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MLB DFS Picks: All-Star Game Tournament Strategy & HRs 7/19/22

Terry McBride



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Welcome to MLB All-Star Game Tuesday, a day that is typically such an oddball slate for MLB DFS purposes that it warranted the exhumation of this article, for today at least. The All-Star Game is a chaotic and somewhat unpredictable affair for fantasy purposes. The goal of the evening is more an exhibition of skills that allows (almost) everyone to take the field, rather than a contest that is truly competitive. In years past, players in the starting lineup have typically seen two, or a maximum of three, plate appearances. Last season, only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Xander Bogaerts, both playing for the American League again this season, saw three plate appearances, which limits the ability to project players for significant fantasy scores. Similarly, pitching is highly limited in typical All-Star Games. Last season, the American League used nine pitchers, who each saw exactly one inning, including starter Shohei Ohtani, who will be hitting but not pitching today. The National League used 10 pitchers, with Corbin Burnes picking up two innings pitched after relieving starter Max Scherzer in the second inning. Both teams used a mix of starting pitchers and relievers to stitch their games together, resulting in a 5-2 win for the American League. For the purposes of any tools or screenshots that appear in this article, hitters have been limited to two plate appearances, starting pitchers have been limited to two innings, and relievers to one.

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MLB DFS contests are very different from site to site for single-game competitions. The DraftKings slate will offer pitchers, for whatever they may be worth, with the site’s format featuring one Captain and five utility positions. The Captain spot sees a 1.5x multiple on both fantasy scoring and salary. On FanDuel, scoring includes an MVP and a Star, who see a 2x and 1.5x multiple to scoring, but no salary changes. Pitchers are not available on the FanDuel slate. The final wrinkle comes from MLB itself. It has been decided that if tonight’s game is tied after nine innings, instead of standard extra innings, the contest will be decided with a three-on-three home run derby. DraftKings has announced that any home runs hit in this scenario will not be counted for MLB DFS purposes, restricting fantasy scoring to just the nine innings of standard play. As of the mid-morning on the East Coast, FanDuel has yet to make such an announcement, it would not be surprising to see the blue site count extra home runs in scoring, given their track record handling concepts like double-headers.

Tonight’s contest is carrying a run total of just 7.5, which reflects both the quality of the pitching in a typical Midsummer Classic as well as the game’s recent history. Since 2000, the All-Star Game has seen an average of exactly 8.1 runs scored, with four outlier contests from 2002’s 14-run extra-inning tie through 2005 that saw an average of 13.2 runs with at least 12 in each game. From 2006 through 2021, only 2018’s 14-run extra-inning game broke the 10-run threshold and the game saw an average of just 6.9 total runs. Both plate appearances and run creation opportunities are precious commodities for MLB DFS roster construction this evening.

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Starting Lineup Home Run Ratings & Predictions

Using a model based on a blend of several predictive statistics for the batter-pitcher matchup, instead of a top pick from each team today’s list provides the custom home run rating for each player in the starting lineup. Check out all of Awesemo’s top-notch baseball content and free MLB DFS picks.

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

Note: the scale above is based on a typical distribution of plate appearances, for tonight’s game all players have been given two potential plate appearances against the starting pitchers to represent all matchups, adjust accordingly.

American League

Shohei Ohtani — 3.50

Aaron Judge — 4.04

Rafael Devers — 3.39

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — 4.15

Giancarlo Stanton — 4.04

Byron Buxton — 3.83

Tim Anderson — 1.86

Andres Gimenez — 1.97

Alejandro Kirk — 2.24

National League

Ronald Acuna Jr. — 2.77

Mookie Betts — 2.32

Manny Machado — 2.41

Paul Goldschmidt — 2.41

Trea Turner — 1.79

Willson Contreras — 1.83

William Contreras — 2.03

Joc Pederson — 2.41

Jeff McNeil – 1.16

MLB DFS Weather Update: Postponements & Risk Assessment

Bad weather is not a factor in Los Angeles, there are no concerns beyond the low-probability seismological.

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MLB DFS Picks Today: Pitchers, Best Bats & 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

Pitching is a difficult proposition on a single-game slate in which we cannot reasonably expect more than an inning from any individual hurler. The American League has 13 active pitchers, including starter Shane McClanahan, while the National League squad includes a total of 12, with hometown Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw taking the mound to start the game. Both starters are deserving of and equal to the task at hand. McClanahan has pitched to an outrageous 1.99 xFIP with a 1.71 ERA and a massive 35.7% strikeout rate over his 110.2 innings in 18 starts for the Rays. The southpaw has limited hitters to just a 30.2% hard-hit percentage with a 2.91% home run rate. Kershaw, meanwhile, has a sharp 2.91 xFIP with a 2.13 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP. The veteran lefty has struck out 27.3% of opposing hitters while limiting walks to 4.4% and home runs to 1.82%. Kershaw has yielded just a 33.7% hard-hit rate with a 4.3% barrel rate while inducing a 13.3% swinging-strike rate. Both starters are capable of striking out the side in their respective inning, but neither is likely to see a full second inning.

