After a wild night of MLB DFS scoring that saw a 312-point total win the main tournament on FanDuel, tonight’s 12-game slate is shaping up to be one of the deepest pitching pools in recent memory. The group of available starting pitchers is nearly Opening Day caliber, with true aces, solid second-tier arms, young upstarts on the way to stardom, and a few overperforming ancient ones. The board for hitting is somewhat thinner, but there are several standout opportunities to grab positively leveraged bats, and some of the chalk seems well worth playing in combination with under-owned premium pitching. The 12 games on tonight’s slate have an average game total of just 7.6 on the board in Vegas, with no game reaching even a nine-run mark. The slate’s highwater mark is the 8.5 listed for both the Mets vs Nationals and Rays vs Angels games. Four other games land at totals of eight and the board for potential scoring gets worse from there.
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Scale: 5-10 Average; 10-20 Good; 20-25 Very Good; 25+ Great
Arizona Diamondbacks: Ketel Marte — 7.01
Atlanta Braves: Ozzie Albies — 4.03
Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini — 5.77
Boston Red Sox: Trevor Story — 6.98
Chicago Cubs: Seiya Suzuki — 10.86
Chicago White Sox: A.J. Pollock — 5.26
Cleveland Guardians: Franmil Reyes — 10.23
Colorado Rockies: Connor Joe — 5.52
Houston Astros: Yordan Alvarez — 10.52
Kansas City Royals: Emmanuel Rivera — 5.10
Los Angeles Angels: Taylor Ward — 4.76
Miami Marlins: Jorge Soler — 11.35
Minnesota Twins: Alex Kirilloff — 8.25
New York Mets: Pete Alonso — 14.90
New York Yankees: Joey Gallo — 10.15
Philadelphia Phillies: Nick Castellanos — 11.92
San Diego Padres: Manny Machado — 6.35
San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt — 5.36
Seattle Mariners: Eugenio Suarez — 8.28
St. Louis Cardinals: Juan Yepez — 10.17
Tampa Bay Rays: Mike Zunino — 11.21
Texas Rangers: Marcus Semien — 5.59
Toronto Blue Jays: Matt Chapman — 4.41
Washington Nationals: Juan Soto — 10.89
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 and the second is for the top six hitters in the projected lineup.
MLB DFS Picks Today: Pitchers, Best Stacks & Low-Owned Plays
This section will feature a few standout MLB DFS spots and teams to look at for potential plays on DraftKings and FanDuel. Be sure to check out the Awesemo MLB DFS Ownership Projections for critical updates and monitor the top stacks tool throughout the day for changes.
On the Hill
The combination of elite power pitching and the dead ball is creating more of a zombie apocalypse season for hitting, these batters aren’t just dealing with flatlined output, they are being attacked in the batter’s box along the way. Today’s slate has 24 teams and roughly 17 playable starting pitchers, the overabundance of options is something gamers need to remember when ugly options from the back of the rotation are on the end-of-week slate. The embarrassment of riches offers brand name starters like Justin Verlander, Aaron Nola, Lucas Giolito and Robbie Ray. Any one of those options would be a strong candidate to lead any given slate this year, they have all performed at ace level, some have just done it for longer than others. Of that group, Ray will always be the pitcher with the most question marks, particularly given his early struggles this year. The elite four are joined by equally talented Luis Severino, who stands a minor step behind them on the probability board. Mike Clevinger is making his second start after returning from an extended injury absence, Adam Wainwright will be in a great spot against the Orioles if he is able to clear COVID-19 protocols in time for the game, and electric rookie Joe Ryan will be facing a very tough Astros lineup. Braves righty Kyle Wright seems to have finally arrived in full form at the major league level. Despite being a part of our MLB DFS lives in spurts since 2018, Wright has only just passed the 100-inning mark in the Show for his career. The small sample numbers were not great, but Wright has been a premium prospect in this organization and he is beginning to pitch like it. Wright is not the only young pitcher in the midst of a breakout. In addition to Ryan, both Garrett Whitlock and Jesus Luzardo are out to strong starts in fulfilling their prospect pedigree. Even options like Carlos Carrasco, Reid Detmers, Madison Bumgarner and Yusei Kikuchi are not unplayable in the right price and popularity circumstances where two pitchers are required.
