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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 9/15/21

Terry McBride

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MLB DFS lineup picks today DraftKings FanDuel optimal optimizer free expert rankings projections ownership home run predictions power rankings yankees astros white sox A's Blue Jays yahoo espn cbs fantasy baseball

Wednesday features a highly interesting 10-game MLB DFS slate on both sites. A deep pitching board that lacks true apex options should force roster construction in many different directions rather than focusing the entire slate squarely on a few value stacks. Getting to a diverse portfolio of pitchers while focusing on the highly ranked stacks is a strong approach to this slate. There are several targetable pitchers who are not creating the opposing ownership bubbles that they should be. Using the Awesemo expert projections, we can get a good sense on where the best MLB DFS stacks opportunities are when building DraftKings and FanDuel lineups today.

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 each team one of the top choices. However, it will not always be the absolute top-ranked player, particularly when there is an obvious star in that spot every day.

Home Run Ratings

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

Arizona Diamondbacks: Ketel Marte — 5.65

Atlanta Braves: Jorge Soler — 7.72

Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle — 12.25

Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ — 5.20

Chicago White Sox: Eloy Jimenez — 14.80

Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes — 22.26

Colorado Rockies: Trevor Story — 9.08

Houston Astros: Carlos Correa — 14.81

Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana — 6.23

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 9.25

Los Angeles Dodgers: Justin Turner — 7.26

Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano — 6.96

New York Mets: Francisco Lindor — 10.86

New York Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton — 22.41

Oakland Athletics: Matt Chapman — 10.05

Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper — 11.64

San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 10.92

San Francisco Giants: Kris Bryant — 5.53

St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado — 8.22

Texas Rangers: Nate Lowe — 8.47

Power Index

This is intended to capture the full range of home run 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 lineup picks today DraftKings FanDuel optimal optimizer free expert rankings projections ownership home run predictions power rankings yankees astros white sox A's Blue Jays yahoo espn cbs fantasy baseball

MLB DFS Picks: 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 Awesemo Ownership Projections for critical updates and monitor the top stacks tool throughout the day for changes.

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On the Hill

Wednesday’s slate brings a solid mid-range and a low peak to the mound, with Julio Urias standing as the top starter in the site’s Top Pitcher Tool and my own projections. Urias leads the field on both sites and is efficiently owned but will cost far more than any other starter on the slate. Joe Musgrove draws a tough opponent in facing the Giants, but there is strikeout upside in their powerful lineup and the starter has been solid through most of the season. The broad middle features a number of playable options at low salaries, Huascar Ynoa is cheap for his matchup against the Rockies, Nestor Cortes has positive leverage and a low salary, and is facing the Orioles, though they have been an above-average offense against lefties this year. Sean Manaea is not discounted, but he has been excellent through most of the season and is in a quality spot against the Royals, while young Ranger Suarez draws the lowly Cubs but also a lot of popularity. There are additional playable options beyond those starters as well, Tylor Megill, Jose Urquidy, Mike Minor, and Cal Quantrill could all make noise on this slate.

Urias has a 26.7% strikeout rate over 163.1 innings in 28 starts. He has walked just 5% of hitters this season and has a strong 1.03 WHIP with a 3.67 xFIP. Urias induces an 11.7% swinging-strike rate and has compiled a 30.3% CSW. He has yielded a 5.9% barrel rate and just a 29.7% hard-hit percentage on the season, it is very difficult to drive the ball against him and, consequently, it is very difficult to create runs, given how adept he has been at keeping runners off of the bases. Urias is facing an Arizona active roster that has been surprisingly steady against lefties this season. The Diamondbacks have a .178 collective ISO in the split and they strike out just 21.5% of the time. They have lacked power, coming in at just a 3.09% home run rate, their lone below-average mark on our board. The team has created runs 8% better than the league average against southpaws this year, surprising upside from a team typically seen as a bottom-feeder. Urias is the most likely starter to have a big night, but there are at least tangible reasons to look in other directions with some lineup shares, given the price and popularity of the pitcher.

