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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 6/20/21

Terry McBride



MLB DFS picks today DraftKings MLB fantasy baseball FanDuel daily fantasy baseball lineup advice optimizer

Sunday afternoon presents two slightly differently shaped MLB DFS main slates between DraftKings and FanDuel today. Both sites are running nine-game contests. The DraftKings slate will include the seven inning Cardinals – Braves makeup that is left off of the FanDuel slate, while the blue site picks up the Coors Field game that DraftKings is skipping. This creates a major ownership bubble on one site that does not exist on the other, presenting an interesting challenge in discussing the slate as a whole. With a lack of premium arms on the table, and on a day where many of the name recognition candidates are struggling, the pitching selection on this slate is somewhat lacking in overall upside and quality, making this a day to cover a broad range of outcomes while capturing the upside of some of the top stacks on the board.

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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 who would be 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

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini — 6.73

Boston Red Sox: Hunter Renfroe — 12.67

Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez — 12.24

Chicago White Sox: Yasmani Grandal — 4.50

Cleveland Indians: Bobby Bradley — 9.83

Colorado Rockies: Trevor Story — 15.29

Houston Astros: Jose Altuve — 3.04

Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana — 4.60

Miami Marlins: Jesus Aguilar — 13.43

Milwaukee Brewers: Dan Vogelbach — 7.13

Minnesota Twins: Josh Donaldson — 6.12

New York Mets: Francisco Lindor — 12.26

New York Yankees: Aaron Judge — 12.54

Oakland Athletics: Matt Chapman — 9.70

Pittsburgh Pirates: Phillip Evans — 10.37

Texas Rangers: Adolis Garcia — 10.80

Toronto Blue Jays: Randal Grichuk — 11.23

Washington Nationals: Josh Bell — 5.99

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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.

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 game differentiation from site to site has minimal impact on the pitching slate. FanDuel players are unlikely to roster either pitcher in the Coors Field game, although Adam Wainwright is an interesting piece in his seven-inning matchup against the tough Braves lineup. Among pitchers that appear on both slates, Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi and Toronto’s Hyun Jin Ryu are interesting inexpensive options in reasonable matchups. Kenta Maeda has not been himself through the first third of the season, but he sits in a plus strikeout matchup against Texas, while Taijuan Walker will look to continue the roll he has been on in his start against the Nationals. The list of mid-range starters in spots of varying quality continues. It would be unsurprising to see Jordan Montgomery, Sean Manaea, Patrick Corbin, J.T. Brubaker, Mike Minor or Lance McCullers Jr. hit the top of the standings today, the slate is tightly packed in this range.

Walker has been extremely effective in his first season in Queens, one of the better acquisitions that the Mets have made in recent memory. Walker has a 3.84 xFIP and a 1.00 WHIP on the season. He has struck out 26.9% of hitters in 68.0 innings over his 12 starts so far in 2021. Walker is in the 58th percentile in barrel rate and the 71st percentile in expected slugging percentage, though he slips to the 39th percentile in average exit velocity against and 36th percentile in hard-hit rate. Walker sits in just the 13th percentile in chase rate but strikes out an above average amount of hitters with his fastball, slider and changeup based arsenal. He is taking on a Nationals team that ranks eighth best in baseball with a 22.7% strikeout rate in the split, but sites at just a .141 ISO and a 3.01% home run rate that are below average. The team has created runs 12.0% worse than average against righties through the season, suggesting that Walker may present a touch of safety, if not major strikeout upside. There is reason to believe in the play for $9,400 on FanDuel and the same price on the other side of town, Walker is one of the better options from the upper mid-range, which is the apex on this slate.

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Ryu is a somewhat enigmatic pitcher. He bounces between a low and mid-20s strikeout rate every other year. So far this season, Ryu is in a down year, pitching to just a 21.1% strikeout rate, down from 26.2% last season, but in-line with the 22.5% from 2019. The career numbers are somewhat informative in this case. Ryu has thrown 883.1 innings in the majors, and he has a career 22.2% rate. He has a 3.79 xFIP and a 1.13 WHIP through 76.0 innings in 13 starts, but he will also be facing an underrated Orioles offense that crackles against lefties. The Baltimore active roster has baseball’s sixth-best strikeout rate against southpaws, coming in at 21.4%. The Orioles have a 4.04% home run rate and a .179 ISO in the split, they sit third-best in the league creating runs against left-handed pitching this season. Ryu is not safe in this matchup, but he is in position to provide a level start, which could be enough on a slate like this one.

