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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 6/1/21

Terry McBride

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Best MLB DFS tournament picks today DraftKings FanDuel daily fantasy baseball starting lineups home run projections rankings

Tuesday’s monster 14-game daily fantasy baseball slate shapes up in very interesting ways. There is no truly safe starter — even the ace-caliber pitchers are either struggling to a degree or facing difficult matchups. Finding the right starters from the mid-range could have a major impact on the ability to unlock lineup combinations that reach the top of GPP standings, though one or two of the top-tier starters will certainly pay off their salary as well. With a number of targetable pitchers also on the slate, there will be plenty of opportunity to land on the right combination of stacks, which is the name of the game on a slate of this size. With the slate featuring a ludicrously popular Twins team facing a bad lefty, as well as the opening game of a series at Coors Field, there are some clear chalk points. But there should also be several strong leverage spots to exploit for bats as well for our DraftKings and FanDuel lineups.

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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: Christian Walker — 6.41

Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr. — 22.06

Baltimore Orioles: Anthony Santander — 8.12

Boston Red Sox: Rafael Devers — 11.31

Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez — 5.53

Cincinnati Reds: Nick Castellanos — 8.13

Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron — 5.96

Detroit Tigers: Eric Haase — 11.89

Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker — 8.12

Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana — 12.37

Los Angeles Angels: Jared Walsh — 5.26

Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy — 1.36

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Miami Marlins: Jesus Aguilar — 16.07

Milwaukee Brewers: Keston Hiura — 7.87

Minnesota Twins: Josh Donaldson — 16.96

New York Mets: Billy McKinney — 7.50

New York Yankees: Clint Frazier — 7.68

Oakland Athletics: Matt Olson — 12.84

Philadelphia Phillies: Brad Miller — 4.82

Pittsburgh Pirates: Gregory Polanco — 5.58

San Diego Padres: Eric Hosmer — 8.69

San Francisco Giants: Wilmer Flores — 7.10

Seattle Mariners: Kyle Lewis — 4.24

St. Louis Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt — 16.72

Tampa Bay Rays: Brandon Lowe — 12.76

Texas Rangers: Willie Calhoun — 5.81

Toronto Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez — 7.38

Washington Nationals: Kyle Schwarber — 6.12


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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 Picks daily fantasy baseball draftkings fanduel top stacks home run options projections ownership cardinals twins braves marlins yankees Tuesday June 1

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 pitching slate for MLB DFS today has a feeling of unpredictability to it. While there are several premium pitchers going, they are largely in difficult spots. Tyler Glasnow tops the board in both my personal projections and the site’s Top Pitchers Tool, but he is facing the Yankees who can belt several home runs or yield 12 to 15 strikeouts to seemingly any level starter, let alone the Rays’ ace. Aaron Nola finds himself in a similarly tough matchup, facing a more functional offense in the Cincinnati Reds, while Stephen Strasburg may draw the eye on name recognition but is unlikely to be a strong option as he is still working his way back from injury and in a very tough spot against the Atlanta Braves. Toronto’s Robbie Ray is at least a tier below those starters on most nights, though he has upside to that level and has been pitching well and finds himself in the easiest matchup of names near the top of the board, drawing the Marlins. Dropping a few spots down the board, Chris Bassitt could slip into under-owned territory as he looks to continue his strong start in a good matchup against the Mariners, while Matthew Boyd is cheap and low-owned in a strong strikeout spot and German Marquez would make an inexpensive extreme dice roll of a play, taking on the powerful but strikeout happy Rangers at Coors Field.