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Megill comes in at a low $7,800 on the FanDuel slate, where he is projected to be the pitcher in a full third of all lineups. He is priced at $9,200 on DraftKings, where he will still land in around 30% of the field’s constructions. Megill has a 27.2% strikeout rate over 77.2 innings in 15 starts, while walking just 6.2%. He has pitched to a 3.76 xFIP and has a 1.20 WHIP while inducing a 12.6% swinging-strike rate, but he has compiled just a 27.7% CSW and allows a steady amount of premium contact. Megill has yielded an 8.9% barrel rate and 41.3% hard-hit percentage with a 14.1-degree average launch angle that leans into the potential for home runs. He has allowed 15 home runs to 323 hitters, a 4.64% home run rate that translates to a bumpy 1.74 HR/9. The opposing Cardinals have several things going for them, despite clearly underperforming in the split for most of the season. The first is the presence of several true home run hitters in their lineup. That might not be enough to have a full five-man Cardinals stack connect, but two long balls from bats like Tyler O’Neill and Nolan Arenado could be enough to ruin the days of Megill and at least 30% of MLB DFS gamers. In the full team numbers, however, the active roster has hit home runs at just a 3.29% rate against righties and has a .150 ISO and creating runs 10% worse than average. The Cardinals have just a 22.2% rate in the split, the sixth-best mark in baseball. Between the potential for a score-bending home run or two, plus the ability to limit strikeouts, Megill’s ownership is concerning for tournament play. Particularly where he is not at a salary discount, an undercut to the field seems in order. The value consideration on FanDuel is significant, but the pitcher will be owned at a rate roughly four times his probability of being the top option on the blue site.

Urquidy, on the other hand, will be extremely unpopular on both sites. He has a hefty $10,000 salary on DraftKings that is suppressing his ownership into the low single-digits. Urquidy costs just $8,700 on the FanDuel slate, but no one seems to have noticed, his ownership is projected for just 3%. He has just a 21.4% rate on the season, but he is typically somewhat safe. Urquidy has walked just 4.8% of hitters in his 84.2 innings this season, a 95th-percentile mark in all of baseball, and he yields just a 33.6% hard-hit rate. He has a 4.40 xFIP on the season, but a 3.51 ERA and a 3.64 xERA that sits in the 70th percentile. He had a 24% rate in a 41-inning stint in 2019 and was at a 32.1% rate in Triple-A that season. He draws a Texas team that sits 15th in baseball with a 23.2% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season. The Rangers are powerless and bad beyond that, they have just a .145 collective ISO and a 3.13% home run rate in the split, and they have created runs 16% worse than league average this season. Urquidy may not have moonshot upside, but he seems highly likely to put up a strong slate-relevant start. If a few of the more popular options fall apart and he simply has a good start in this spot, it could easily be enough.

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Suarez has a 25% strikeout rate over 78 innings this season, though that mark drops to 23.4% in his eight appearances as a starter. In that sample, Suarez has a 3.79 xFIP and a concerning 10.4% walk rate, but he is yet to allow a home run and has a sparkling 1.67 ERA that draws the casual eye. His 2.5% barrel rate is a 98th-percentile mark. He has just a .277 expected slugging percentage that is in the 96th percentile, and while his 2.80 xERA is significantly higher than his actual mark, it still lands in the 92nd percentile in all of baseball. Suarez has yielded just a 30% hard-hit percentage on a three-degree average launch angle. Facing a Cubs team that has a 25.3% strikeout rate against lefties that ranks third from the bottom in baseball, Suarez could have significant upside. Chicago has a quality 4.02% home run rate and a .171 ISO in the split, but the starter should be able to limit their upside in that department, and the team creates runs 5% worse than average against southpaws. The primary issue with this play is that Suarez is cheap on DraftKings, coming in at a ridiculous $7,200 that is a tractor beam for nearly half the field’s ownership at SP2. On FanDuel he costs $8,800 and will be owned in the low double-digits.

Manaea is one of the leading strikeout options on the board, with a 26.6% rate over the course of the season. He will be facing a stingy Royals lineup that has just an 18.9% strikeout rate against lefties across the active roster. The team is below average for power and run creation in the split, however, and they seem targetable with a starter of Manaea’s quality. The Royals have just a .148 ISO and a 3.20% home run rate in the split and they create runs 3% worse than average. Manaea has thrown 156.2 innings in 28 starts and has a 3.54 xFIP. He has walked just 5.6% of opposing hitters but has a 1.21 WHIP. He has given up a 7.8% barrel rate and a 41.6% hard-hit percentage on the season, but his ability to pitch out of trouble and generate swing-and-miss should play safely against a team that lacks significant power upside. Manaea will be under-owned at less than 10% popularity across the industry.