Both teams feature robust bullpens behind their starters, though the American League will be without Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, and Shohei Ohtani is not pitching today. American League pitchers who seem likely to get an inning tonight include Nestor Cortes Jr., who has come back to Earth somewhat but still sports a 26.1% strikeout rate and a 3.71 xFIP with just a 1.00 WHIP; Alek Manoah, who has struck out 22.6% of opposing hitters over 114.2 innings, and Framber Valdez who can be devastating on opposing upside with his outrageous ability to induce ground balls. Additional American League options include veterans Martin Perez and Paul Blackburn, as well as several premium relief pitchers. Yankees closer Clay Holmes has a 27% strikeout rate with a 2.32 xFIP and a 14.6% swinging-strike rate over his 38.1 innings. He and Guardians righty Emmanuel Clase seem like strong candidates for setup innings or high-leverage appearances. Clase has a 28.3% strikeout rate and a 2.14 xFIP with a 0.76 WHIP and a 14.3% swinging-strike rate. Jorge Lopez, Gregory Soto, and Jordan Romano have all been equally strong for their respective teams this season, any or all of them may see between one and three hitters. White Sox closer Liam Hendriks seems like the most likely option to close out the game for the American League. He is sporting a massive 36.9% strikeout rate with a 2.56 xFIP and a 0.95 WHIP with a 16.8% swinging-strike rate on the season.

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On the National League side, both Corbin Burnes and Carlos Rodon will sit out their appearance, as will Max Fried. Likely options for at least an inning of early relief work include several ace-caliber starters. Miami’s ironman Sandy Alcantara leads baseball with 138.1 innings in his 19 starts this season. He is the most likely pitcher on the board to see more than an inning tonight, but it is still a thin proposition. Alcantara has been excellent this year, pitching to a 23.5% strikeout rate and a 3.30 xFIP. The righty is joined by Joe Musgrove, who has pitched to a 3.27 xFIP and a 5.6% walk rate while striking out 24.8% of opposing hitters; hometown righty Tony Gonsolin, who has a 24.2% strikeout rate and just a 0.84 WHIP over 93.2 innings; and the pitcher most likely to be traded, Luis Castillo, who has put up a 25.5% strikeout rate over his 78.0 innings. Additional options from the pool of starters on the roster include Miles Mikolas and Tyler Anderson, who also pitches for the hometown Dodgers. The National League also features several premium relievers, including Ryan Helsley, whose absurd 40.4% strikeout rate somehow sits third on the team behind the 41.3% mark held by Devin Williams, and the staggering 51.7% that Edwin Diaz has posted over his 37.1 innings this season. David Bednar joins them with a strong 32.4% strikeout rate of his own, while Joe Mantiply is the low man on that particular list at just 26.4%. Any of these relievers is capable of posting a clean inning with two or three strikeouts.

American League

The American League starting lineup is overloaded with talent from top to bottom and it features a brutal stretch of right-handed hitters in the top half. The public will be drawn to the expensive superstars in the top two spots, with Ohtani and Aaron Judge topping the salary board for either team on the DraftKings slate. The Angels outfielder slips to just a $7,000 price tag on the blue site, however, dropping him below a number of other options, which should only push his popularity to further heights. Ohtani is slashing .258/.348/.486 with 19 home runs while creating runs 33% better than average in something of a down season so far. He will be followed by Judge, who leads a number of categories at the plate going into the All-Star Break. Judge has hit 33 home runs on the back of a gargantuan 60.2% hard-hit percentage and a 24.6% barrel rate; he leads American League starters with a WRC+ 72% better than average. Lefty masher Rafael Devers slots in third, Devers has 22 home runs and a .277 ISO, and he has created runs almost as well as Judge, sitting 70% above average by WRC+ for the Red Sox. No left-handed pitcher should be made to face a stretch of righty bats that includes Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Giancarlo Stanton, Byron Buxton, and Tim Anderson, which will be the case if any of the first three hitters get on base against Clayton Kershaw. The starting lineup rounds off with Andres Gimenez, who is filling in for Jose Altuve, and Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk. Elected starter Mike Trout will also be sitting out tonight’s game, as will reserves George Springer and Yordan Alvarez.

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With both Springer and Alvarez missing the American League bench seems slightly thinner on name recognition in a few spots, with names like Jose Trevino, Luis Arraez, Ty France, and Santiago Espinal potentially hitting with less familiarity for some. Arraez is slashing .338/.411/.445 with a 148 WRC+ over 348 plate appearances for the Twins, but he lacks a power bat. He could be a sneaky contributor if he sees two plate appearances from the middle of the game forward. Trevino will see a pair of plate appearances as one of the team’s two catchers. He has posted a serviceable .251/.299/.415 while creating runs three percent better than average, but he is on the roster largely on the back of his defense and his New York boosted popularity. France is more deserving of his spot, creating runs 48% better than average this season. Espinal has been an effective option for the Blue Jays, but he has slipped to a 98 WRC+, two percent below average. The numerous stars on the bench for the American League should be the primary focus in building MLB DFS lineups when not utilizing starters. Obvious names including Jose Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts, red-hot shortstop Corey Seager, and rookie phenom Julio Rodriguez are all in play, though Rodriguez may defer playing time to more established stars after shining in the Home Run Derby last night. Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez and legacy player Miguel Cabrera should not be ignored on this slate either, though they have just 12 home runs between them. Nine of those belong to Martinez, who is creating runs 37% better than average and slashing .302/.368/.481 for Boston. Cabrera has posted a surprisingly strong .287/.324/.346 but his power has been absent with just a .059 ISO and two home runs, and he has been 10% worse than average creating runs this season.

