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

Terry McBride



More reports continue to indicate that the Cubs are a top contender to sign star free agent shortstop Carlos Correa after the lockout was lifted

Sunday’s MLB DFS afternoon main slate is another loaded affair with high-end pitching and premium stacking opportunities. The 10-game slate thankfully leaves the Coors Field game on the shelf for the night while still including a few excellent opportunities for offense. The Astros, Phillies, Rangers and Royals all appear to be in plus matchups, while several of the slate’s primary arms have cakewalk matchups of their own. Interestingly, the Dodgers – Braves matchup is looking like a tough spot for apex ace Trevor Bauer, which could create a major inflection point on the slate, while the matchup against John Gant has the power out for the mighty Reds bats in the home run model. There are numerous directions this one can go. With weather warming across the country, totals are going to begin to rise and there should be more offensive fireworks. Getting to the right full stacks looks like the likely approach for GPP play on both DraftKings and FanDuel for a 10-game slate of this shape.

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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

Arizona Diamondbacks: Ketel Marte — 1.62

Atlanta Braves: Dansby Swanson — 5.86

Baltimore Orioles: D.J. Stewart — 5.38

Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu — 5.96

Cincinnati Reds: Nick Castellanos — 1.36

Cleveland Indians: Eddie Rosario — 12.73

Detroit Tigers: Jonathan Schoop — 7.72

Houston Astros: Yordan Alvarez — 21.11

Kansas City Royals: Jorge Soler — 11.11

Los Angeles Dodgers: Mookie Betts — 5.12

Miami Marlins: Jesus Aguilar — 12.45

Milwaukee Brewers: Avisail Garcia — 7.12

Minnesota Twins: Nelson Cruz — 8.88

Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins — 15.71

Pittsburgh Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes — 5.04

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St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill — 5.12

Tampa Bay Rays: Brandon Lowe — 5.71

Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo — 15.19

Toronto Blue Jays: Bo Bichette — 9.11

Washington Nationals: Kyle Schwarber — 13.80

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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.

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

As inflection points go, they don’t get much bigger than Trevor Bauer’s matchup against the Braves today. At a heavy price tag and significant public ownership, the fate of the Dodgers ace will be the same as a wide swath of the field. Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes is outpacing the Dodgers’ ace on the Top Pitchers tool and in projections, but he appears to be drawing less ownership. Dylan Cease is inexpensive for his talent and upside in a game against the lowly Tigers, while Sandy Alcantara will not be explosively popular and is in a strong spot against the Pirates.

Bauer is the slate’s most interesting pitcher. Atlanta’s offense is tied for the league lead with a .193 team ISO against right-handed pitching. The Braves have hit 62 home runs in the split, good for third best in baseball, while they create runs 2% better than average. The team has a slightly below average 25.1% strikeout rate in the split however, so there is a bit of bonus strikeout upside on the table for him. For his part, Bauer has been excellent this season. Over his first 76.1 innings in 12 starts he has a 3.54 xFIP and a crisp 0.83 WHIP while striking out 32.7% of hitters. He throws a ton of strikes, sitting at a 30.1% CSW while inducing 12.2% swinging strikes. The contact numbers are not spectacular, however; Bauer sits in just the 25th percentile of hard-hit rate allowed, the 37th percentile in average exit velocity and the 22nd percentile in barrel rate allowed, yet he is in the 68th percentile in expected slugging percentage against and the 93rd percentile of expected batting average against. This is an apex pitcher operating at the peak of his powers. He has a strong probability of overcoming the opposing offense, but he is not entirely safe in this spot.