Among the four elite options, Lucas Giolito comes with the best leverage score on the DraftKings slate, where he ranks fifth by his probability of being a top-two starter. The difference between Giolito’s 14.2% probability of hitting that mark and the top of the board is exactly 3 percentage points, which serves to illustrate the depth of today’s options. Giolito will be owned by a projected 15.4% of the field, leaving him at basically efficient ownership, while the three other starters from the top tier are all negatively leveraged with aggressive ownership projections. Giolito has dazzled over his first 19.2 innings in four starts this season. The righty has an outrageous 40.5% strikeout rate with a 2.25 xFIP and a 1.17 WHIP while inducing a 16.9% swinging-strike rate and compiling a 35% CSW%. Giolito has issued a few too many free passes, hitters are drawing a walk 10.1% of the time against the White Sox ace, but he has been able to overcome both that and the unsightly 41% hard-hit percentage and 15.4% barrel rate he has allowed when hitters have managed to make contact. When Giolito makes a mistake, it is usually a loud one, he has allowed a 5.06% home run rate, which amounts to a total four long balls so far this year, but there is not much cause for concern with an elite starter who tends to just miss bats entirely. If there is any hesitation in rostering a somewhat lightly owned Giolito, it comes in the nature of the opponent. The Guardians’ active roster has been one of baseball’s best against right-handed pitching to this point in the season. The team has a league-leading 18.2% strikeout rate in the split and they are also first in baseball in run creation, sitting 38% above average by WRC+. Cleveland’s roster has shown power, relative to this season, in the split as well. The Guardians have a fourth-ranked .178 ISO and a 2.61% home run rate that sits in the middle of the league at 15th in the split. Giolito easily has the talent to get through this team several times while finding strikeouts. He does not need a weak opponent to excel. At half the raw ownership and a similar probability of success as most of his peers in the top tier, Giolito is a targetable option with significant fantasy point scoring upside on a very deep slate.
No part of the previous paragraph should be interpreted as saying that the remaining three top-tier options are not worth rostering, they are. Justin Verlander is defying age and medical science in pitching to a 26.3% strikeout rate and a 3.13 xFIP with a 1.93 ERA and a 2.89 xERA. The Astros ace is facing a Twins team that has a ninth-ranked 3.04% home run rate against righties but also strikes out at a 20th-ranked 24.3% strikeout rate. Verlander tops the board on both sites, but he comes with double-digit leverage on a deep slate for a major salary investment of more than $10,000 on both sites. Aaron Nola is less expensive at just $8,900 on DraftKings and $9,700 on FanDuel, but he will be at similarly ugly negative leverage, as will Robbie Ray, who is an $8,800 option on FanDuel and an $8,300 starter on DraftKings. Nola should be more expensive; he has a 31.1% strikeout rate over his first 34.2 innings in six starts this season with an elite 2.56 xFIP and a 0.87 WHIP with an 11.5% swinging-strike rate. The righty matches up against a young talented Mariners team that has created runs 10% better than average and struck out at just a 20.5% clip against righties so far this season, the ninth and seventh-ranked marks in the split, respectively. Nola is a strong option even against a good team. He stands an excellent chance to reach the top of the board with a significant amount of the field including him in lineups. On the other side of the same game, Ray will be looking to find last year’s form against a tough powerful Phillies lineup. Ray struck out five and walked only one but allowed seven hits and four runs in 6.2 innings in his most recent outing, and he has struggled to just a 20.3% strikeout rate and an 8.5% walk rate in 37 innings this year. The lefty was elite last year but he has to get back to the pitcher who induced a 15.5% swinging-strike rate and walked just 6.9%; this year the swinging strikes are down to 12% and Ray has struggled to find the zone with just a 24.3% CSW%. He will be facing a Phillies team that has a 2.68% home run rate and a .157 ISO against lefties this year, the 17th and 13th ranked numbers on the board. Philadelphia has struck out at an aggressive 27.2% rate so far this season in the split, but the team has also created runs 9% better than average against southpaws, and their right-handed power is grading out very well in the home run model. Ray is the most difficult pill to swallow at these leverage marks, but he should be rostered even if undercutting the field by a wide margin.
