The split Saturday slates bring us a mixed bag of quality across multiple contests on both sites. The evening main slate will be the primary focus of this article, though the home run picks below include games beginning in the 4 pm EST hour on the early slates at DraftKings and FanDuel. The main daily fantasy baseball slate has an excellent pool of premium pitching from which to draw shares, while the low-end of the slate offers several spots to attack with bats, though getting unique with MLB DFS plays will be a major challenge. The field appears to be flocking to specific teams on this slate. With so few options and such heavy variance, it makes sense to avoid rostering the chalk at levels equal to the field, instead spreading out MLB DFS picks to more of the under-owned stacks with quality hitting in good spots. Utilizing the Top Stacks Tool is the best way to parse the leverage and values on the offensive side of the plate. Pairing the best options with positively leveraged pitching at the high end is the construction to chase.
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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: Christian Walker — 7.77
Atlanta Braves: Ozzie Albies — 4.71
Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle — 9.65
Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 17.43
Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez — 12.50
Chicago White Sox: Tim Anderson — 10.54
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto — 4.92
Colorado Rockies: Ryan McMahon — 7.00
Houston Astros: Yordan Alvarez — 11.10
Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 8.48
Los Angeles Dodgers: Cody Bellinger — 9.17
Miami Marlins: Adam Duvall — 5.04
Milwaukee Brewers: Rowdy Tellez — 10.62
New York Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton — 11.82
Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson — 23.33
Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins — 8.53
San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 5.00
San Francisco Giants: Darin Ruf — 8.42
Seattle Mariners: Ty France — 10.06
St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill — 8.30
Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo — 12.88
Washington Nationals: Juan Soto — 10.05
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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 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
For a six-game affair, the MLB DFS main slate has a surprising number of quality pitchers available. Interestingly, two of the more recognizable names have been struggling in recent starts amid baseball’s ongoing pitching controversy. For varying reasons that remain short on data, both Gerrit Cole and Joe Musgrove have underwhelmed of late. Of the two, Musgrove is in by far the better spot, taking on the pathetic Rockies offense in San Diego. The Yankees starter is in a much more difficult matchup, facing his old team on the road in Houston. Perhaps the safest available option across both sites, Walker Buehler is in an easy spot against the Diamondbacks, while Freddy Peralta offers excellent strikeout upside and a pitcher who has been sharp throughout the 2021 campaign though he is facing one of baseball’s most deadly lineups in the Cincinnati Reds. From the mid-range, both German Marquez and Zack Greinke could offer sneaky upside against the Padres and Yankees, respectively, but neither pitcher approaches safety.
It is indisputable that Cole has not been the same pitcher since baseball has cracked down on the pitcher’s use of “sticky stuff” to gain a better grip and add torque and spin to pitches. The sample remains too small to pinpoint the ongoing impact that this will have on the pitcher in the long term, but it seems clear that he will have to adapt, given a significant dip in spin on several of his primary pitches since the end of May. Cole has lost over 300rpm on his slider and four-seam fastball in recent games and, while he rarely deployed a sinker, he has stopped using it altogether after it went from over 2,500 rpm to under 2,100. Cole struggled through his last two starts against the Red Sox and Mets, making short appearances in both, but striking out six in each. In three starts prior to those outings, he pitched more than six innings in all three. Cole has completed 105 innings in 17 starts, and he is still at a 33.1% strikeout rate, including the downturn. The righty walks just 4.9% of hitters, and he has a 2.89 xFIP and a 0.96 WHIP. He is inducing a 14.5% swinging-strike rate and has a 32.2% CSW% for the season. Cole allows hitters to barrel the ball 8.7% of the time, which is too often for such a high-end pitcher, as is his 40.5% hard-hit rate against. The righty allows an average exit velocity of 89.5mph and a 12.5-degree average launch angle. There is frightening home run upside in the opposing Astros lineup. This would be a bad lineup for the bad version of Cole to face. The Astros are baseball’s best team against righties by both WRC+ and strikeout rate. They create runs 19.0% better than average and have just a 19.4% strikeout rate in the split. The team has a .176 ISO and a 3.93% home run rate that are both comfortably above average against righties as well. Cole is not drawing as much attention as he normally might, given the struggles and the matchup. For $10,600 on FanDuel and $10,000 on DraftKings, he is not cheap, with between 15 and 25% of the field on the righty in a bad spot. An undercut is not out of the question.
