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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 4/12/21

Terry McBride

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MLB DFS Lineup Picks DraftKings FanDuel Tournament Strategy Home Runs

Today’s full slate of MLB DFS games has already been disrupted, with the Red Sox – Twins game postponing for public safety reasons given the ongoing protests in Minneapolis. With some weather to worry about in Queens, the Phillies – Mets game could be in danger as well, and Mariners – Orioles is not 100% safe either. There are a few question marks on the board, so it will be important to keep a weather eye on the NewzGod’s updates coming into lock.

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The main slate kicks off at 7:05 p.m. ET on both sites. The Awesemo team will be here for all of it, providing updates to tools and data throughout, including the Strategy Show, which you can find on YouTube. Speaking of tools, if you aren’t visiting the Top Stacks Tool regularly, you’re just making your MLB DFS picks incorrectly. The Top Starters Tool is every bit as important in deciding who takes the hill for your daily fantasy baseball lineup.

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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Top HR Options

Home Run Ratings

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 won’t always be the absolute top-ranked player, particularly when there is an obvious star who would be in that spot every day.

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

Arizona Diamondbacks: Kole Calhoun — 5.20

Atlanta Braves: Austin Riley — 5.69

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini — 2.10

Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ– 4.33

Chicago White Sox: Luis Robert — 13.32

Cincinnati Reds: Jesse Winker — 11.32

Cleveland Indians: Franmil Reyes — 8.53

Detroit Tigers: Nomar Mazara — 4.79

Houston Astros: Yordan Alvarez — 18.31

Kansas City Royals: Salvador Perez– 8.76

Los Angeles Angels: Shohei Ohtani — 8.95

Miami Marlins: Adam Duvall — 5.26

Milwaukee Brewers: Daniel Vogelbach — 2.92

New York Mets: Pete Alonso — 24.47

New York Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton — 20.23

Oakland Athletics: Ramon Laureano– 14.86

Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins– 7.58

San Francisco Giants: Evan Longoria — 3.00

Seattle Mariners: Evan White — 10.25

St. Louis Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt — 11.89

Tampa Bay Rays: Brandon Lowe — 6.74

Texas Rangers: Nate Lowe — 10.83

Toronto Blue Jays: Cavan Biggio — 8.12

Washington Nationals: Juan Soto — 15.21

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MLB DFS Optimal Stacks & Leverage Plays

(Quick note: if it says 1-5, it means hitters 1-2-3-4-5. Otherwise, I will specify spots)

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This section will feature a few standout MLB DFS spots and teams to look at for potential plays here. Make sure to check out the ownership projections for critical updates and monitor the top stacks tool throughout the day for changes.

On the Hill

Today’s pitching slate shapes up with significantly better offerings than yesterday. There are several legitimate top starters to work with, so utilizing the Top Starters Tool to determine which are the best of the bunch and where to find leverage against the field has major upside. With Gerrit Cole taking on the Blue Jays and Tyler Glasnow facing the weak Rangers lineup for less, there is a major inflection point at the very top of the pitcher pricing tiers.

Glasnow ranks as the highest-projected pitcher on both sites in Awesemo’s projections, which aligns well with the model. The difference between where he and Cole rank in terms of raw fantasy points is somewhat stark, and it has Glasnow drawing significant attention. While he is one of the most likely starters on the slate to succeed, Glasnow is significantly negatively leveraged overall. Still, he is in an excellent spot; this is a pitcher who struck out 38.2% of hitters in his 57 innings last year, and 33% in 60 innings the year before. Glasnow is excellent when he is right, and he has a chance to put up a score that runs away and hides from the field tonight. The Rangers lineup has an average projected season-long strikeout rate of over 26%, far worse than league average.

Cole is taking on a frisky Blue Jays team that has plenty of offensive firepower, and the game is taking place in a non-MLB park with short fences. This does not necessarily mean Cole is in a bad spot; the young Blue Jays lineup offers plenty of strikeouts, though their season-long projected average strikeout rate is just 22%. Cole struck out 32.6% of hitters he faced in his 73 innings for the Yankees last season and a ridiculous 39.9% the year before in a 212-inning sample for the Astros. He is a dominant pitcher and well worth the pay-up, though he will also be significantly owned by the field.

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If deciding between the two, it seems to make sense to be willing to take on the ownership of Glasnow in exchange for the better spot and salary savings, but it is critical to get different with the bats you stack with him to differentiate from the field. There are several strong pivot options on the board, though none fully measure up to the level of Cole and Glasnow.

Oakland’s Chris Bassitt is in a decent spot taking on a weak Arizona lineup and at a highly affordable price tag on FanDuel and a reasonable mark on DraftKings. As an SP2 option on the latter site, he provides a modicum of safety, taking on one of the weakest offenses in the sport. The Diamondbacks rank around league average in ISO and are seventh best in baseball with just a 21.8% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching over the past two seasons, but they create runs in the split 6% worse than average and do not offer much threat. Bassitt is not an overly strong strikeout option; he posted a 21.1% rate in 63 innings last season and a 23.0% mark in 144 the year before, putting him around league average. The appeal is in the price and the leverage he provides on the field. The public is simply not rostering Bassitt despite his presence among the mid-ranked options on the board.