Anyone who tells you that they expected Braves righty Kyle Wright to be the most expensive pitcher on a FanDuel slate and second-most expensive on DraftKings by the fifth week of the season is lying to you. Wright is behind only Verlander as one of two $10,000 pitchers on the DraftKings slate, on FanDuel he stands atop the salary board, $100 above the Astros ace, at $10,900. Reactionary pricing aside, Wright has been off to a strong start this season. The righty has a 30.6% strikeout rate and a 5.8% walk rate over his first 31 innings in five starts. Wright is pitching to a 2.60 xFIP and a 1.74 ERA, and he has been very good at eliminating premium contact with just a 33.8% hard-hit percentage and a 5.4% barrel rate. Wright has been up and down for the Braves a number of times since 2018, extending the degree to which gamers seem to think of the pitcher as a bust following high prospect expectations. Wright’s 31 innings this season represent the second-largest major league sample size of his career. He previously reached a 38-inning high in 2020, but this is the first time he has pitched well at this level. In 137 innings at triple-A last season, Wright had a 3.02 ERA with a 3.75 xFIP and a 24.2% strikeout rate that were in line with his career numbers at that level, this year’s improvements are not entirely out of nowhere, though they are probably exaggerated somewhat by a sample that is still very small. Wright is the second-ranked pitcher by his probability of success on both sites, and his extreme salary situation has him projected for low ownership and positive leverage across the industry. Wright is taking on a scuffling Red Sox team that has just a .120 ISO and a 1.76% home run rate while creating runs 18% below average against righties so far this season. The Boston active roster does have a 21.2% strikeout rate that ranks 10th in the split, which could serve to artificially cap Wright’s upside, but he remains targetable for shares with the leverage situation such as it is.
Several other young breakout starters are on today’s slate. Opposing Wright and facing the lethal Braves lineup will be Boston righty Garrett Whitlock, who has an elite 35.8% strikeout rate and a 4.9% walk rate in his first 21.2 innings between the bullpen and the rotation this season. Whitlock has induced a massive 16.3% swinging-strike rate and he has a microscopic 0.69 WHIP, but he may not be in for extended innings if he fails to pitch efficiently. Even in his nine-strikeout performance against the Angels in his five-inning start the last time out, Whitlock only threw 78 pitches. He seems likely to be capped at or below 90, which is more than enough for him to rack up strikeouts, but he will be challenged by Atlanta’s quality. Southpaw Jesus Luzardo is fulfilling his potential for Miami early this season after some tweaks to his pitch mix. Luzardo has a 33.3% strikeout rate and a 2.89 xFIP despite an 11.4% walk rate and a 43.1% hard-hit percentage. Luzardo is facing a Diamondbacks lineup that has been good at limiting strikeouts against lefties at just 20.9% but has also created runs 29% below average in the split. Luzardo is a positively leveraged option from within the top-10 by probability on both sites tonight. Electric rookie Joe Ryan is one of the more high-priced items on the slate despite a tough matchup against the Astros. He will be positively leveraged but he ranks outside of the top-10 by probability on both sites. Ryan will be dueling Verlander, leaving him wanting for a win bonus, and he may have difficulty closing out strikeouts against the stingy Astros lineup. Ryan has a 26.4% strikeout rate and a 3.71 xFIP with a 0.83 WHIP, and he has been very good at limiting quality contact to this point in the season. He seems more likely to cap the upside of the Astros offense than he does of having a major outburst of scoring in this start.
There is not enough space or time to cover the abundance of pitching options on tonight’s slate. Luis Severino has been good but not elite to this point for the Yankees, striking out just 22.3% of opposing hitters but inducing a 12.3% swinging-strike rate while pitching to a 3.48 xFIP. Severino is facing an elite Blue Jays lineup at a cheap price. He will be a negatively leveraged option on both sites, but one that comes with relatively low raw ownership totals. Giants southpaw Alex Wood is facing the Rockies, who have been excellent at limiting strikeouts against lefties not named Carlos Rodon, while also creating runs 27% better than average in the split. Wood has a 25% strikeout rate and a 2.85 xFIP over his first 24.2 innings of the season. He is priced in the low $8,000s and similarly comes with negative leverage but a raw ownership total of less than 10% on both FanDuel and DraftKings. If Adam Wainwright passes his COVID-19 test he may be an excellent sleeper option on this slate. The righty has thrown 34 innings in his six starts so far this season, pitching to a 3.55 xFIP with a limited 20% strikeout rate, but he has more than enough to carve up this Orioles lineup on a good night. Baltimore’s active roster has been 7% above average creating runs against righties but they have just a 1.98% home run rate and a .131 ISO in the split while striking out a 16th-ranked 22.2%. Mike Clevinger is cheap and in a similarly good matchup against the Cubs. Clevinger may not be fully on the radar of the public at large after an extended absence. In his first outing back, the righty threw 95 pitches, answering any concerns about the depth to which he could pitch in a game. The Cubs strike out at a 24.8% clip against righties, the 25th-ranked team in baseball. Clevinger comes with low ownership, a low price and positive leverage on both sites. He is a very interesting tournament option to close out this section.