Glasnow tops the slate at $10,700 on FanDuel and $9,800 on DraftKings in a matchup against the Bronx Bombers in Yankee Stadium. Glasnow has been terrific this season, starting out with a 2.73 xFIP and a 0.93 WHIP over his first 11 starts. He has thrown 70.0 innings, giving his team reliable depth and MLB DFS owners a reasonable shot at quality start bonus where applicable. He has a 36.2% strikeout rate this season and is inducing an impressive 16.9% swinging strikes. He sits in the 94th percentile of strikeout rate in the league and the 78th of expected slugging percentage allowed. However, Glasnow has allowed premium contact, which could be an issue on the wrong day against this Yankees lineup in this park. Glasnow is in just the 11th percentile in average exit velocity allowed and the 14th of hard-hit rate allowed, while sitting in the 39th percentile of barrel rate allowed. The opposing Yankees have struggled for offense through portions of the season, they sit at a very non-Yankees 1% below average creating runs against right-handed pitchers, they are 11th worst in baseball with a 25.0% strikeout rate and they own just a .143 team ISO in the split. Glasnow has strong upside for strikeouts in this matchup, far worse pitchers have limited the Yankees this year, but he is not entirely safe given the combination of the park, the contact numbers and the power bats in the Yankees lineup, even when they are struggling.

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Ray will be taking the mound for the Blue Jays in a great matchup against the Marlins. He has been steady to start the season, posting a 28.0% strikeout rate and a 3.40 xFIP in his first 52.0 innings to start 2021. Perhaps most shockingly, Ray has a 1.13 WHIP and just a 6.1% walk rate this year, massive improvements on his career marks of 1.37 and 10.7%. Ray is inducing more swinging strikes this season, up to 15.7%, which would be a career high if sustained. The public seems to be on the play given the opponent, and the game will be taking place in the Blue Jays’ new home in Buffalo, N.Y., instead of the Florida launching pad that was their temporary home. He is facing a Marlins team that is sixth worst in baseball with a 27.5% strikeout rate and sits 6% below average creating runs against left-handed pitching this season. This is a solid spot for upside, though Ray has proven unreliable and untrustworthy throughout his career, if the public is far over his probability of being one of the top starters it would be an easy undercut given the abundance of similar options.

Detroit’s Matthew Boyd has struggled to get anywhere near the 30.2% strikeout rate he posted in 185.1 innings in 2019. This season Boyd sits at just a 19.7% mark, after putting up a 22.1% last year, both below average. He has cut his walks from 8.1% last year to 6.3% this season and he has a respectable 1.13 WHIP but a 4.61 xFIP. He is also benefitting from a below average BABIP against, which could turn at any moment. Still, Boyd projects well and is indicating some upside on the slate, taking on a Brewers lineup that has been fourth worst in baseball with a 28.9% strikeout rate against lefties while creating runs 7% worse than average so far. The active lineup has more upside than that however, as they have gotten healthier and are returning to form, making this potentially a less attractive play than it may seem on the surface. Boyd is a major risk; he has not been on form with the strikeouts, and he is underperforming his ERA by more than a full run when looking at better indicators. He could post a solid strikeout game tonight, but he could just as easily get tattooed by this Brewers squad, which is less hedging than it is an accurate representation of the coin flip nature of this play. Added to the questionable upside is the fact that, at just $6,500, Boyd will be owned at a rate that is more than double his probability of being a top-two starter on DraftKings, where there are probably better options with less popularity. On FanDuel, Boyd is trending for less than 5% public exposure and he is a slightly positive play, but the price tag is an uncomfortable $8,500, which may not open enough value in bats to justify dropping from similarly priced pitchers with far more talent.

Chris Bassitt has been excellent this season. He has a 26.1% strikeout rate and a 3.58 xFIP through his first 70.0 innings in 11 starts. He has cut his walk rate from 6.5% last season to a crisp 5.7%, resulting in a 1.00 WHIP for the year so far. He is inducing a career high 11.2% swinging strikes and he sits in the 81st percentile of hard-hit rate and 71st percentile of average exit velocity allowed, as well as the 77th percentile of barrel rate and 79th in expected slugging percentage. Simply put, Bassitt has been excellent at avoiding bad contact while significantly boosting his strikeout rate through improved stuff. He is a changed pitcher, but MLB DFS has been slow to adjust. Bassitt will not be completely unowned, but he is in a comfortable position to get exposure beyond the field, particularly considering the matchup against a Mariners team that creates runs 13% worse than average and has just a .154 team ISO against righties this year. Bassitt has strikeout upside as well, Seattle is 10th worst in baseball with a 25.2% strikeout rate in the split this season, there is clear upside in play rostering Bassitt on both DraftKings and FanDuel once again.