Musgrove has had a far less impactful downturn in terms of spin, but something is going on with the righty, who has simply not been as sharp as he was earlier this season. Musgrove has faced good teams in recent outings, which could have something to do with the dip in production. Over his last five starts, he has faced the Reds twice, the Mets twice, and the Dodgers and Nationals once each. He was sharp in both outings against the Mets in terms of strikeouts, but he allowed contact and power in what were decent starts. In the following few games, the strikeout totals have declined noticeably as hitters have gotten more free passes against the righty. Whether it is attributable to facing some quality hitters or if the pitcher’s stuff has lacked function in a way that is fooling hitters less frequently, Musgrove has seen a noteworthy dip in his O-Swing% over the last few starts as well. The metric measures how frequently hitters swing at pitches outside of the strike zone. If opposing batters lay off when Musgrove is trying to induce swing and miss by deliberately working outside of the zone, it would explain both the dip in strikeouts and the spike in walks in recent outings. In a start against baseball’s worst offense in his home park that plays to pitching, this could be a major get-right spot for Musgrove. The Rockies create runs 30% worse than average against right-handed pitching this season, and they have one of the league’s worst home run rates at just 2.62%. Both safety and upside are in play with Musgrove. Of the two struggling starters, he seems like a better bet for MLB DFS upside than Cole on this slate, given the matchups.
Walker Buehler is maybe a slight step down from some of baseball’s apex aces. He works at a 25.5% strikeout rate level where some of the premium arms land in the mid-to-high 30% range. Buehler is an excellent pitcher who should absolutely be rostered in this spot, however. The righty has a 3.74 xFIP and a sparling 0.92 WHIP with just a 5.7% walk rate. The Dodgers are taking on one of baseball’s worst offenses, the Diamondbacks rank 19th in baseball with a 24.4% strikeout rate against righties, there could be a few additional whiffs on the board, and the team has just a 2.44% home run rate and a .136 ISO in the split. Arizona’s active roster creates runs 17% worse than average, this is a very strong spot for Buehler, but he will get a fair amount of attention across the industry for it.
The Reds have been one of baseball’s best teams at the plate this season. Cincinnati has a 3.88% home run rate against righties this season, and they strike out just 22.8% of the time in the split. The Reds’ active roster has a .175 collective ISO in the split, and they create runs 8% better than average. Meanwhile, Freddy Peralta has been terrific this season. The righty has a 35.4% strikeout rate over 93 innings in 16 starts this season. Peralta has a 3.61 xFIP and a 0.90 WHIP while inducing a 14.3% swinging-strike rate. The WHIP is a surprising mark when paired with his ugly 11.5% walk rate. Given the swinging strike rate but just an average 30.9% CSW% it seems that Peralta could gain if he learns to work the edges of the strike zone or begins to induce even more swing and miss outside the zone. The Reds’ active roster has an 8.8% walk rate that sits in the middle of the league, they are not the most patient team, but they have several excellent discerning hitters in their lineup. This could be a tough spot for Peralta if he issues too many free passes, and the Reds at least offer the possibility of limiting his robust strikeout upside, though Peralta projects well and ranks as the second-most likely starter to be the highest scorer of the night on the Top Pitchers Tool. Deciding what to do with public ownership that is far outpacing that probability is another story and potentially the night’s biggest inflection point.
[osBestBetsSingleGameOdds league=”mlb” date=”07/10/2021″ team=”brewers”]
St. Louis Cardinals vs Chicago Cubs
A significant chance of rain is limiting the public exposure to both sides of a game that would otherwise be drawing attention for a reasonable expectation of offense. Both teams project well for power and for MLB DFS production, assuming a dry contest that plays in full. Utilizing the Top Stacks Tool to find the best leverage position reveals that the Cardinals are trending toward one of the more likely possibilities of being the top stack while drawing far too little ownership on both DraftKings and FanDuel, making them a potential go-to if the game plays. That ownership mark could climb if the weather forecast improves heading into lock, but it is not likely to spike to unplayable levels. The Cardinals’ offense has been featured in this space several times this season. They offer major power upside as well as several hitters with a quality hit tool and speed combination. Rostering Cardinals stacks that include Dylan Carlson, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill is the obvious approach. That core represents the vast majority of the team’s power and run creation. Beyond the quartet that starts off the lineup, including Tommy Edman for his stolen base upside (16 on the year), Yadier Molina, where catchers are required, as well as the power upside of Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong makes this lineup playable from top to bottom.
[osBestBetsSingleGameOdds league=”mlb” date=”07/10/2021″ team=”cardinals”]
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are another team that is trending toward being a positive play by our Top Stack leverage metric. The team is in Seattle to face weak right-handed pitcher Chris Flexen who is unlikely to offer much resistance to Halos’ scoring. Flexen is striking out just 16.4% of opposing hitters over his 85.1 innings this season. The righty has a very good 4.9% walk rate but just a 1.25 WHIP with a 4.39 xFIP, and he induces only a 9.3% swinging strike rate with a lowly 23.3% CSW%. Flexen allows a 7.3% barreled ball rate and a 9.1-degree average launch angle that save him from his 40.3% hard-hit rate. Against a team with premium left-handed power like the Angels, Flexen could be walking into trouble, though this is also not the best version of this Angels team.