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New York Yankees

The Bronx Bombers are right back where they were yesterday, with massive upside for home run power and run scoring in another game in Baltimore. The team is facing lefty John Means and they are leading both my power index for home runs and the site’s Top Stacks Tool once again on this slate. The Yankees will be slightly lower-owned this evening, they are still negatively leveraged on the DraftKings slate and are about even on FanDuel, but there are several inefficiently owned individuals in the lineup. Anthony Rizzo was a standout for a lack of public ownership caused by a misperceived lack of lefty-lefty quality in yesterday’s game, this time Joey Gallo joins him in that camp. They are the only Yankees slated for single-digit ownership on DraftKings, and they are both priced down to $4,300, making them a dynamite pairing. On the blue site, Rizzo’s ownership is cratering for a $3,800 salary, while Gallo’s climbs at a discounted $3,000. Other low-owned Yankees join the fun on the site, with D.J. LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, and Gio Urshela all pulling single-digit ownership projections on the site. They are pulling mid-range popularity that is playable in combinations with the lower-owned core. Means is a starter who has had uncanny luck on balls in play throughout his entire career. This season he comes in with a 4.44 xFIP and a 22.7% strikeout rate. He also allows a significant 10.2% barrel rate at a 20.8-degree average launch angle, which is ideal for home run hitting. The chalky Yankees are clearly a major inflection point on this slate, getting ahead of the field where possible is likely to be worthwhile.

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are another chalky squad on this slate, more so on DraftKings than on FanDuel. The team will be facing righty Janson Junk, who is largely here to fill space and take a beating. Junk’s minor league strikeout rate peaked this season, landing at a 26.8% mark, but that came at age 25 pitching in Double-A. In his 3.2 innings at the major league level Junk allowed six hits, two home runs and one walk and struck out two while yielding five runs, though only one was counted as an earned run. The White Sox project for massive quality on this slate. On the blue site, everyone on the team other than Eloy Jimenez is projected for single-digit ownership. On DraftKings, the top five hitters in the lineup are inexplicably low-priced and will be owned in the 20% range. Go-to options include Tim Anderson, who may or may not be in the lineup as the team has announced plans to ease him back into regular playing time to help with his recovering legs; as well as Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, and Yasmani Grandal. Depending on the final configuration of the lineup, additional quality can be found in Gavin Sheets, Brian Goodwin, Cesar Hernandez, and Zack Collins as a cheap backup catcher play, if he is in the lineup.

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Atlanta Braves

The Braves are once again positively leveraged on both sites, this time coming in mostly at below 5% ownership against pincushion starter Antonio Senzatela. He has just a 15.9% strikeout rate over 138 innings this season. He has yielded a 6.4% barrel rate and just a 7.8-degree average launch angle but allows a whopping 43.5% hard-hit percentage and has pitched to a 4.16 xFIP. Senzatela induces just an 8.6% swinging-strike rate and has a lowly 24.9% CSW. The mighty Braves lineup has a 4.85% home run rate that leads baseball against either hand. The team’s .202 ISO in the split sits fourth and they create runs at the league average. Go-to bats include everyone featured yesterday, which was the entire lineup. The team is stacked and playable from one through eight in this situation. Dansby Swanson is a highly under-appreciated shortstop play, Travis d’Arnaud can provide sneaky upside as a catcher, and Austin Riley is in the midst of a massive breakout season. Adding reliable quality and power in Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Jorge Soler, and Adam Duvall plus Joc Pederson from the bottom of the lineup is a recipe for major MLB DFS point-scoring potential.

Oakland Athletics

Update: The Royals scratched Mike Minor during the afternoon and Carlos Hernandez will be starting in his place. The righty is equally targetable, he has a 22.3% strikeout rate with a 10.8% walk rate and 4.76 xFIP while yielding a 39.1% hard-hit rate and 7.2% barrel rate.