Eovaldi has completed 79.0 innings in 14 starts this season, which in other years would be an accomplishment by itself. He has made 30 starts in a season just once in his career, in 2014 with Miami. Since that 33-start season, he has only cracked 25 starts once, reached 21 starts twice and has made just 12, nine and 14 starts the last three seasons. Eovaldi pitches effectively when he is healthy, working his electric 97mph average velocity fastball to its utmost. Eovaldi is sometimes miscast for his MLB DFS quality, but on this slate he is clearly a leading option. He has a 22.3% strikeout rate and a 3.70 xFIP with a 1.23 WHIP so far in 2021. He sits in the 63rd percentile in average exit velocity against, the 71st percentile in hard-hit rate and the 79th percentile in barrel rate. Eovaldi is facing a Royals team that is tough on righties for strikeouts, Kansas City is sixth-best in baseball with a 22.2% strikeout rate. They have struggled with power and run creation in the split however, Kanas City has just a 2.86% home run rate and a .144 ISO in the split, creating runs 10.0% worse than average. Eovaldi is another starter who is not likely to be entirely safe, and the strikeout upside is limited, but he is projecting as one of the better available options amid a bland crowd.

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The Athletics – Yankees game is a duel of southpaws, Oakland’s Sean Manaea has a 23.1% strikeout rate and a 3.82 xFIP with a 1.23 WHIP this season, completing 81.1 innings over 14 starts. On the other side, Montgomery has put up a 23.6% strikeout rate, a 3.96 xFIP and a 1.19 WHIP in 70.2 innings over 13 starts. They are operating at very similar levels, though Manaea has provided more reliable depth of start, which could be a difference maker. Both starters are, of course, pitching in the same hitting-friendly environment in the Bronx, and both are facing teams loaded with power. Manaea draws a Yankees squad that has a 4.44% home run rate and creates runs 2% higher than average against southpaws this season. The Athletics, meanwhile, strikeout less and hit better for power in the split. Oakland’s active roster has a .183 ISO and creates runs 13.0% better than average, with a slightly lower home run rate than their opponents at 4.10%. Either starter, or even both starters, could get blown out of the water today, but there is enough apparent upside from a talent perspective that both belong in lineups and deserve consideration.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are exploding in MLB DFS projections and likely in popularity on this slate as well. Toronto is taking on one of the league’s more targetable pitchers, Baltimore’s Matt Harvey. He has struggled through this season and most of his opportunities in recent memory. Harvey has a 17.6% strikeout rate over his 58.0 innings in 14 starts this season. He has pitched to a 4.79 xFIP and a 1.72 WHIP, inducing just 8.2% swinging strikes and compiling a lowly 24.9% CSW. Harvey sits in the 47th percentile in hard-hit rate allowed, the 33rd percentile in average exit velocity, 45th in barrel rate and just the 9th percentile in expected slugging percentage against. There is major opportunity for power for the excellent young Toronto bats. All of Marcus Semien, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Randal Grichuk, Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel should be owned heavily, while Rowdy Tellez make an interesting mix-in for some sneakier power upside.

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Miami Marlins

The Marlins are perhaps a more off-the-radar option today, which could be important for tournament play across the industry. Make no mistake, the lineup grades out as one of the worst in baseball this season, this is not a safe go-to play, for that see the previous section focusing on the Blue Jays. The Marlins are taking on the Cubs in Chicago in an afternoon game and they are pulling in solid marks in the home run model and reasonably good MLB DFS projections through the first portion of the lineup. Miami is facing Cubs righty Alec Mills, a contact and ground ball pitcher who has just a 16.5% strikeout rate on the season. Mills has a 53.9% ground-ball rate this season, 5 percentage points higher than he has been over each of the three most recent seasons and even further separated from years prior. He is in the 88th percentile in barrel rate, the 71st percentile in hard-hit rate and the 72nd percentile in average exit velocity against. In 2020, Mills was in the 35th percentile in hard-hit rate and 23rd in barrel rate as well as the 20th in expected slugging percentage against, compared to his 55th percentile mark this season. He is not a highly targetable mess like other pitchers on this slate, but there is enough meat on the bone to put the Marlins bats in play at their pricing and popularity.

