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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 7/20/21

Terry McBride



MLB DFS Lineup Picks Today DraftKings FanDuel Fantasy Baseball free expert MLB betting vegas odds lines predictions home run projections Manny Machado Padres

Tuesday rolls in with a huge MLB DFS slate that features very large prize pools for reasonable entry points on both sites. The 13-game main slate is loaded with options up and down the salary spectrum both on the mound and at the plate. While the slate is somewhat lacking in apex talent on the mound, there are noteworthy opportunities throughout what is shaping up as a fascinating pitching slate. With pitching thin at the top but broad through the middle, there are only a few sure stay away spots and a few go-to opportunities for bats. A significant number of the night’s 13 games fall into more of a both sides situation that requires projections, ownership and probabilities to fully unpack. Let’s break it all down and find some of the best MLB DFS stacks 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 will not 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 the games, emphasizing finding the best stacks and top MLB DFS 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

Arizona Diamondbacks: Christian Walker — 6.66

Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman — 6.43

Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle — 11.00

Boston Red Sox: J.D. Martinez — 5.67

Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez — 9.08

Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu — 12.35

Cincinnati Reds: Jesse Winker — 3.40

Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes — 10.25

Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron — 10.93

Detroit Tigers: Jonathan Schoop — 6.05

Houston Astros: Jose Altuve — 11.46

Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy — 9.57

Miami Marlins: Garrett Cooper — 7.46

Minnesota Twins: Nelson Cruz — 6.54

New York Mets: J.D. Davis — 4.00

New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez — 9.24

Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper — 15.48

Pittsburgh Pirates: Gregory Polanco — 10.08

San Diego Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr. — 18.84

San Francisco Giants: Alex Dickerson — 15.00

Seattle Mariners: Mitch Haniger — 4.84

St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado — 14.39

Tampa Bay Rays: Austin Meadows — 13.55

Texas Rangers: Nate Lowe — 15.14

Toronto Blue Jays: George Springer — 7.08

Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman — 5.22

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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.

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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

The Tuesday slate of arms is wide through the middle but a bit thin on top. Name-brand pitching on this slate includes Aaron Nola working against the depleted Yankees in Yankee Stadium, Yu Darvish in a pickup of last night’s postponed matchup against the Braves (Darvish was covered in this space yesterday) and Trevor Rogers, who draws the Nationals. Luis Garcia of the Astros has been pitching very well through most of the season and draws a reasonable spot against the Indians, though the strikeout upside may be limited for his price. Tarik Skubal, Shane McClanahan, Dane Dunning and German Marquez all present interesting value points with warts of varying size and shape.

After Darvish, who tops the board and is covered in the link above, the field is looking to Nola in his start in the Bronx. He is priced down somewhat by comparison to the other top options, coming in at $9,500 on DraftKings and just $9,100 on the single-pitcher FanDuel slate. Nola will be highly popular on both sites, his ownership projection is north of 20% and likely to climb on the blue site, closing in on double that across town where two pitchers are required. Nola has pitched to a 3.36 xFIP and a 1.21 WHIP to start the season, striking out 29.5% of hitters and walking just 5.4% over his first 101.1 innings in 18 starts. Those are largely excellent numbers, the WHIP is inflated slightly despite the quality walk percentage, as Nola has suffered from a .331 batting average on balls in play against. This is a factor in pushing his ERA mark to the 4.53 that the public is sharp enough to ignore in this spot. Nola induces swinging strikes 13.2% of the time and has a 31.2% CSW while allowing just a 36.8% hard-hit rate and an 88.8 mph average exit velocity. He draws a Yankees lineup that has been ravaged by injuries and COVID-19 exposures. New York is fielding roughly a third of their regular lineup, if that, and the backup names are career minor leaguers or just moderate prospects, the Yankees do not have a highly regarded farm system in the near-term. The Yankees active roster has a 3.53% strikeout rate and a .148 ISO with a 24.3% strikeout rate while creating runs 6% worse than average against right-handed pitching this season, while the projected Yankees starting lineup has an in-season strikeout rate of 27.5% against both hands. This is potentially an excellent spot for Nola.

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Rogers is under-owned on both sites. He has been terrific through 101.1 innings in 18 starts. He has a 30% strikeout rate and has pitched to a 3.35 xFIP with a 1.07 WHIP that shines in spite of a higher-than-you-want 8.4% walk rate. Rogers induces a 14.9% swinging strike rate, and he has a 31.2% CSW on the season, while limiting barrels to 5.6% and allowing only a 36.7% hard-hit rate. Rogers expected slugging percentage of .337 sits in the 77th percentile, excellent standing for a young pitcher with just 25 games under his belt. Rogers will be challenged in the spot, however. The Nationals stand out for power, run creation and an ability to avoid strikeouts against lefties this season. The active roster ranks second in baseball with a 4.62% home run rate and first with a .194 ISO in the split. Washington is third-best in baseball creating runs against southpaws with a collective WRC+ 17% above average, and they are in the middle of the league with a 22.7% strikeout rate against lefties. This is not an easy matchup, but Rogers has the talent, and his hefty price tag has ownership depressed significantly on both DraftKings and FanDuel.

