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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 6/7/21

Terry McBride



Free MLB DFS picks today from Awesemo fantasy baseball projections and rankings, and the best lineups & value targets for DraftKings & FanDuel

With sunshine and warm weather across much of the country, everything seems primed for a great Monday of MLB DFS action, with the small exception of the major league schedule, that is. Somehow a Monday in early June has only three baseball games. Worse yet, the slate is split between a late afternoon game and two West Coast games, creating a calamitous situation for daily fantasy baseball contests industrywide. FanDuel is offering a three-game main slate that starts at 5:10 p.m. ET, while DraftKings is taking a more conservative approach, starting their main slate at 9:38 p.m. and including only the two West Coast games. Making matters even more interesting, there are precisely zero entirely reliable pitchers on the slate. This slate is going to be all about landing on the right bats and getting creative with roster construction in our DFS MLB strategy.

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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 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

Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 5.77

Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo — 5.55

Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana — 6.81

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 12.92

Miami Marlins: Starling Marte — 5.75

San Diego Padres: Eric Hosmer — 7.02

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Power Index

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.

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MLB DFS Picks daily fantasy baseball home run projections draftkings fanduel tournament GPP cash games angels padres marlins cubs red sox royals Monday June 7 2021 today expert predictions power rankings strategy advice stacks hitters pitchers

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 Monday MLB DFS pitching slate is loaded with mediocrity today. Dylan Bundy ranks second on the site’s Top Pitchers Tool behind Chicago’s Adbert Alzolay. The slate breaks down differently with two additional pitchers on the blue site. Nick Pivetta is in play on the FanDuel slate. Pablo Lopez was scratched from his start for the Marlins midway through writing this article, adding to the chaos. No replacement has been announced as of publication; tune in to the Deeper Dive at 3 p.m. ET for more). Finding two starters in any unique way will be a challenge for DraftKings players. The slate rounds off with rookies Ryan Weathers and Jackson Kowar, neither of whom is likely to provide predictable depth or reliable upside. Weathers has pitched well in the majors so far, but typically is restricted to short outings when he starts, while Kowar is making his debut after six dominant AAA starts this season.

Bundy has made 10 starts this season, completing 51.1 innings and pitching to a 4.07 xFIP with a 1.32 WHIP. His strikeout rate has returned to around his career average, currently sitting at 23.9% on the season, after spiking to nearly 29.0% last season. Bundy is not pitching poorly, but he is not providing immense fantasy upside either. He is generating 11.2% swinging strikes and has a solid 31.9% CSW%, while sitting in the 90th percentile in chase rate. Bundy has done well with contact this season. He lands in the 72nd percentile in average exit velocity allowed and the 81st in hard hit rate, but just the 30th percentile in expected slugging percentage, suggesting there could be some additional pending regression in the power department. Bundy is facing a Royals active roster that sits seventh best in baseball with a 22.7% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season. Kansas City has a league-average .151 team ISO in the split and has hit 42 home runs, also in the middle of the league against righties. Their run creation lands 6% below average in the split, but Bundy is by no means in a safe spot, despite being one of the best options on the microscopic slate.

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Alzolay takes on a tough Padres lineup in the last game of the night. He has pitched well to this point in his first full season. Alzolay has a 3.35 xFIP and a 0.91 WHIP over his first 54.2 innings, striking out 27.2% of hitters in the 10 starts. He is inducing a 12.0% swinging strike rate and walking a mere 5.2% of hitters, excellent marks across the board. Alzolay does have some concerning marks on the Statcast board. He lands in the 37th percentile of hard-hit rate allowed, the 41st in average exit velocity yielded and the 34th in expected slugging percentage against. The matchup against the Padres is not an easy one, San Diego’s dynamic lineup sits second best in baseball with a 21.1% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season. They have created runs 2% worse than average but have hit 50 home runs in the split so far, 10th most in baseball, though they have a collective ISO of just .146, more than a handful of points lower than the rest of that top-10, suggesting they have not hit for much power beyond the home runs. Alzolay will be owned at more than a 60% rate on the DraftKings slate, but lands at a more reasonable mark on FanDuel, for a $9,900 price; he should be rostered actively on both sites.

