The afternoon of Memorial Day MLB DFS action gets going early and features an excellent slate of games. The action splits slightly differently between sites, with the FanDuel main slate running through the Nationals – Braves game at 5 p.m. ET but skipping the seven-inning White Sox – Indians makeup game. DraftKings includes that game but stops short of the 5 p.m. contest for their nine-game slate. This article is focused on the main slate as it appears on the FanDuel board; it does not include the seven-inning game or the evening contests. For the DraftKings slate, White Sox starter Carlos Rodon has appeal in a seven-inning game, but he is facing an Indians lineup that is not known for striking out frequently. The remainder of games have mostly midrange starters going, as it stands the projected power output is outpacing the pitching options in most spots.
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Tracking the top MLB DFS pitchers will be key, as will monitoring the public ownership distributions on stacks via the Top Stacks Tool. Let’s get into the MLB DFS picks for DraftKings and FanDuel, as well as some home-run candidates for each team.
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 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.
Home Run Ratings
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Scale: 5-10 Average; 10-20 Good; 20-25 Very Good; 25+ Great
Atlanta Braves: Austin Riley — 12.19
Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle — 5.68
Boston Red Sox: J.D. Martinez — 10.93
Chicago Cubs: Ian Happ — 9.89
Cincinnati Reds: Jesse Winker — 10.31
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera — 1.54
Houston Astros: Carlos Correa — 9.65
Los Angeles Angels: Anthony Rendon — 6.54
Milwaukee Brewers: Christian Yelich — 13.90
Minnesota Twins: Alex Kirilloff — 11.85
New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez — 6.69
Oakland Athletics: Seth Brown — 23.90
Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins — 5.60
San Diego Padres: Tommy Pham — 9.19
San Francisco Giants: Alex Dickerson — 5.40
Seattle Mariners: Kyle Seager — 12.10
Tampa Bay Rays: Austin Meadows — 14.04
Washington Nationals: Juan Soto — 9.13
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This is intended to capture the full range of home runs-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 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. 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
The afternoon main slate is somewhat lacking in premium pitching options. There are several quality arms from the mid-range who could have nice games, but Corbin Burnes stands as the top option by a fairly wide margin in his game against the lowly Tigers. Twins starter Jose Berrios is in play against the Orioles and stands as one of the slate’s better options, while options like Chris Paddack, Dylan Bundy and Charlie Morton are quality pitchers in more difficult matchups. The Yankees’ Jameson Taillon is a potentially underrated option facing the Rays, while Johnny Cueto is a major dice roll who projects well and appears near the peak of the Top Pitchers Tool today.
Burnes is the slate’s clear cut top option. He has a strong case for the National League Cy Young Award at the season’s quarter-pole, putting up a 1.66 xFIP and a 0.65 WHIP with a 42.5% strikeout rate over his first 46.1 innings in eight starts. Burnes has been absolutely dynamite this season. He sits in the top 10th percentile of most Statcast categories, including the 96th in hard hit rate, the 93rd in average exit velocity allowed, the 99th in strikeout rate, the 98th in expected slugging percentage allowed and the 100th in expected ERA. One simply cannot pitch better than Burnes has been over the early part of the season, though additional depth would be a plus for MLB DFS purposes. Burnes is facing a Detroit team that strikes out 27.1% of the time against right-handed pitching this season, while posting just a .142 team ISO and creating runs 12% worse than average in the split. Burnes is not under much threat for offense coming at him and he stands a great chance of being the top overall option on the board with a monster strikeout game.
Berrios is in play but has not been at nearly the level of Burnes this season. He has a 27.5% strikeout rate over his first 56.1 innings in 10 starts. He has put up a tidy 3.25 xFIP and a 1.15 WHIP, both improvements from the 4.28 and 1.32 marks he put up across a 63.0 inning sample in 12 starts last year. Berrios’ average outing comes up short of the quality start line, but he has a good chance of making that mark today in a good matchup. The opposing Orioles sit 10th-worst in baseball with a 25.3% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching and they have hit just 28 home runs in the split, among the lowest numbers in the league. Baltimore creates runs 19% worse than average in the split and has just a .141 team ISO, this is a solid spot for pitching upside, though Berrios’ popularity is currently slightly outpacing his probability of being the top starter.
Taillon is an interesting piece on both sites, at $7,300 on DraftKings and $7,700 on FanDuel. He is likely a bit underpriced for his talent and he is in a quality matchup for strikeouts. The Tampa Bay Rays are tied for seventh worst in baseball with a 25.5% strikeout rate against right-handed pitchers this season, though they hit for significant power, mashing 44 home runs and compiling a team ISO of .187 against righties this year. The team creates runs 19% better than average in the split and today’s game will be at Yankee Stadium, a friendly place for offense. Taillon is another Yankees reclamation project on the hill, following multiple Tommy John surgeries in his career. Taillon is pitching well over his first 42.2 innings in nine starts, posting a 27.9% strikeout rate, a 3.98 xFIP and a 1.22 WHIP, but he is by no means safe in this spot. The average depth to which he pitches in games is another concern, particularly after the Yankees watched Corey Kluber fall apart after being pushed too far in his no hitter. There are justifiable concerns about rostering Taillon here, but that is what keeps the public popularity off his back, making him a solid tournament play for MLB DFS contests on both sites.