Leadoff man Jazz Chisholm is a $3,200 option at either second base or shortstop on the FanDuel slate and is only a shortstop on DraftKings where he costs $3,800. Chisholm has a solid mix of power and speed and is a highly regarded young player. He has made 198 plate appearances as a rookie this year, putting up a .264/.333/.449 slash with a .185 ISO and eight home runs. He has added 10 stolen bases to his total and has a WRC+ 21.0% above average. For the cost and spot in the lineup this is an easy starting point for Marlins stacks.

Outfielder Starling Marte is perhaps the biggest name on this year’s version of the Marlins, and also the player most likely to not finish the season with the team. Marte is in the trade showcase for the Fish, if they can flip him for assets prior to the deadline they certainly will. He has done his part in his limited 150 plate appearances so far, slashing .320/.427/.512 with five home runs and 10 stolen bases. Marte has a healthy .192 ISO and has created runs 64.0% better than average this season. He costs just $4,200 on the DraftKings slate which does not align with how that site prices players with numbers like these for the most part. On FanDuel, Marte is a $4,300 option, the hope is that this price keeps public exposure light.

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Jesus Aguilar has hit 12 home runs in 267 plate appearances this season. He has a .205 ISO and has created runs 19.0% better than average through the season so far. Aguilar is slashing .265/.330/.470 and strikes out at just a 17.2% rate on the season. Aguilar puts all of his massive frame into swings and sits in the 83rd percentile of expected slugging percentage this season. The quality is clear, and the cost is low. Aguilar is mysteriously $2,700 on FanDuel and just $3,800 on DraftKings.

Adam Duvall is priced in the mid-range, coming in at $3,500 on DraftKings and $3,300 on the FanDuel slate. This makes him easy to stack with fellow Marlins, or to use as a one-off for right-handed power upside in a pinch. Duvall has hit 16 home runs in his 235 plate appearances, though he has just a .220/.268/.477 slash that leaves something to be desired in the hitting and on-base department. Duvall crushes pitches he makes contact with and has a .257 ISO on the season, despite the struggles getting on base or hitting for average, the outfielder has still created runs 5% better than average.

[osBestBetsSingleGameOdds league=”mlb” date=”06/20/2021″ team=”marlins”]

Miguel Rojas mans shortstop for just $2,500 on the blue site today. The price is different on DraftKings where he lands at $3,600 but remains affordable. Rojas has hit three home runs in his 202 plate appearances but has done well with run creation, coming in 17.0% above average. He has a .265/.342/.420 slash and has stolen four bases this season, adding to his MLB DFS appeal. However, he is in just the 31st percentile in hard-hit rate, the 22nd of average exit velocity and the 5th percentile in barrel rate, though he constantly puts the ball in play; Rojas has just a 14.9% strikeout rate on the season. He is a mix and match option from the middle of the Marlins lineup.

Rookie Jesus Sanchez is a name that MLB DFS players will learn as he catches on. For now, Sanchez costs just $2,100 on the FanDuel slate and the dead minimum $2,000 on DraftKings. Sanchez has made just 18 plate appearances this season, hitting one home run in the sample. He has tantalized scouts with his raw power, drawing 70 grades in traditional scouting, though it has yet to translate to games at the professional level before this season. So far in 2021, Sanchez has made 140 plate appearances in Triple-A and has hit nine home runs with a .295 ISO, earning his way to Miami. He has upside, but whether the development arrow points up or down this afternoon could be the difference maker.

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Catcher Jorge Alfaro is an inexpensive option behind the plate, particularly for just $2,600 where catchers are required on DraftKings. Alfaro has made 106 plate appearances and has hit two home runs this season, slashing .276/.330/.378 and creating runs 4% better than average. Alfaro is another Marlins bat with monstrous power waiting to emerge. He hit 18 home runs and posted a .262/.312/.426 slash 465 plate appearances in 2019 and is another player who has drawn 70-grade raw power marks in traditional scouting.

Infielder Jon Berti has second base and third base eligibility on both sites and costs just $3,200 on DraftKings and $700 less on FanDuel. Berti is slashing just .226/.332/.341 and has three home runs with four stolen bases on the season. More an afterthought than a go-to from this position in the lineup, Berti is not entirely off the board, and he has enough skill to turn the lineup over. This is more of a last man in on a stack, particularly when sacrificing a plate appearance to get an eight hitter, but he is not entirely lacking in quality or correlation with some of the stronger options in the lineup.

HR Call: Adam Duvall — Miami Marlins

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 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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