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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 6/30/21

Terry McBride



Awesemo's free expert MLB DFS live show with fantasy baseball news, picks and projections for DraftKings and FanDuel lineups today 9/25.

The midweek slate of MLB DFS action brings us a manageable nine-game affair that seems ripe with inflated game totals and excellent opportunities for major scoring. Despite all the great looking spots for offense, the slate is not without viable pitching options, with quality at the apex and throughout the mid-range. There are even several viable discount options on the mound today, though roster construction begins to get very specific around the best bats and cheap arms. Finding the ideal blend will, as always, be the primary challenge for MLB DFS gamers on DraftKings and FanDuel this evening.

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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.

Be sure to catch the MLB DFS Deeper Dive & Live Before Lock, where we will review all of the games, emphasizing finding the best stacks and top picks for DraftKings and FanDuel fantasy baseball lineups.

Home Run Ratings

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

Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr. — 11.55

Baltimore Orioles: Anthony Santander — 7.56

Boston Red Sox: J.D. Martinez — 13.18

Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu — 11.57

Cincinnati Reds: Tyler Naquin — 6.37

Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker — 11.04

Kansas City Royals: Jorge Soler — 8.61

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 15.66

Miami Marlins: Jazz Chisholm — 7.60

Minnesota Twins: Josh Donaldson — 10.42

New York Mets: Pete Alonso — 6.43

New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez — 6.16

Oakland Athletics: Ramon Laureano — 7.19

Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper — 12.98

San Diego Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr. — 18.66

Seattle Mariners: Ty France — 10.05

Texas Rangers: Adolis Garcia — 6.58

Toronto Blue Jays: George Springer — 7.05

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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 Wednesday slate ramps up with a broad range of quality pitching options. With a strong top-end and a wide middle, there are a wealth of choices at both pitching spots for DraftKings players, while FanDuel gamers will have a few lower owned options from which to choose. The slate is topped by good pitchers in premium matchups with Aaron Nola taking on the Marlins, Chris Bassitt drawing the Rangers, and Luis Garcia facing the Orioles. Underrated and underpriced Joe Musgrove continues rolling along, though his matchup against the Reds is not the greatest spot to attack. Similarly, Shohei Ohtani seems a safe bet to cruise to a good start against the Yankees, but there is always the threat of a power outburst, particularly when playing in the Bronx. Additional considerations through the midrange in matchups of varying quality are Dylan Cease, Max Fried, Steven Matz, David Peterson and Mike Minor.

Of the top options, Nola stands out for his matchup against the Marlins. After an excellent start that saw him tie Tom Seaver’s consecutive strikeouts record the last time out, Nola lands at the top of the board in a plus spot once again. He has been on point through his 16 starts this season, compiling a 3.46 xFIP and a 1.18 WHIP over his first 90.2 innings. He is inducing 13% swinging strikes and has a 30.6% CSW while allowing just a 37.4% hard hit rate and an average exit velocity of 88.8 mph, sitting in the 60th and 50th percentile, respectively. Nola has an excellent walk rate of just 5.8% and is in the 89th percentile in chase rate and 67th percentile with a 6.6% barrel rate. Nola is facing a Marlins lineup that sits seventh-worst in baseball with a 25.2% strikeout rate against righties. Miami has just a .134 team ISO and a 2.87% home run rate in the split, well below league average, and the team struggles to create runs, coming in at 12% below average by WRC+. Nola is priced up to $11,000 on FanDuel and $10,200 on DraftKings and he is still drawing significant, and deserved, ownership on both sites. He makes a terrific play despite the chalk.

Oakland’s Chris Bassitt has been sharp through his first 99.2 innings this season. He has emerged as a high-end starter for the Athletics over 16 starts this year, pitching to a 3.93 xFIP and a 1.06 WHIP with a 25% strikeout rate. While not quite the top-end of all arms, Bassitt has provided reliable upside, including in depth of start and probability of a win and quality-start bonus. He sits in the 81st percentile of hard-hit rate, the 73rd percentile of average exit velocity allowed, the 79th in barrel rate against and the 76th in expected slugging percentage. While the strikeouts are a notch below some of the top-end aces, Bassitt has an excellent ability to avoid free passes and miss barrels, a dynamite combination for any pitcher. He draws a Rangers team that is ninth-worst in baseball with a 25% strikeout rate against righties. They have just a .153 team ISO and a 3.60% home run rate while creating runs 10% below average in the split. This is not a good offense, though the home run rate ranks around the league average against right-handed pitchers. There is reasonable expectation of an excellent start from Bassitt yet again and appears slightly underpriced on FanDuel when compared to other top options. For the $10,500 on DraftKings, Bassitt is an interesting play given the mid-range public ownership. There is a strong chance he will become a significant inflection point for the slate if Nola falters against the Marlins.