A seemingly more secure spot on the board comes in the form of Corbin Burnes. He is the most expensive pitcher on both slates, coming in at $11,000 across the board. He has earned that hefty price tag, pitching to a ridiculous 1.83 xFIP and a 0.73 WHIP this season, while striking out 40.9% of opposing hitters. Burnes is inducing an absurd 18.3% swinging strikes and has a 35.0% CSW. In 14 of the 15 summary categories on the Statcast board, Burnes sits in the 83rd percentile or higher. The 15th category is maximum exit velocity allowed, where he lands in just the 13th percentile, but that is based on an individual event. Burnes has a 98th percentile expected slugging percentage against, an 83rd percentile barrel rate and sits in the 97th percentile in hard hit rate. He has been Cy Young caliber all season. Burnes is facing an Arizona team that strikes out 24.0% of the time against right-handed pitching, exactly the middle of the league. The Diamondbacks create runs 14% worse than average in the split and have hit a below-average 39 home runs against righties, coming up with just a .140 team ISO. This should be a strong spot for Burnes, but he is projecting for lower ownership than Bauer despite a better matchup, an interesting wrinkle in today’s slate.

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Cease is facing a Tigers offense that sits second-worst in baseball with a 27.2% strikeout rate against righties this season. They have hit a slightly above average 47 home runs against right-handed pitching but own just a .151 collective ISO in the split and have created runs 10% below average. This is a strong spot for pitching, MLB DFS gamers have attacked the Tigers offense in good spots throughout the season and Cease appears primed to take advantage once again. He is beginning to harness his significant talent; he has a 28.6% strikeout rate this season to go with a 4.19 xFIP over 54.2 innings in 11 starts. The average length of start is somewhat concerning, as is the 11.3% walk rate and 1.35 WHIP that contribute to the early hooks. If Cease gets rolling, he stands a strong chance of carving up the Tigers offense, Detroit has several strikeout happy impatient hitters. The projected lineup has an average on-base percentage of just .309, Cease may be able to limit his free passes and rack up some additional whiffs, for the low required salary he is very much in play on the FanDuel slate, while the higher price should keep some of the public at bay on DraftKings.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds bottomed out in today’s power index above. Cincinnati is facing John Gant, who is not exactly an ace caliber pitcher. The power outage is caused by Gant’s terrific ability to keep the ball in the yard but does not necessarily suggest that the Reds will be unable to score runs via other means. Gant has allowed just one home run in his 50.2 innings this year, and he has a demonstrable ability to limit power, putting up a HR/9 mark well below 1.00 each of the last four seasons. Cincinnati ranks down the top stacks board on both sites by probability of success, but they also appear slightly under-owned, creating an interesting conundrum around a team that is typically an easy go-to option.

Houston Astros

The Astros look to be in a strong spot, facing lefty Steven Matz, who has issues yielding power and home runs. Matz has pitched well overall this season. He has a 3.42 xFIP and a 25.2% strikeout rate over 59.2 innings, but the Astros strike out at just a 16.7% rate against lefties this year, best in the league by more than 3 percentage points, an almost unheard-of margin. Houston creates runs 21% better than average in the split and they have hit a league leading 28 home runs against southpaws this year. Matz sits in just the 45th percentile in hard hit rate, though he is comfortably in the 74th in average exit velocity allowed, but he seems likely to pile on some additional weight on the negative side of those indicators today. Houston will not be unpopular, but they are also not projecting to be over-owned, making them a quality target for stacks.

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Jose Altuve has found his form after some struggles last year had early season MLB DFS gamers jumping ship. Altuve is up to his old tricks, sitting at .302/.370/.460 with eight home runs and a .159 ISO in 216 plate appearances. He creates runs 35% better than average and can make things happen on his own or help a stack compile fantasy points by getting on base in front of his powerful teammates. Altuve is a key to Astros stacks, even at $5,400 on DraftKings and $4,000 on FanDuel. With ownership only in the low teens, there is not enough public attention on the Astros’ excellent leadoff hitter.

