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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 10/20/21

Terry McBride



The midweek slate of MLB DFS action features both leagues in action once again. The ALCS finds the Astros and Red Sox tied at two wins apiece coming into a critical Game 5 in Boston’s Fenway Park, while the NLCS sees the Braves with a 2-1 lead over the Dodgers looking to take a stranglehold with a Game 4 win on the road in Los Angeles. The hard-hitting American League teams have a higher run total on the board once again, while the National League game is at a tempered eight-run expectation. For MLB DFS purposes, there are interesting pitching options with major question marks and a list of the same highly predictable lineups that we have seen throughout the postseason in play for stacking purposes.

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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 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

Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman — 7.87

Boston Red Sox: Hunter Renfroe — 5.46

Houston Astros: Carlos Correa — 10.27

Los Angeles Dodgers: Mookie Betts — 8.43

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.

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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.

On the Hill

The Wednesday pitching slate sees several interesting decision points among just four pitchers. The Astros will be starting ground-ball specialist Framber Valdez, who had a rate of keeping the ball down that exceeded the 70% mark for the season. Outside of that outstanding quality, however, Valdez does not stand out. He has just a 21.9% strikeout rate and an inflated 10.1% walk rate with a 1.25 WHIP, though his 3.58 xFIP is a clean mark. He generates a 10.2% swinging-strike rate but has only a 28.8% CSW and has allowed a 44.4% hard-hit rate, albeit on a -5.5-degree average launch angle. Valdez rates at the bottom of the list of known starters for tonight by the probability of success but does provide an opportunity to offset ownership. On the mound for Valdez’s opponents will be Chris Sale, who has been extremely limited in his postseason outings thus far. Sale managed just 2.2 innings against Houston on Friday, and he threw only an inning the week before against the Rays. He struggled in coming back from a long-term injury, his depth and upside are major question marks. Given full health and a long run, Sale would easily be the best pitcher on the board on talent, even amidst his struggles. He managed a 28.4% strikeout rate over 42.2 innings in the regular season. That mark is low for him, but the highest among our available options. The Dodgers will be running out Julio Urias for this game, though he threw four innings last Thursday and another inning on Sunday. Urias is expected to get a reasonable facsimile of a full start here but seems unlikely to press beyond five innings. He had a 26.2% strikeout rate this season and allowed merely a 30.3% hard-hit rate with a 5.3% barrel rate and 86 mph average exit velocity this season, which can exploit the Braves’ strikeout marks while hopefully limiting their home run upside. Urias is Awesemo’s top-ranked pitcher for the probability of success on today’s slate. With the Braves not announcing a starter yet, we are down to speculation. It seems that Huascar Ynoa would be a strong candidate for a start, given his experience in the role and the fact that he has not pitched since last Tuesday. If it is Ynoa, he would be moderately in play but in a very difficult spot against a killer Dodgers lineup. Ynoa boasted a 26.9% strikeout rate over 91 innings in 17 starts this season, pitching to a 3.40 xFIP and a 1.11 WHIP, but he allows too much quality contact, coming in with a season-long hard-hit rate of 43.2% and a 9.1% barrel rate.

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Edit: Jesse Chavez is starting in place of Ynoa.


The Top Stacks Tool will be invaluable for this format once again. With scant few options from which to choose, playing the ownership and leverage game becomes critical. For tonight’s slate, the Dodgers look to be the clear team to undercut, given a ridiculously negative leverage number across both FanDuel and DraftKings. The three other teams on the board come up with positive leverage marks, they all carry slightly less ownership than their probability of being the highest scoring of the four teams.

The Braves come up as the positive leverage option in the National League game once again despite facing a quality lefty in Urias. The Atlanta active roster is better against righties, they had a 4.10% home run rate that is well above average in the split against southpaws and their .183 ISO is a top-10 mark, but they create runs at just the league average, while losing some power from hand to hand. The team is better at limiting strikeouts against lefties though, they had a league-average 22.7% strikeout rate in the split this season. Getting to the obvious names like Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley and Adam Duvall is a straightforward approach, but consideration should be given to Dansby Swanson, particularly if he leads off again. Joc Pederson lacked power in the split but significantly improved his hit tool to the point where he is capable against lefties, while Travis d’Arnaud offers a solid catcher option. The lineup rounds out with Guillermo Heredia who is also a member of this team.

Both American League teams rank out at the top of the board, and they are both carrying positive leverage into the slate. It is the Astros who stand out for quality in the spot against what is likely to be another short Sale outing, followed by a taxed and merely average Boston bullpen. The Astros have been a featured team in this space numerous times throughout the season, their lineup features the batting title winner and runner up in Yuli Gurriel and Michael Brantley, though they are both better as correlation plays than power engines we should expect to hit the ball out of the park. For that skill, MLB DFS gamers should look to stars like Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman – despite his .152 ISO this season — Carlos Correa, and Kyle Tucker. The bottom of the lineup concludes with Jose Siri and Martin Maldonado, Siri stands a chance of providing relevance, in his limited 49 plate appearance sample he had a 44.8% hard-hit percentage and a 17.2% barrel rate while slashing .304/.347/.609 with a .304 ISO and four home runs with three stolen bases.

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HR Call: Jose Altuve — Houston Astros

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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