Garcia offers a terrific chance at a win, pitching at the head of an Astros offense that is facing the ghost of Matt Harvey. Garcia offers solid upside in his start against the Orioles as well. Baltimore’s active roster sits in the middle of the league with a 24.6% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season, while Garcia is pitching to a 27.4% strikeout rate and a 4.07 xFIP and inducing a 12.9% swinging strike rate. He has been excellent with a 1.10 WHIP, a 7.7% walk rate and a 30.6% CSW in his first 76.1 innings and 13 starts. His average depth of start has trended upward as the season moves along, lending credence to the idea of both the win and quality-start bonuses where applicable. The Orioles are creating runs 14% below average this season by WRC+ against righties, though the team has league-average power in the split with a 3.38% home run rate and a .159 ISO. Garcia is expensive at $10,500 on FanDuel and a fair $9,900 on DraftKings. He will be under-owned for the spot tonight and offers a prime opportunity as a pay-up to be contrarian option across the industry.

Ohtani would be a more fun play if his hitting stats counted for another night in Yankee Stadium. Taking the hill against New York’s offense in that ballpark renders him a bit more of a puzzle, though the discounted $8,700 price on DraftKings and $9,500 on FanDuel, with not much ownership to speak of on either site, helps solve the equation to a degree. Ohtani has completed 59.1 innings on the mound over his 11 starts this season, his depth of start is not among the league’s most reliable, which leads to the pricing discount. However, Ohtani has completed 6.0 innings in four of his last five starts, and he went 5.0 innings in the fifth start in the sample, so the concern has been somewhat tempered. Ohtani has a 33.1% strikeout rate and a 3.33 xFIP with a 1.18 WHIP. His 12.5% walk rate is concerning, but he induces 14.3% swinging strikes and allows just a 6.9% barrel rate with a 10.9-degree average launch angle. When he puts men on via the free pass, he tends to not get bit by power from follow up hitters. Ohtani faces a Yankees team that is struggling to stay above league average. New York creates runs just 2% better than the league average against righties and has a 3.83% home run rate that ranks 13th among 30 teams, their .158 team ISO sits 17th, and their 24.6% strikeout rate ranks 19th. Ohtani is in a strong spot, though there is always a threat when facing the Yankees lineup in Yankee Stadium’s power-friendly environment.

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Our Awesemo MLB DFS Top Pitchers Tool gives you the probabilities that each pitcher will be one of the highest-scoring options of the night. On DraftKings where you get two pitchers, we give the odds of a pitcher being one of the Top 2. The top pitcher percentage is defined as overall points and the value by top points per dollar, according to their respective salaries.

Dylan Cease comes in cheaper than Joe Musgrove from site to site and he stands a chance of delivering similar upside, though both pitchers are in difficult spots with Cease taking on the Twins and Musgrove facing the Reds. In addition to the salary discount, Cease is pulling in just a 5.4% ownership projection on FanDuel and merely a 2.3% mark on DraftKings where he is priced up at $9,700, an unfair but exploitable mark for this spot in GPP play. Cease has been solid over 75.2 innings this season, pitching to a 3.98 xFIP and a 29.2% strikeout rate, though his 1.31 WHIP could stand to be improved. Cease is still learning to fully control and command his excellent arsenal of pitches as evidenced by a 14.9% swinging strike rate but just a 29.5% CSW. He has worked his way through some dangerous contact, allowing a 9.2% barreled ball rate and an 18.2-degree average launch angle but juts a 32.7% hard hit rate and an 88.2mph average exit velocity on the season. The barrel rate ranks in the 31st percentile, and the launch angle approaches prime home run territory, but the hard-hit rate is in the 72nd percentile and the exit velocity the 62nd, while Cease sits in the 80th percentile with a .293 expected slugging percentage against. The challenge for Cease today will come in the form of a power-packed Twins team that sits fifth-best in baseball with a 4.21% home run rate against righties. The Twins pile on with a .184 team ISO and create runs 3% better than average while capping strikeouts with a team rate of just 22.8% in the split, 10th best in the game. Cease is simply not yet an efficient pitcher and is prone to short outings, but for the comparative cost and easy to exceed public ownership.