The Athletics’ active roster has been better against southpaws this season, but they are not inept against righties. The team has a 3.34% home run rate and a .165 ISO with just a 21.3% strikeout rate while creating runs 6% ahead of the league average. With positive leverage available on both sites, Oakland stands a strong chance of being relevant at the top of the standings this evening.

Josh Harrison has an excellent 12.9% strikeout rate over 495 plate appearances, but walks just 5.7% of the time, leading to a .352 on-base percentage. Harrison would be truly special if he could boost the walks slightly, but he is very good at putting the ball in play with light contact. He is slashing .289/.352/.421 and creates runs 11% ahead of the league average, but he has a low .132 ISO and just a 31.3% hard-hit rate with a 4.1% barrel rate. For just $4,500 on DraftKings and a discounted $2,800 on FanDuel, Harrison is a strong play with very little popularity.

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Starling Marte leads baseball with 45 stolen bases in his 455 plate appearances. Second-place Whit Merrifield on the opposing Royals has needed 640 plate appearances to collect his 40 stolen bases, exposing the massive gulf between the two in terms of category upside. No one else in baseball has stolen even 30 bases this season. Marte is slashing .322/.396/.471 with 11 home runs and a .150 ISO while creating runs 42% better than average on the season. He costs a significant $5,700 on DraftKings and $4,000 across town but will be owned at less than 2% on both sites. With available pitching value, it is easy to exceed that mark in Athletics stacks.

Matt Olson has 34 home runs and has a .268 ISO while slashing .274/.369/.542 this year. Olson has created runs 47% better than average this season and he has a strong 48.1% hard-hit rate. He barrels the ball 12.5% of the time and he walks in 12.2% of plate appearances while striking out just 15.9% of the time. Olson is excellent for premium contact and a major source of runs.

Matt Chapman has a team-leading 13.6% barrel rate with a 41.4% hard-hit percentage and 25 home runs this season. He is slashing just .219/.318/.415 but has created runs 5% better than average this year. Chapman has a .196 ISO despite his ongoing struggles with contact. He is striking out at a 32% clip but walks 12.4% of the time to help claw back some quality. He is unpopular at a fair $5,200 on DraftKings and will be owned less than 5% for just $3,400 on FanDuel.

Yan Gomes brutalizes left-handed pitching, as has been a focus in this space in recent weeks. Gomes is slashing .258/.301/.438 on the season with 13 home runs and a .180 ISO. Against southpaws he is slashing .318/.327/.589 with a .271 ISO and seven of his home runs, while creating runs 42% better than average. Gomes has a clear path to scoring upside for a low cost even where catchers are required.

Mark Canha is slashing .235/.359/.411 with a .176 ISO, but he creates runs 21% better than average on the season. He strikes out 20.5% of the time but does not have the best contact profile, coming in at just a 36.5% hard-hit rate and an 8% barrel rate. There is always scoring upside in under-owned quality, however. Canha is easy to get ahead of the field with when he falls below 1% ownership on both sites.

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Khris Davis has two home runs in 83 plate appearances this season and is slashing .178/.253/.342. It is not definite that Davis will even be in the lineup, nor that he will make any contact with the baseball if he does see plate appearances, but in the event that he does connect he still has a 10% barrel rate and a 44% hard-hit percentage. There is little reason to believe in Davis at this point, but it does not require a great leap of faith to grab a few more shares than the field at $2,200 on and 1.1% popularity on FanDuel or $3,700 and 0.5% ownership on DraftKings.

Chad Pinder slots in as a $2,800 outfielder on DraftKings and adds second base eligibility for just $2,200 on FanDuel. Pinder has made 183 plate appearances and is leading the team with a massive 52.6% hard-hit percentage and a 13.8% barrel rate, but he has struggled to elevate the ball, coming in with just a 5.9-degree average launch angle. He has hit just three home runs and has a .139 ISO despite the fantastic contact profile, and he has struck out at a 27.9% clip.

Elvis Andrus is slashing just .233/.279/.313 over 503 plate appearances in which he has hit just three home runs and stolen a mere 12 bases. Andrus has just a 34.6% hard-hit rate and a 2.3% barrel rate, though he strikes out at only a 15.7% clip. His lack of skill in that department has him at a WRC+ that sits 34% below the league average. He is not a reliable producer on his own, and he is a difficult correlation play.

HR Call: Joey Gallo — New York Yankees

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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