New York Yankees

The Yankees stand out on the board as the top stack, and as of the afternoon update they are somewhat under-owned. The team was written up in this space just yesterday, though today’s lineup is differently shaped. The recommended stack from yesterday was 1-2-3-5-6 — D.J. LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez. Today it makes sense to swap in Giancarlo Stanton given the power metrics on him and Judge, among others in the Yankees lineup. Stanton is hitting second in the confirmed lineup, and Judge will bat third. Getting that pair with LeMahieu and Torres makes sense, while Clint Frazier and Gio Urshela have upside in the middle of the lineup. Rougned Odor brings a left-handed bat against a lefty starter and is a questionable piece of the puzzle in this one. Kyle Higashioka has shown sneaky power in the past and will be catching tonight, while Mike Tauchman is another lefty on the wrong side of his splits.

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STL — 1-5 – Edman – Goldschmidt – Arenado – DeJong – Molina

The Cardinals are at home taking on weak Nationals right-hander Erick Fedde. In 50 innings last season, Fedde struck out just 12.6% of hitters, walking 9.9% and putting up a miserable 5.22 xFIP with a 1.37 WHIP. The year before he was worse, putting up a 12.3% strikeout rate, walking the same 9.9% of hitters — a remarkable feat — and posting a 5.34 xFIP and 1.46 WHIP. Fedde is a soft-tosser who allows a ton of contact, strikes out no one and puts too many runners on base. There are plenty of reasons to get to Cardinals bats, but they look under-owned on both sites and are one of the better leverage plays from the middle of the stack rankings.

The Cardinals offer a solid lineup from the top with toolsy Tommy Edman in the leadoff spot. Edman has both speed and pop but also a little to prove after an unexpectedly down season last year. In 227 plate appearances, Edman put up a .250/.317/.368 slash with a .118 ISO and a 90 WRC+ just a year after posting an excellent .304/.350/.500 with a .196 ISO and 123 WRC+. Edman hit 11 home runs and stole 15 bases in that 2019 season, but he managed just five homers and two steals last year. Ultimately he seems much more like the hitter from the larger sample. The skillset is real, and Edman is underpriced on the FanDuel slate at just $3,100. He is priced at $5,100 on the DraftKings slate, which should at least keep the public away.

Pricing discrepancies continue from site to site. DraftKings has Paul Goldschmidt at $5,400, while FanDuel slots him at $3,800; the sites have different structures, but those prices still do not correlate when accounting for that. Goldschmidt put up a strong .304/.417/.466 slash last year, though as the slugging percentage shows, the power was out somewhat — he hit just six home runs in his 231 plate appearances. Hitting in front of Nolan Arenado should help in that department. In 2019 Goldschmidt’s true pop was on full display, blasting 34 home runs in his 682 plate appearances.

Arenado is priced similarly to his teammate on both sites. The top three hitters in this lineup make for an excellent FanDuel stack at their pricing and projected ownership. Arenado came to St. Louis after a long tenure with the Rockies, where he was a superstar of the highest degree in home games and somewhat more mortal while on the road. Arenado is still a special hitter overall, and there is plenty of reason to believe his production will hold up to some degree. He hit eight home runs in a down season last year, but that is forgivable in light of the 41 he hit in 662 chances the year before. Arenado put up a .315/.379/.583 slash that season with a .269 ISO while creating runs 28% better than the average. That puts him in elite company even if he does not reach those highs.

Shortstop Paul DeJong makes a great addition to the Cardinals stack and finally provides salary relief on DraftKings, where he costs just $4,400. DeJong had a down year last season but hit 30 home runs in his 664 plate appearances in 2019. DeJong is not someone to turn to for a strong hit tool or on-base skills, but he can clear the bags with one big swing, making him ideal for MLB DFS purposes. DeJong has plenty to prove this season and is in a better lineup in which to do it. He posted just a .099 ISO and created runs 14% worse than average in his limited 174 plate appearance 2020 season.

Catcher Yadier Molina is a mix-in option who can help differentiate lineups. He costs $4,500 on DraftKings and is highly affordable at $2,600 on FanDuel. Molina managed a .262/.303/.359 slash last season, hitting four home runs in his 156 plate appearances, with just a .097 ISO and a WRC+ 18% below average. Molina is one of the elder statesmen at this point, but he can occasionally provide a spark with the bat, keeping him modestly relevant.

Getting to any of Matt CarpenterDylan Carlson and Justin Williams would be a differentiation play that is not overly necessary on a low-owned opportunity team. For multiple shares, mixing them in for variance is worthwhile, though none truly stand out for power or significant upside. Of the trio, the switch-hitting Carlson is probably the most interesting for just $3,300 on both sites.

HR Call: Giancarlo Stanton – New York Yankees


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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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