upside as a one-off and functions very well starting off a stack.

Paul Goldschmidt mans first base and costs $4,500 on DraftKings and $3,500 on FanDuel. He is slashing just .249/.317/.412 with 11 home runs and a .163 ISO on the season but still creates runs 5% better than average. Goldschmidt is a career .290/.388/.516 hitter with a .225 ISO and 260 home runs in 5,940 plate appearances. In both the long term and for tonight, Goldschmidt still makes sense in Cardinals stacks.

Nolan Arenado was brought in to bolster the Cardinals offense. He has so far delivered a .266/.320/.509 triple-slash that is disappointing compared to his Colorado track record. Arenado has hit 15 home runs and carries a .242 ISO on the season, so all is not lost, and he creates runs 25% better than average. Not all of those numbers came from Coors Field’s park effects, though the home/road splits have always been clear. With the power upside on this slate and just a $3,700 price tag on FanDuel, Arenado is an easy play with low ownership. On DraftKings he costs more and is less popular, adding to the GPP appeal.

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Tyler O’Neill crushes mistakes and is drawing one of the highest marks on the day in the home run model. O’Neill has hit 15 home runs this season and he has a gigantic .289 ISO over his 221 plate appearances. It is noteworthy that he has the same home run total as Arenado despite nearly 100 fewer opportunities. He has a .264/.321/.552 that also compares favorably to the two more highly regarded stars in front of him in the lineup. He comes in at a discount for just $3,200 on FanDuel and a very affordable $3,600 on DraftKings. That price is drawing some one-off attention, O’Neill is the highest owned Cardinals bat in early DraftKings ownership projections. He is well worth it.

[osBestBetsSingleGameOdds league=”mlb” date=”06/28/2021″ team=”cardinals”]

Catcher Yadier Molina is headed to Cooperstown when he is done. He is slashing .254/.306/.423 with seven home runs and a .169 ISO on the season. Molina has created runs 2% better than average and even stolen a base in his 219 plate appearances this year. He plays best where catchers are required, but given the low cost, low ownership and spot in the batting order, Molina is not out of play on the blue site tonight.

Tommy Edman slots in at both second base and in the outfield on both sites. He is cheap at $3,000 on FanDuel but costs $4,600 on DraftKings. Edman provides mid-grade power and good speed, but he is slashing just .256/.300/.364 after some recent struggles. The speed is useless if he is not getting on base. Edman has 13 stolen bases on the season but should likely have more. He has created runs 13% worse than average and has just a .108 ISO, disappointing in the power department with merely four home runs. If he is not getting on base and running ahead of the power hitters, Edman’s overall upside is limited.

Lars Nootbaar is not a create-a-player from MLB The Show despite rumors to the contrary. He will be low-owned and is an easy way to offset cost at just $2,300 on DraftKings and $2,000 on FanDuel. Nootbaar has made 93 plate appearances at Triple-A this season, slashing .329/.430/.557 with a .227 ISO and five home runs while creating runs 58% better than average by WRC+. He earned a promotion to the Show through those gaudy numbers and has 22 plate appearances in the Majors. Nootbaar is slashing .211/.273/.316 with two runs and three RBIs in the small sample, though that technically amounts to just a 63 WRC+.

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Shortstop Paul DeJong has been relegated to the No. 8 spot in the lineup in recent games. DeJong missed a portion of the season but has now made 195 plate appearances and is slashing a lowly .168/.262/.341 with a .173 ISO and creating runs 28% worse than average. DeJong is striking out and walking within relative range of his career norms, but he is suffering from terrible bad luck, coming up with just a .172 batting average on balls in play. He still has nine home runs on the season despite the struggles and has upside for more. DeJong is just entering his prime at age 27 and he has a 25-homer season and a 30-homer season under his belt already. For his career, he is a .242/.313/.444 hitter with a .202 ISO, and his upside for power should be apparent. Despite the spot in the batting order, DeJong should not be left out of consideration when stacking Cardinals bats, particularly when he is just $2,900 on both sites and has limited public ownership.

HR Call: Tyler O’Neill — St. Louis Cardinals

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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