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New York Yankees
On a large slate, the Yankees are drawing mostly single-digit ownership from top to bottom. The only player projected to be more than 10% popular is Aaron Judge on the FanDuel slate, where he costs $4,400 and is projected at 12.4% popularity. Every other player is under 10% on both sites, despite some very cheap pricing on premium bats. While the stack is technically at slightly negative leverage on both sites, New York has plenty of low-owned options that can be combined in unique ways with other premium stacks and quality pitchers. The Yankees are facing lefty Yusei Kikuchi who can find a strikeout or two from time to time, but who always allows too much premium contact. Kikuchi has just a 21.5% strikeout rate over 20.2 innings in five starts this season. He has an ugly 15.1% walk rate and a 1.55 WHIP, allowing far too many men on base. The southpaw has a 4.35 ERA and a 4.32 xFIP with a 5.27 xERA and his home run rate is 4.3% in spite of a 49.2% hard-hit percentage and 10.2% barrel rate allowed. Last year, Kikuchi yielded a 47% hard-hit rate with an 11% barrel rate with a 4.0% home run rate. He is targetable for power, particularly with the home run or bust approach taken by the Yankees lineup. Judge is easily playable in combination with low-owned teammates or even as a one-off on either site. The slugger has nine home runs and a .324 ISO while creating runs 86% better than average. D.J. LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo bookend Judge with significant quality, while Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson will create a gauntlet of right-handed power through which Kikuchi will have to walk before reaching same-handed Joey Gallo. Of course, Gallo is one of baseball’s best power hitters and he has never struggled for power in the split against fellow lefties, the outfielder has a .280 ISO against righties and a .272 mark against lefties for his career. If Gleyber Torres is in the lineup he is easily playable, as is outfielder Aaron Hicks who hits well from both sides of the plate, while Isiah Kiner-Falefa and the Yankees catching platoon are less attractive options.
New York Mets
The Mets are in Washington D.C. facing one of the league’s most targetable starters over the past few seasons, formerly strong lefty Patrick Corbin. The Mets are fairly priced and they are drawing popularity into the mid-teens, but they are easy to combine with under-owned second stacks or any of the many low-owned pitching options, differentiation should not be a major problem on a large slate with quality in all corners. Corbin is a lefty who has pitched to a 19.3% strikeout rate with a 4.16 xFIP but a 7.16 ERA and a 1.81 WHIP with a 9.6% walk rate this year. The southpaw has yielded a 43.6% hard-hit percentage with an 8.5% barrel rate, Corbin is very targetable for sequencing and run creation, and he has seemingly gotten very lucky in allowing just one home run so far this year, even with a Mets lineup that has struggled against lefties this season. New York’s active roster has been 5% below average creating runs in the split and they have just a .115 ISO and a 1.85% home run rate. The Mets lineup includes premium bats like stars Francisco Lindor and Peter Alonso as well as quality pieces such as leadoff man Brandon Nimmo, outfielder Starling Marte and infielder Eduardo Escobar. The Mets can roll several versions of their lineup, but J.D. Davis and Mark Canha are two names to watch from the right side of the plate, while Jeff McNeil will bring his hit-tool-focused approach against either hand.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants are at home to face limited Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela, a righty who has struck out a hilarious 6.4% of opposing hitters while pitching to a 4.73 xFIP and a 1.88 WHIP this season. Senzatela has a 19.3% CSW% and he has yielded a 37.5% hard-hit rate with a 6.3% barrel rate this year, perhaps saving him from an even uglier stat line. The Giants rank in the top-10 for their probability of being the top stack on both sites tonight, the team is typically under-owned by the field and they come at cheap prices across the industry. There are no $5,000 DraftKings hitters in the projected Giants lineup, and no one cracks above $3,500 on the blue site. The platoon-inclined Giants are likely to start a heavily left-handed lineup that includes Mike Yastrzemski, Brandon Belt, Joc Pederson and Brandon Crawford in the top five hitters. Wilmer Flores will probably be the lone bat from the right side of the plate in the top half, while Thairo Estrada will join LaMonte Wade Jr., Luis Gonzalez and Joey Bart toward the bottom of the lineup. The top four hitters in the projected Giants lineup have an average of 135 by WRC+, led by the 151 carried by Belt. The Giants are undervalued for their quality and matchup tonight, they can be pursued beyond the degree to which the field is including them in lineups.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are one of the top handful of stacks by their probability of success on either site tonight. The team technically ranks at negative leverage, but they are another example of a group with easily playable individual ownership marks in a matchup against lefty Reid Detmers. The rookie is a well-regarded prospect who has had a difficult time finding his footing in the Show. Detmers has thrown 22 innings this year with a 19.8% strikeout rate and a 4.17 xFIP. He has yielded a 40.6% hard-hit percentage and a 7.8% barrel rate so far this season, but hitters have turned that into just three home runs and a 3.3% home run rate. Detmers will be facing a Tampa Bay team that is currently second in baseball with a 145 WRC+ against lefties, third with a 17.7% strikeout rate and ninth with a .161 ISO in the split. The rookie will be challenged and the Rays should likely be more of a focal point for stacks.