National League

The starting All-Stars from the National League check in as the lower-cost option from top to bottom. The lineup for the Senior Circuit is not short on talent, with superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. in the leadoff spot followed by hometown hero Mookie Betts and fellow California slugger Manny Machado in the three-spot. The trio of right-handed superstars has hit 43 home runs so far this season, with Betts leading the way at 20 and Acuna posting eight while being limited to 270 plate appearances. The Braves star has stolen 20 bases despite the shortened season, and he has created runs 19% better than average. Betts sits 43% above average for run creation while Machado lands 50% better, but the team leader is cleanup hitter Paul Goldschmidt, who has a 184 WRC+ that leads all players in this game. Goldschmidt checks into the All-Star game radically underpriced on DraftKings, so he will likely be crushingly popular. Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner will also be another popular option, having hit 14 home runs and stolen 17 bases. He is an excellent contributor for MLB DFS purposes on any site in either standard or multiplier positions. The shortstop is followed, not by a typo, but by a pair of similarly named brothers, both Willson and William Contreras are appearing and starting for the National League tonight. Willson, the Cubs star, has hit 13 home runs while creating runs 33% better than average, while William of the Braves has managed to hit 11 home runs in just 174 plate appearances while slashing .260/.345/.532 with a .273 ISO. The lineup rounds out with a pair of left-handed hitters who may face same-handed pitching depending how the innings fall for an American League pitching staff that features four southpaws in the bullpen. Joc Pederson is cheap for his power upside, while Jeff McNeil is a hit-tool-focused correlation play.

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The National League bench is loaded with power upside, Pete Alonso, C.J. Cron, Austin Riley, Kyle Schwarber, and Juan Soto have all hit more than 20 home runs already this season, and the five sluggers sport an average ISO of .268. Not to be outdone, Dodgers free agent prize Freddie Freeman comes in with a .321/.397/.530 triple-slash and a WRC+ 59% better than average, leading all non-starters for the National League team. Freeman and Riley were both named as one of the team’s fill-in players, elected starters Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Bryce Harper will both miss the game with injuries while Nolan Arenado and Starling Marte will be absent from the bench. Jake Cronenworth will be representing the Padres, and other lower-owned lower-cost options including Dansby Swanson, Ian Happ, and Garrett Cooper are targetable for a plate appearance or two. The National League may not get as much from their legacy player, future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols put on a show at the Home Run Derby, but he is sitting at just a .215/.301/.376 triple slash while creating runs seven percent below average by WRC+.

Lineup Construction

The approach to lineup construction differs based on the salary multiplier on the DraftKings slate. The 1.5x salary requirement makes it more difficult to roster the leading superstars in the Captain role while utilizing lower-cost bats in that position opens a roster to additional construction possibilities. For example, if Aaron Judge is utilized in the Captain role, lineups will have an average of just $6,940 for each of the five utility spots. While a variety of combinations are available, it is noteworthy that the top seven remaining hitters are all priced at $7,000 or more on the slate, which should illustrate the inability to combine multiple premium options. Conversely, utilizing an underpriced option, in this instance Paul Goldschmidt for just $$7,500, less than half the price of Judge, provides a per-spot allocation of $8,500 for the remaining five positions while sacrificing only a minor amount of probability on the scoring upside. With most players seeing limited action, the variety of combinations available from all price ranges is quite broad on DraftKings. On the blue site, where salary barely matters, it is no major complication to roster hitters in any desired configuration. Eight players on FanDuel cost $7,000 or more, while more than 20 cost the minimum of $4,000, including most of the star players from both benches. Even with Judge and Goldschmidt, the top two players by salary, in the MVP and Star positions, FanDuel offers $5,500 for each of the three remaining lineup slots, meaning that a lineup could include the third-most costly player, Mookie Betts, at $8,500 while retaining $4,000 to spend at each of the final two Utility positions. One configuration could include that trio of stars with Kyle Schwarber and Jose Ramirez in the final two spots, for example. With such ease of combinations, it will be important to focus on building lineups that are somewhat unique in which players are utilized in tandem with one another, in an effort to avoid tying with hundreds of other gamers atop the field. One approach to differentiation for single-game slates is to simply leave salary on the table, and the availability of viable bench options should help with the creation of high-quality lineups that stand a chance of being unique in large-field tournaments.

Home Run Prediction Today: Aaron Judge — American League

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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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