After early struggles, David Fletcher seems to have found his footing with the hit tool and on-base skills. Fletcher was excellent at getting on base to set the table for his teammates last season and is now back up to slashing .302/.330/.367 for this season. The infielder has no power to speak of. He has hit one home run in his 334 plate appearances and has just a .065 ISO while creating runs six percent worse than average. If he maintains his spot at the top of the lineup and continues his expected steady production, Fletcher should see an uptick in the run creation department, and he makes a solid play for just $2,600 on FanDuel and $2,800 on DraftKings.
Shohei Ohtani hit a ball that concerned NORAD last night. Ohtani is leading the league in home runs this season with 33, and he is slashing .279/.362/.704 with an absurd .425 ISO. The superstar has added 12 stolen bases to his Ruthian season so far, in actuality outpacing anything the Bambino did in his best two-way seasons. Ohtani costs $6,000 on the DraftKings slate, where he will still be over 20.0% owned. He is a mere $4,400 on FanDuel, and he will be around the same raw ownership total. He is playable on both sites and cannot be skipped in Angels stacks, though the appeal of the one-off play at that ownership becomes more limited.
Jared Walsh has been excellent over the first half of the season. With a healthy and productive Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon all year, this would have been a scary lineup. As it stands, Walsh is the team’s second-best option in the projected lineup. The lefty first baseman has hit 22 home runs and is slashing .282/.339/.566 with a .285 ISO, and he is creating runs 43% better than average by WRC+. Walsh is the other Angels player with major upside. He costs just $3,700 on FanDuel, where he is trending into the mid-teens in popularity. He will be less owned on DraftKings, where he costs a full $5,300. Walsh should be included in most Angels stacks. Including him with Ohtani seems obvious and chalky, but they are easily the two best hitters in this lineup, and their teammates are low-owned enough to provide a reasonable offset.
Righty Phil Gosselin slots in at first base and in the outfield on DraftKings, where he costs just $2,400 and is projected in the cleanup spot. On the FanDuel slate, Gosselin is a $2,000 second baseman, which would give him extreme value if he does land in the four spot in this lineup. Gosselin has made 123 plate appearances this season, slashing .310/.366/.442, but he has hit just three home runs and has a .133 ISO. Gosselin has crated runs 26% better than average by WRC+ over his small sample, but he is not a premium power option and is strangely cast in this spot in the batting order.
Max Stassi is drawing a bit of ownership on DraftKings with his ability to fill the catcher spot with quality. Stassi has made 127 plate appearances, and he is slashing .301/.378/.504 with six home runs and a .204 ISO. He is creating runs 45% better than average in the short portion of the season he has played to date. The righty hit eight home runs in 250 plate appearances for the Astros in 2018, which was his career-high point in the Majors, though he has several minor league seasons with double-digit dingers.
Jose Iglesias is a $4,000 low-owned shortstop on DraftKings and a $2,500 option at the same position and even less popularity on the blue site. Iglesias is a better hitter than most expect, though he does not have significant power in his bat. The righty is slashing .280/.313/.404 this season, and he has hit seven home runs, but he has just a .124 ISO and is creating runs two percent worse than average for the season. Iglesias hit 11 home runs and went .288/.318/.407 over 530 plate appearances for the Reds in 2019, his high point for power to date. The year before, the infielder stole 15 bases as a member of the Detroit Tigers, but he hit just five home runs over 464 opportunities. Iglesias can provide some hit-tool quality and flash a bit of pop from time to time. The overall upside is limited, but he is very much in play for Angels stacks this evening.
Outfielder Taylor Ward is drawing popularity on DraftKings, where he is at just a $2,200 salary. The righty costs just $300 more on FanDuel but is not nearly as popular, given other similarly low prices across the site and his eligibility at third base instead of in the outfield. Ward is at .237/.319/.414 for the season, though he has shown a bit of power with a .177 ISO and seven home runs in his 211 plate appearances. Ward is on the board to offset ownership on FanDuel, cost on DraftKings.
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Juan Lagares is more a glove man than a bat, but he is playable in the right MLB DFS spots. The outfielder costs just $2,500 on DraftKings and $2,400 on FanDuel, and he is unpopular in the eight-spot in the lineup on both sites. Lagares has hit two home runs and has just a .130 ISO in his 185 plate appearances this season, slashing .215/.239/.345 and creating runs 42% worse than average along the way. He simply does not offer much at the dish for MLB DFS purposes. He is a mix-and-match option at best.
Luis Rengifo is the infield version of Lagares. Over 81 plate appearances, he is slashing .158/.200/.250 with a .092 ISO and two home runs. This is a player who profiles far more for speed and defense than any ability at the plate. He needs to get on base more reliably to put his legs to work. He is simply a dart throw in stacks.
HR Call: Mitch Haniger — Seattle Mariners
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