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Houston Astros & Toronto Blue Jays

It came up on yesterday’s MLB Live Before Lock that people seem to be tiring of rostering expensive Astros and Blue Jays bats, with one or the other typically highly ranked and positively leveraged across the industry. On tonight’s slate, the Blue Jays rank atop the board on both sites and draw positive leverage on DraftKings and at worst appropriate ownership on FanDuel for their matchup against Justus Sheffield, who is striking out just 17.2% of hitters this season and has a 1.66 WHIP only an 8.9% swinging strike rate while allowing a whopping 11.5% barrel rate. Sheffield has kept the ball down somewhat, his only saving grace is a 9.7-degree average launch angle that results more in line drives than home runs. The Blue Jays are a power packed bunch designed to elevate the ball and hit home runs up and down the lineup, this is a strong spot and there are clear ways to utilize individual player ownership to string low-owned stacks together. The Astros are in a similar situation, though they have positive leverage on the blue site as well as on DraftKings. The Astros are facing the inflatable punching bag clown with a round bottom who always stands back up no matter how hard you hit him that used to call itself Matt Harvey. The Astros are profiling for major power and MLB DFS points upside and the ownership is trending too low. They are difficult to afford with a full stack and the very best of pitching, but there are enough value plays available to make this viable as an approach. Putting these two teams together as full stacks would be a nifty trick for GPP play.

[osBestBetsSingleGameOdds league=”mlb” date=”06/30/2021″ team=”astros”]

Kansas City Royals

Parsing the Top Stacks Tool from site to site in hunting for a team that is highly ranked and positively leveraged on both sites is proving a major challenge today, given the entirely different shapes that the MLB DFS slate takes across the industry tonight. The Royals stand out as a team that ranks as one of the more likely to succeed while not pulling in as massive an ownership share as comparatively ranked squads, though they are not at positive leverage on either site. Depending on where one enters contests there are stronger plays to gain edge over the field, on FanDuel the Angels are in a prime spot hitting in Yankee Stadium against a weak right-handed pitcher, and they have low ownership. On DraftKings, in addition to the Blue Jays and Astros, the Yankees appear to be headed for significantly under-owned shares. Still, the Royals are a quality stack on which to focus across both sites.

Kansas City is facing Martin Perez in Fenway Park, a hitter’s park that plays into everything the Royals do well. Perez has been a below-average pitcher, turning in a 4.65 xFIP and a 1.44 WHIP with just a 19.3% strikeout rate this season over 70.1 innings and 15 starts. He sits in just the 35th percentile in hard-hit rate, the 48th in average exit velocity and the 29th in expected slugging percentage, though his barrel rate lands at the league average. Perez induces very little swing and miss; with just a fourth-percentile whiff rate and a 15th-percentile chase rate, he lands at a 7.6% swinging strike rate. For their part, the Royals have not been overly strong against southpaws this season. Kansas City has a below average 3.25% home run rate and a .145 ISO while creating runs 9% below average in the split this season, though they strike out at just a 21.6% rate in the split and continually put balls in play. The Royals seem like a prime target for stacks tonight, their ownership is at worse mid-range, and they have a number of highly affordable bats from site to site.

Whit Merrifield is slashing .287/.336/.435 on the season and has stolen 22 bases in his 342 plate appearances. Merrifield has has hit eight home runs on the year but has a middling .148 ISO, though he creates runs 9% better than average. For just $3,500 on FanDuel and at less than 10% ownership he is a strong place to start a Royals stack, at a pricey $5,700 on DraftKings he is drawing essentially no ownership, adding to the appeal.

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Jorge Soler lands in the two hole in the confirmed lineup. Given that spot in the batting order, he has major upside despite his ongoing struggles. Soler has hit just six home runs this season and he has a .134 ISO, a far cry from the titan who blasted 48 long balls in 679 plate appearance with a gigantic .304 ISO in 2019. Soler is not helping his cause by slashing .181/.280/.315 for the season, numbers that would also defy this placement in the batting order. For just $3,000 on FanDuel and $3,500 on DraftKings, Soler should be in more Royals lineups than not.