Kowar’s biggest asset on this slate is the ownership projection as of the early afternoon. As the least known commodity on the board, he is tracking for by far the lowest ownership on both sites. Kowar was not even on the FanDuel slate in its original form, though he has since been added at a $6,400 price tag. He is a well-regarded prospect in the Royals system. He ranks just outside of Baseball America‘s Top 100 leaguewide prospects and is regarded as Kansas City’s No. 4 prospect. Kowar pitched on the same University of Florida team as Royals teammate Brady Singer. He throws a plus fastball and a plus-plus changeup, though his control and command are still developing, and he needs a reliable third pitch in the form of a breaking ball if he is going to succeed at the major league level. Kowar has made six starts in AAA this season, going 5-0 with a 3.66 xFIP with a 0.88 WHIP and a 33.9% strikeout rate in 31.2 innings, allowing just three runs and no home runs to the 121 hitters he faced in the sample. He is making his debut against an Angels team that sits in the middle of the league with a 24.4% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season but is tied for sixth best in baseball with a .180 collective ISO in the split. Los Angeles (of Anaheim) creates runs 9% better than average against righties, and they are in the middle of the pack with 47 home runs in the split. The lineup is certainly depleted without Mike Trout, but there are solid hitters, and the Angels should offer a challenge to the Royals’ young starter. This is by no means a safe spot, but there is projectable upside, and it is the only angle toward offsetting some DraftKings public popularity at pitcher for MLB DFS today.

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Los Angeles Angels

Taking on Kowar, the Angels are profiling as one of the top options on a slate short on stacking possibilities. Los Angeles is currently tracking to provide positive leverage, going under-owned for their probability of success on both sites. This may change heading into lock, particularly on FanDuel, where the Miami pitching change should give the Red Sox bats another boost. The Angels make for an excellent option regardless, they have enough in the lineup to threaten the talented young starter and get into the Kansas City bullpen early. Royals relievers rank third worst in baseball with a 4.52 collective xFIP and just 18th with a 24.4% strikeout rate, making them a targetable part of this slate.

Justin Upton is an illogical fit for the spot in the lineup, given his on-base percentage that has not cracked .320 since 2018. Upton is currently slashing .225/.310/.486 with a .260 ISO and he has created runs 20% better than average, all marks that represent improvement from his downturn last season, but he is miscast atop the lineup for real baseball purposes. For MLB DFS, take the extra plate appearance that potentially comes from the spot in the batting order. Upton is largely an all-or-nothing player these days, but he stands a good chance to pop out for fantasy points tonight.

There does not seem to be much that Shohei Ohtani is incapable of on a baseball diamond. He is slashing .256/.332/.588 over his 223 plate appearances this season. He has hit 16 home runs, landing among the league leaders so far, while compiling a .332 ISO and creating runs 50% better than average. Ohtani is expensive at $5,500 on DraftKings and $4,100 on FanDuel, but he is well worth the investment from a talent perspective. When ownership is factored in, however, Ohtani becomes a challenge. On a slate where the field is essentially locking identical pitching, Ohtani is projected to land in almost 50.0% of lineups on DraftKings and over 35.0% on FanDuel. Adding Ohtani and the top-end of the Angels stack with the popular pitchers is walking directly down the middle of a very well-worn path on the slate tonight, a solo win will likely require more creativity.

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Anthony Rendon has missed part of the season and slumped through the rest, but he has All-Star upside. Rendon has made 161 plate appearances and is carrying a lowly .236/.311/.347 slash that is wildly uncharacteristic. He has hit just three home runs to this point and has a .111 ISO while creating runs 12% worse than average. Over 232 plate appearances in 52 games last season, Rendon hit nine home runs and had a .212 ISO with a .286/.418/.497 slash; the season before he was at .319/.412/.598 with a .279 ISO and 34 home runs in a full season’s 646 plate appearances for the title-winning Nationals. Rendon is more the player from those samples than he is the hitter of this season. While there may be underlying injury-related reasons for the slump, the talent has not simply disappeared. Rendon can be rostered with confidence until otherwise noted. The field is on Rendon, however, exacerbating the ownership dilemma with the leading bats in this stack.