Projected leadoff man Yandy Diaz hits from the right side of the plate and costs just $4,600 on DraftKings and $2,900 on FanDuel, but he is owned at just 4.7% and 11% respectively. Diaz is slashing .287/.415/.391 while creating runs 57% better than average in his 106 plate appearances so far this season. He is an extremely underappreciated piece of the Rays lineup.
Star shortstop Wander Franco costs $5,400 and $3,800 from site to site, but he will not crack 15% ownership. Franco has hit four home runs and has a .195 ISO while creating runs 60% better than average over 124 plate appearances. Franco was elite as a rookie last year, striking out merely 12% of the time while walking in 7.8% of his 308 plate appearances. This year he has been even better, cutting his strikeout rate to just 9.7%. Franco is slashing .322/.347/.517, and he has even added three stolen bases. He is as good a player as anyone at his position, which says a lot when discussing shortstops.
Right-handed Harold Ramirez has a 52% hard-hit percentage while slashing .316/.375/.368 and creating runs 32% better than average over his first 64 plate appearances this season. Last year, Ramirez had a 46.9% hard-hit percentage and he struck out in just 15.5% of his plate appearances. With a 12.5% strikeout rate and better contact so far this year, Ramirez is another very underrated option in this stack. He is projected for single-digit popularity despite hitting from the right side of the plate in the middle of the lineup.
Randy Arozarena hit 20 home runs and stole 20 bases in 604 plate appearances last season, which was somehow regarded as a disappointment after the rookie exploded onto the scene in the 2020 postseason after the weird pandemic season. Arozarena is slashing .235/.273/.365 while creating runs 5% below average in a slow start this year, but he is a good option at just $3,900 on DraftKings, where he is projected for 12.2% popularity, or for just $2,800 on FanDuel, where 14.1% of the field will be using him.
Lefty slugger Brandon Lowe is seeing full time action against both hands. He has made 122 plate appearances this season and he is slashing .206/.295/.393 with five home runs and a .187 ISO, all of which are dips from last year’s excellence, but Lowe is still creating runs 13% better than average to this point in the season. Last year, the second baseman was elite with a .247/.340/.523 triple-slash, a .277 ISO, 39 home runs and a 137 WRC+. For his career, Lowe strikes out at a 34.5% rate against same-handed pitching while slashing .224/.284/.468. He is undeniably better with a 26.2% strikeout rate, an 11.5% walk rate and a .261/.356/.522 triple-slash against righties, but Lowe has an excellent .244 ISO and a 6.57% home run rate against same-handed pitching for his career. The ISO is lower than it is against right-handed pitching by about 20 points, but Lowe’s home run rate against the opposite hand is “just” 5.3% for his career. He is excellent for sleeper power at low ownership.
Catcher Mike Zunino had a 24.3% barrel rate that was more than 2 percentage points better than that of Shohei Ohtani last year. He only failed to lead the league by virtue of his 375 plate appearances falling short of the full season statistical qualifier. Zunino is no secret, the righty thumper is playable whenever he is in the lineup, but he is a home run or a zero on many slates. Zunino is slashing .145/.206/.306 to start the season and he has hit three home runs in 68 plate appearances, but he costs just $2,200 on FanDuel with a mere 6.6% of the field including him. Where catchers are required, he is more popular but also extremely useful.
Taylor Walls slots into the back of the lineup slashing just .191/.313/.309 with a 99 WRC+ so far this season. Walls is inexpensive and low-owned, but the quality has been very limited to this point in the season. The projected lineup should also include outfielders Kevin Kiermaier and Manuel Margot, though Margot has been banged up in recent days. Kiermaier is a lefty here for his defense, but Margot is off to a scorching .337/.400/.500 start to his season with three home runs while creating runs 75% better than average. If he makes it into the lineup in any spot in the batting order, Margot is worth the roster spot at $3,200 on DraftKings and $3,500 on FanDuel.
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