Carlos Santana hits from both sides of the plate and slots in at first base for low ownership on both sites. At $4,300 on DraftKings he is projected below 10% public popularity, his $3,700 price tag on FanDuel has him almost unowned. Santana is slashing .243/.366/.412 with 13 home runs and a .169 ISO on the year. He is creating runs 15% better than average by WRC+, making it odd that the field is largely deciding to skip him when hitting third in the batting order. Santana is striking out just 14.5% of the time and walking at a 15.7% clip this season, his career marks are 16.4% and 15.5%, respectively, and he has significant power upside with a career .196 ISO. Santana is just one year removed from a 34-homer campaign across 158 games for the 2019 Indians. Though he hits for more power against right-handed pitching, he is actually a better overall hitter and creator of runs against southpaws for his career.

Salvador Perez is the best MLB DFS catcher. He is slashing a robust .272/.301/.498 with a .226 ISO and creating runs 13% better than average on the season. Perez has hit 18 home runs in 319 plate appearances this year and has eyes on his career high mark of 27, a number he reached in both 2017 and 2018 before missing all of the 2019 season. Perez roared back with 11 home runs in just 156 plate appearances in the limited 2020 season, dialing up a .300 ISO and a terrific .333/.353/.633 slash across the pandemic-shortened year. He will be popular on both sites, but not untenably so.

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Hunter Dozier hits fifth and provides multi-position eligibility on both sites. On DraftKings he is the most popular Royals hitter, given a $3,000 salary and eligibility at first base and in the outfield. Dozier costs just $2,500 on FanDuel and plays third base in addition to the outfield. He will be popular on that site as well, but less so by comparison. Dozier is slashing just .163/.231/.335 on the season and he has hit seven home runs in his 234 plate appearances. He has compiled a .172 ISO and is creating runs 47% worse than the league average by WRC+. He did hit 26 home runs in his 586 plate appearances in 2019, but his struggles make him an option for an undercut to the large shares of public ownership. Given the spot in the batting order and the track record, there are reasons to include some mix of Dozier, but trailing the field is not the worst idea.

Ryan O’Hearn hits from the left side of the plate and suffers mightily in platoon splits for the matchup. O’Hearn is a .226/.312/.449 hitter with a .224 ISO against right-handed pitching for his short career. He is slashing just .168/.240/.274 with a .106 ISO against fellow southpaws. This is a potential hole in the Royals lineup until they chase Perez. For this season, O’Hearn has made 11 plate appearances against lefties, striking out five times and compiling no extra base hits, a perfect “Dean Wormer” ISO of 0.0. Playing the bullpen game gets O’Hearn a bit of upside, given all the righties in the Royals lineup it is extremely likely that he will see multiple chances to shine against the opposite hand later in the game. Rostering O’Hearn means potentially sacrificing two plate appearances on the front-end, a tough ask but a playable one. Overall for the year, O’Hearn has a .221 ISO and has hit six home runs in just 90 plate appearances.

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The name recognition factor is low on Edward Olivares, which could play perfectly for MLB DFS purposes. Olivares comes in with just 24 plate appearances this season over which he is slashing .261/.292/.261, but he has upside. Olivares saw 551 plate appearances in Double-A for San Diego in 2019, hitting 18 home runs and stole 35 bases. In 2018 he hit 12 long balls and stole 21 bags at high-A for the Padres organization. In Triple-A this year he slashed .366/.433/.597 with a .231 ISO, eight home runs and 11 stolen bases. He comes in at minimum price on FanDuel and just $2,300 on DraftKings and he will be low-owned, making him an absolutely ideal GPP play from later in the lineup.

[osBestBetsSingleGameOdds league=”mlb” date=”06/30/2021″ team=”royals”]

Outfielder Michael A. Taylor has hit seven home runs in 258 plate appearances this season. He is slashing .239/.295/.357 with just a .118 ISO in the sample while creating runs 21% worse than average. Taylor is largely an afterthought and a salary offset, though he does provide slate-relevant upside from time to time given the modest power and the reasonable speed upside. Taylor has stolen five bases this season and has broken slates in the past.

Infielder Hanser Alberto is not overly likely to surprise anyone with a standout performance tonight. For MLB DFS purposes he is merely a low-end mix-in for no significant investment. He can help round off a full stack for a cheap price with his second base and shortstop eligibility on DraftKings and his third and second base positioning on FanDuel.

HR Call: Jared Walsh — Los Angeles Angels

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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