[osBestBetsSingleGameOdds league=”mlb” date=”06/07/2021″ team=”angels”]

Jared Walsh has hit 13 home runs and helped to keep the Angels offense afloat in the absence of Trout and, largely, Rendon. Walsh has a .262 ISO and has created runs 54% better than average this season, carrying an unexpected .301/.361/.563 slash through his first 227 plate appearances. Walsh is the last of the extremely popular bats atop the Angels lineup, getting to him with only the three hitters above is the most popular construction for this team, selecting two or three to pair with some of the hitters to follow is the approach.

Juan Lagares is more a glove man than he is a hitter. He has a .209/.236/.302 slash and a powerless .093 ISO so far in 2021, creating runs 51% worse than average. That sample is in a slightly unfair 89 plate appearances, but over 285 opportunities with the Mets in 2019, Lagares came up with just a .213/.279/.326 and five home runs with a .112 ISO. He created runs 40% worse than average that season as the team’s fourth outfielder. Lagares has minor flashes of power and does offer speed upside. He topped out at 13 stolen bases in a 452 plate appearance season in New York in 2014 but has not cracked 10 since. At just $2,800 on DraftKings and $2,100 on FanDuel, and significantly lower ownership than the teammates above him on both sites, Lagares is not out of play. The value will depend on his positioning in the confirmed batting order, but Lagares could end up an important piece on tonight’s slate.

Infielder Jose Iglesias slots in as a $3,300 shortstop on DraftKings and a $3,100 option at the same position across town. Iglesias is not a great bat, but he also flies well under the radar on all slates. He has a .266/.299/.373 slash with four home runs this season, though his .107 ISO and 11% worse than average run creation leave much to be desired. On any given slate, however, Iglesias has value. He hit 11 home runs and stole six bases in 530 plate appearances for the Reds in 2019, his most productive major league season. This is not a standout play, but it is also not one entirely lacking in upside.

Outfielder Taylor Ward is drawing mid-range popularity on DraftKings and a single-digit mark on the FanDuel slate. Ward is slashing .223/.302/.415 with five home runs in just 107 plate appearances this season. He has a steady .191 ISO and has sneakily created runs 2% better than average from late in the Halos’ lineup. Ward offers appealing upside that may not be at the forefront of MLB DFS gamers’ attention today. He hit 27 home runs and had a noteworthy .278 ISO in AAA in 2019, though the power surge was regarded as somewhat surprising at the time.

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Catcher Kurt Suzuki is at just .200/.277/.267 over his first 103 plate appearances this season. He is carrying just a .067 ISO and has created runs 41% worse than average so far in 2021. Suzuki has delivered MLB DFS upside in the right spot through his career, hitting more than 15 home runs three times, and landing just shy of that mark in a few other seasons. He reached his second-highest total (17) while with the Nationals in 2019. Suzuki made 309 plate appearances for the champs that season, going .264/324/.486 with a .221 ISO.

David Fletcher has been relegated to the nine spot in the Angels lineup of late. Fletcher was never a major cog in the lineup for MLB DFS purposes, but he was an effective way to offset some cost and ownership with this stack last season when he was getting on base and productive with the hit-tool with regularity over the past two seasons. Last year, Fletcher slashed .319/.376/.425 and created runs 23% better than average in 230 plate appearances. In 231 this season, he has a .264/.295/.306 and has created runs 30.0% worse than average. The deflation in the on-base and batting average are particularly concerning, Fletcher was a .292/.346/.386 career hitter coming into this season, if he is not providing the on-base numbers and creating runs he is only a mix-in option who helps offset MLB DFS cost and ownership.

HR Call: Jared Walsh — Los Angeles Angels

To get even more action down on tonight’s MLB slate, check out the betting markets and Awesemo’s expert MLB betting locks 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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