The Athletics are near the peak of the Top Stacks Tool on both sites tonight, and they are going under-owned by the public. Oakland is in a strong spot, facing Seattle rookie Logan Gilbert, a high-end prospect who has struggled through the early portion of his debut season. Gilbert has completed just 10.2 innings over his three starts so far, putting together a 22.4% strikeout rate and a 4.1% walk rate, but a bumpy 1.41 WHIP and a 4.48 xFIP. He has yielded a concerning 51.4% hard hit rate this season, while allowing opposing hitters to get good wood on the ball 8.6% of the time. The barrel rate and hard-hit marks lead to increased upside for the powerful Athletics bats, Oakland is cracking the top of the power index for this afternoon’s slate, but the Athletics are going under-owned across the industry, creating a solid tournament opportunity.
Leadoff outfielder Mark Canha starts things off with a bang for the Oakland lineup. He has 10 home runs in his 233 plate appearances this season, posting a .253/.386/.468 with a .216 ISO this season. Between the individual upside and the strong on-base percentage, Canha is a key cog in what Oakland does for offense. He should not be left out of stacks but is projected for under 10.0% ownership on both sites. He is creating runs 48% better than average this season.
Matt Olson slots into the two spot in the projected lineup. Olson has 13 home runs to start his season, and he is carrying a .287 ISO while creating runs 46% better than average. If Canha gets on base, there is a strong chance that Olson is the one driving him in, making this a well-correlated high-end duo atop the lineup. The field knows to play Olson, so he will be more popular, but not to an unwieldy level, though he does work better in stacks than as a one-off.
[osBestBetsSingleGameOdds league=”mlb” date=”05/31/2021″ team=”athletics”]
Speed and power specialist Ramon Laureano is having a fine start to his season as well, though the hit tool remains a bit off pace. This season, Laureano has hit 11 home runs and stolen eight bases, an elite combination of MLB DFS skills. He is priced for that talent on the DraftKings slate. He costs $5,800 and is one of the most expensive hitters available, which is keeping all but 0.9% of the public off of him. The salary lands at just $3,200 on the blue site, well behind the curve of Laureano’s upside, though gamers are slow to get there, leaving him at just 7.3% projected public popularity. Laureano should be rostered more on both sites, getting ahead of the public on him is simple.
Seth Brown is not a known commodity yet, which is a major benefit to roster construction with this team today. Brown is a 28-year-old lefty first baseman who has seen only 208 plate appearances in his Major League career so far. He has a .217 ISO and eight home runs in that sample, all eight of which have been hit in his first 120 plate appearances this season. While not quite at Crash Davis levels, Brown is a post-post-hype prospect who has multiple seasons of more than 30 home runs in the minor leagues. He is an excellent option for inexpensive and unpopular power upside on this slate, pairing him with Olson results in unique constructions.
The reclamation of Jed Lowrie may have been heralded a bit too early when he got out to a strong start early in the season. He has cooled to a .246/.325/.385 slash with a .140 ISO but is still above average by 6% when it comes to run creation. He is not entirely lacking for upside, particularly in the middle of the projected lineup. He will not be expensive or popular on either site, meaning he can be included in stacks without damaging upside. Lowrie is a piece of the puzzle for the Athletics lineup. He should not be over-rostered either, however, given the wide range of choices with better power and run production upside in this lineup.
Lefty Mitch Moreland is our third first baseman of the lineup and yet another who hits righties for significant power. Moreland has a .245/.313/.402 slash with a .157 ISO this season, hitting four home runs in his first 115 plate appearances. He has .211 ISO against righties for his career, creating runs 7% better than average. Against southpaws, he craters to a .138 ISO and creates runs 21% worse than average. Moreland is on the correct side of splits and the Athletics lineup is difficult to match pitching against late in games, but he is not entirely safe from pinch hit threat late in the game.
Star third baseman Matt Chapman has struggled mightily so far in 2021. He has just a .208/.321/.348 slash with a .140 ISO and is creating runs 4% worse than average this year. This is not the hitter that Chapman is when he is going right. In 1,979 plate appearances in his big-league career, Chapman is a .250/.334/.487 hitter with a .237 ISO and 89 home runs. He creates runs 23% better than average and, incidentally, plays a hell of a third base. Chapman is pushed down the lineup and his salary is suppressed on the blue site – though he still costs $5,000 on DraftKings – he will not be popular in public lineups, making him a prime target for Oakland stacks at the back end of the lineup.
Sean Murphy brings home run threat to the catcher position on any slate. He has five long balls in just 162 plate appearances this season, though he struggles with his hit tool and on-base skills. Murphy has just a .213/.309/.383 slash and a .170 ISO while creating runs 2% better than average. If he ever managed to cut his 26.5% strikeout rate, Murphy would rapidly improve as a hitter. That won’t happen before this afternoon’s game, but the catcher should be in play for rosters on both sites.
The ghost of Elvis Andrus occupies the final spot in the Oakland batting order. Andrus formerly was a solid option for MLB DFS production, hitting home runs and stealing bases throughout his career with Texas. He peaked in 2017, hitting 20 home runs and stealing 25 bags. he had a respectable 2019 for Texas, going .275/.313/.393 and hitting 12 home runs while stealing 31 bases, but fell apart in the shortened 2020 season and has been largely absent for Oakland so far. Andrus has just a .202/.244/.250 slash with a .048 ISO and has created runs 58% worse than average. Even at the dead minimum on both sites, Andrus is skippable at the bottom of the lineup, his recent inability to get on base with any reliability removes his viability as a wrap-around option.
HR Call: Seth Brown — Oakland Athletics
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