Garcia is expensive at $10,400 on DraftKings and $9,600 on FanDuel, but he has been solid this season. Garcia is pitching to a 4.08 xFIP over his first 85.1 frames in 15 starts this season. He has a 28% strikeout rate and an 8.4% walk rate with a 13.3% swinging strike rate and 30.7% CSW. He allows a 6.9% barrel rate and a 39% hard-hit rate that could play into a few of the Indians power bats if he is not careful, but Garcia has a .368 expected slugging percentage against that sits in the 61st percentile. Garcia draws a Cleveland lineup that has been better than average against righties this season. Cleveland has a 4.14% home run rate that is among the best in baseball, and their collective .176 ISO is near the top of the board as well. Cleveland creates runs 8% below average however, though they are a bit above par with a 23.2% strikeout rate in the split.

Dunning draws the same matchup that detonated the Kyle Gibson quality timebomb last night. The Tigers destroyed Gibson, hanging eight earned runs on him in last night’s contest. There are plenty of good reasons to go right back to this spot with Dunning, however, not the least of which is his $6,700 salary on DraftKings. Dunning does not provide significant depth in his average start, but he ranges into five-inning territory when he is going well, and he is priced for a short outing. He has a 3.57 xFIP and a 24.9% strikeout rate through 79 innings in 17 starts, inducing an 11.1% swinging strike rate and compiling a 30% CSW along the way. Dunning induces ground balls and line drives frequently, allowing just a 6.4-degree average launch angle, which saves him from the 43.8% hard-hit rate that he has yielded. The Tigers active roster remains second worst in baseball with a 26.6% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching. Dunning is a quality SP2 value play on DraftKings, his utility and upside for $7,600 on FanDuel are more in doubt.

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On the other side of the same game, Skubal will be highly owned against a Rangers projected lineup that has a surprisingly low 23.8% strikeout rate on the season. Against lefties the Rangers’ active roster has a 23.5% rate that ranks 10th worst in baseball, and they are well below average with just a 3.02% home run rate and a .140 team ISO in the split. The Rangers create runs 11% behind the average by WRC+ against southpaws so far this season, Skubal is potentially in a great spot, but he is drawing attention on both sites for his midrange pricing. Skubal has thrown 88.2 innings over 16 starts, striking out 27.1% and walking a bumpy 9.8% of opposing hitters. He has a 4.38 xFIP and a 1.38 WHIP this season, and he issues too much premium contact, coming in with a 12.9% barrel rate and a 17.3-degree average launch angle allowed. When those marks are paired with a 45.8% hard-hit rate and a 91.1 mph average exit velocity allowed, concerns around Skubal begin to grow. There is a good chance that Skubal will get through this lineup clean given their struggles to hit in the split, but the strikeout upside may be more limited than it would seem. Skubal projects well, but he appears far too highly owned for comfort in GPP plays on a slate this size.

Coors Field

The slate features two bad teams at Coors Field tonight, and with Marquez taking the hill for the Rockies, the better Mariners are pushed down the board by probability of success, leading to negative leverage. It is the Rockies that stand atop the board, just edging out other highly ranked teams on both sites. Colorado will be dramatically over-exposed on the FanDuel slate, while they are owned at about even-value on DraftKings. There are good reasons that the Rockies can succeed in an easy matchup against Marco Gonzales, who has a 5.04 xFIP with a 1.46 WHIP and just a 19.8% strikeout rate on the season. There is low enough ownership on Rockies bats, including Brendan Rodgers, Charlie Blackmon, C.J. Cron and Ryan McMahon on DraftKings that it still makes sense to get to this stack, though everyone will include those hitters alongside Garrett Hampson and Trevor Story in Rockies builds. McMahon makes an interesting one-off consideration at under 5% ownership for $5,100 on the site. All of the Rockies from Hampson through Cron in the lineup will be highly owned on FanDuel, while McMahon lands below 10% ownership, which becomes interesting on that site as well. McMahon has had more difficult this season against same-handed pitching, but for his career he actually has a stronger ISO at .215 against fellow lefties than his .186 mark against right-handed pitching; for the ownership and salary discounts McMahon could be a sneaky access point for Coors Field shares.