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

Carlos Correa is hitting second in the confirmed lineup. He is slashing .277/.364/.485 and has a strong .209 ISO with 10 home runs over his first 236 plate appearances. Correa has created runs 41% better than average and has been quietly rolling along, not drawing much attention from the MLB DFS community. He has hit down lineup for much of the season, it will be interesting to watch his popularity in the No. 2 spot, though he is currently projecting to be fairly low-owned, similar to Altuve in the top spot. Those two make for a solid two-man on their own, and they are an excellent way to kick off a full team stack. Correa is at a discount as well, coming in at just $4,500 on DraftKings and $3,300 on FanDuel.

Alex Bregman is the most expensive Astros player on the DraftKings slate, where he costs $5,200. On the blue site, he is somehow at just $3,200, a complete misprice. Bregman will be explosively popular at that mark, soaking up much of the Astros ownership on FanDuel, but he is at under 10.0% projected public popularity on the DraftKings. Bregman is carrying a .289/.381/.437 slash but has an uncharacteristic .147 ISO and just six home runs over his 218 plate appearances. There is far more upside in the bat. He should not be skipped on either site, though he is a better play on DraftKings where he can be used as a pricey one-off play as well. At the popularity on FanDuel, Bregman is better deployed in stacks.

Yordan Alvarez is a lefty who mashes fellow lefties. He is at a major discount at just $4,200 on DraftKings and $3,100 on FanDuel despite his rapid ascendancy to being one of the game’s best hitters. Alvarez has a .302/.341/.512 slash with a .209 ISO and seven home runs in his 185 plate appearances after missing the earliest part of the season. He is an excellent option who is projecting for under 15.0% ownership on both sites. hitter should be a major part of Astros stacks today.

Yuli Gurriel seems to never get the respect he deserves from the MLB DFS community. Gurriel is at $4,300 on DraftKings and just $2,600 on FanDuel. He is slashing .314/.382/.524 over his 220 plate appearances. He has hit eight home runs and carries a strong .209 ISO while creating runs 53% better than average this season but is projected for well under 10.0% ownership on both sites. It defies logic that the ownership would be that low for a hitter of this caliber in this spot; Gurriel belongs in most Astros stacks.

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Kyle Tucker has made 212 plate appearances against fellow southpaws so far in his brief Major League career and 393 against righties. Tucker has a .223 ISO with 14 home runs against righties and sits at a .207 with 10 home runs against same-handed pitching. With that type of platoon immunity, Tucker is an excellent option for sneaky power as casual MLB DFS gamers skip him for the matchup; despite those strong marks Tucker is projected for less than 1% ownership on FanDuel and under 5% on DraftKings. For the season he has a .250/.316/.475 slash with 11 home runs and a .225 ISO while creating runs 20% better than average. It would be a mistake to leave Tucker on the shelf tonight when stacking Astros.

The bottom third of the order leaves a bit to be desired, though Chas McCormick has flashed some infrequent power. He sits at .203/.289/.420 with four home runs over his 83 plate appearances, putting up a .217 ISO and creating runs 2% worse than average this year. McCormick costs the minimum on FanDuel and $2,700 on DraftKings. He helps offset and cost or popularity concerns but should not be over-rostered. He profiles for low-end power and only moderate speed with a handful of stolen bases and home runs on his minor league ledger.

With first base and outfield eligibility on DraftKings and first-third eligibility on FanDuel, Taylor Jones could provide a bit of flexibility for the minimum salary on the latter site and $2,600 on the former. Jones has made just 32 plate appearances this season and sits at .172/.219/.172 with no home runs. He hit 22 home runs in 531 AAA plate appearances in 2019, there is moderate upside on any given day, but he is not a particularly strong or reliable play.

Martin Maldonado rounds off the batting order and should be considered almost exclusively where catchers are required. He has hit four home runs this season, putting up a .121 ISO and creating runs 44% worse than average while hitting just .164/.245/.286. Maldonado is not much more than roster filler for MLB DFS purposes.

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HR Call: Kyle Tucker — Houston Astros

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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