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San Diego Padres

The Padres were projecting incredibly well and drawing significant popularity in this same matchup on yesterday’s slate before the game was postponed. With the Tuesday slate expanding to 13 games, the Padres popularity has slipped slightly, but the matchup remains just as high-end. The Padres are facing Kyle Muller, who has pitched well through 15.2 innings, putting up a 31.3% strikeout rate in the miniscule split. Muller has yielded just a 2.8% barrel rate and a 33.3% hard-hit rate, but he has not faced enough hitters for those numbers to mean much at this point. He has induced a 16.7% swinging strike rate in the limited opportunities, which would be noteworthy if it is sustained. The Padres, meanwhile, have surprisingly been just 2% above average creating runs against lefties, and they are below average with a 3.32% home run rate and a .153 ISO in the split. San Diego is one of baseball’s better teams against southpaws with just a 21.4% strikeout rate, and their sequential hitting and base stealing skills add significant upside. With affordable pricing and reasonable ownership across most of the choice hitters in the lineup, Padres bats have upside.

Tommy Pham has had an excellent resurgence in his first half, slashing .271/.382/.431 with 10 home runs and 13 stolen bases over his 353 plate appearances. He has created runs 27% above average so far this season, a significant return to form after he landed 22% below par across just 125 plate appearances in his first season for the Padres in 2020. Pham is an excellent option to put the ball in play and get on base, at which point he frequently makes use of his speed to add MLB DFS points via stolen bases. Pham is one of several undervalued Padres on the DraftKings slate, coming in with a $3,900 price and under 10% ownership. He costs $3,200 on FanDuel and is pulling the second-highest popularity number on the team, though that is just barely over 10%.

Fernando Tatis Jr. will be popular on both sites, coming in at around 20% across the industry. Tatis is well worth the $4,300 on FanDuel and $5,700 on DraftKings, in  and rostering his popularity is justifiable. Tatis is slashing .291/.372/.649 this season and he has a monstrous .358 ISO with 28 home runs and 22 stolen bases. He was made from an MLB DFS point scoring mold that was promptly broken.

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Jake Cronenworth provides multi-position eligibility at first and second base on both sites. He is a discount play for $3,500 on FanDuel and $4,300 on DraftKings, showing his clear upside by slashing .283/.355/.476 over 401 plate appearances. Cronenworth stands 27% above average by WRC+ and has a .193 ISO with 13 home runs on the season. He is not the speediest of Padres players, but he has swiped four bags on the season. Cronenworth adds value through his limited popularity on both sites.

Manny Machado comes in at $5,300 on DraftKings but just $3,800 on the FanDuel slate, which is cheap for a slugger who has hit 16 home runs and has a .216 ISO on the season. Machado is slashing .276/.360/.492 and creating runs 28% ahead of the average by WRC+. He has even stolen nine bases this year, but the public frequently forgets him. He will be owned at well under 10% across the industry tonight, making him another great play when stacking Friars.

Trent Grisham has hit 11 home runs and stolen nine bases this season, despite missing some time. Grisham has made 283 plate appearances and is slashing .270/.357/.476 with a .206 ISO. Adding Grisham’s 28% above average WRC+ plus to the list brings this lineup to an average mark of 35% above average from one through five, making for a superstar stack for run creation purposes. Grisham comes in with just a $3,300 price tag on DraftKings and a $3,500 mark on FanDuel and he is getting ignored by the field despite not losing significant amounts of quality against fellow lefties.

Eric Hosmer is very cheap on the blue site, where he lands at a $2,800 salary. For $3,600 on DraftKings he is affordable at worst. He is slashing .273/.334/.393 on the season, with eight home runs and five stolen bases. Hosmer has just a .120 ISO and creates runs just 2% ahead of average, the lowest regular mark in this lineup outside of catchers. Hosmer has been a curious roller coaster ride of production throughout his career, flashing infrequent power that was long projected but never fully delivered upon. Since coming into the league as one of baseball’s top hitting prospects in 2011, Hosmer has racked up two seasons of 25 home runs and another with 22, with the rest landing in the mid-teens or below. He has a career .155 ISO and a .278/.336/.432 triple-slash that is somewhat in-line with what he has done in those categories this season. Hosmer’s lack of power is the primary concern, but he is rosterable for MLB DFS purposes when he is this low priced and low owned.

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Wil Myers is a power option from late in the lineup. He has hit 12 home runs in 303 plate appearances this season, slashing .258/.337/.449 with a .191 ISO this year. Myers has created runs 14% ahead of the average this season and makes for an excellent target for Padres stacks from late in the batting order. He is underpriced at $2,900 on FanDuel and affordable at $3,600 on the DraftKings slate. Myers has stolen five bases this season as well, continuing the theme that runs throughout this lineup. San Diego’s entire batting order has premium on-base skills, and they are not shy about running.

Victor Caratini rounds out the lineup for the minimum price on DraftKings and just $2,100 on FanDuel, where he is mostly an afterthought. Caratini has six home runs and two stolen bases this season in 237 plate appearances. He has just a .118 ISO and has created runs 20% behind the curve, making him the lone weak point in the Padres lineup. With most of his teammates providing ownership and salary points of their own, Caratini is not someone to go out of the way for, but he is playable in this lineup where catchers are required.

HR Call: Joey Gallo — Texas Rangers

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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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