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Minnesota Twins

On a slate that includes a Coors Field game, the Twins are the highest owned stack on both sites in their home matchup against left-handed Orioles’ gas can Bruce Zimmermann. He has a 4.39 xFIP and a 1.53 WHIP on the season, while striking out just 18.6% of hitters and allowing 10 home runs in just 43.2 innings. Zimmermann is targetable with a Twins team that is known for destroying lefties. The Twins have a .190 team ISO and have hit 24 home runs in the split this season, tied for second-best in baseball. They have fearsome right-handed home run hitters like Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Miguel Sano and Mitch Garver in the lineup in addition to solid upside bats at other positions, almost all of whom will be extremely over-owned tonight. It is very difficult to get to the relevant Twins bats in unique combinations, Cruz is owned by nearly 30% of the public on both sites, for example. In baseball it simply makes sense to consider the range of potential outcomes on a slate this size when dealing with players at that level of ownership. Between the variance involved in the hitters’ individual upside and the simple volume of available options, no player should be rostered to that level on this slate.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are ranked down the board in the Top Stacks Tool, but on a slate of this size the difference between the third-ranked Dodgers at 5.5% likely to be the top stack and the 21st ranked Cardinals is just a 3.2% margin. The Cardinals are not drawing much ownership, they provide positive leverage as a team on both sites, and they are drawing strong power indicators in my personal home run model as seen in the power index above. The Cardinals are facing Dodgers lefty David Price who has made two starts this season, pitching 2.0 and 2.2 innings and facing eight hitters in each. Price will likely be limited again, yielding the game to a Dodgers bullpen that sits fifth worst in baseball with a 4.47 xFIP and a 12th-worst 23.9% strikeout rate as a group. St. Louis will be in a good spot starting out against Price. The team is second in baseball with a .203 ISO against southpaws this season. The Cardinals create runs 16.0% better than average in the split and strike out at just a 20.9% rate collectively, though their 14 home runs are only in the middle of the league. There is underappreciated upside in Cardinals bats tonight.

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[osBestBetsSingleGameOdds league=”mlb” date=”06/01/2021″ team=”cardinals”]

Tommy Edman leads off and hits from both sides of the plate, providing mid-range power and solid speed, acting as the catalyst for the Cardinals offense in many situations. Edman has 241 plate appearances on the season and sits at .276/.332/.398 with a .122 ISO and four home runs. He has stolen 10 bases on the season and creates runs 6% better than average. For just $4,900 on DraftKings and $2,900 on FanDuel, Edman is a solid stack starter with essentially zero public exposure.

Another switch-hitter follows Edman in the form of outfielder Dylan Carlson. Carlson has provided a steady bat and some pop batting second for most of the season, coming in at a steady .269/.357/.418 with a .148 ISO and five home runs in his first 213 plate appearances. He costs just $2,300 on FanDuel, an extreme discount for the potential upside and his position in the batting order, as well as the on-base percentage he provides in front of the team’s sluggers. On DraftKings, Carlson is at just $3,500 and will be owned less than 1% by the public, making him a strong option for inclusion in full five-man stacks.

First baseman Paul Goldschmidt has been an All-Star but is at just .244/.310/.385 with six home runs in his 226 plate appearances this year. Goldschmidt has far more upside than that, in his 231 opportunities just last year he was at .304/.417/.466 while creating runs 46% better than average. He sits 3% below average creating runs this season, a mark that almost certainly will return to form. Goldschmidt has an excellent mark in my home run model and should not be skipped in Cardinals stacks.

Former Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado has largely proven naysayers wrong this year, hitting 11 home runs and creating runs 32.0% better than average in his first year with the Cardinals. He is at .279/.327/.529 for the season and he has a monster .250 ISO, hitting everything hard. Arenado is justifiably the highest-priced Cardinals bat, and he is drawing the most ownership, though that mark is below 3% on both sites. With similar upside as the nearly 30.0%-owned Nelson Cruz, Arenado makes a great pivot in utility spots if you are building one lineup and need a pricey player as a one-off that avoids popularity. He should be included in virtually every Cardinals stack that MLB DFS players build.

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Yadier Molina will be owned by just 2.2% of the public on the site that requires catchers. He is at an excellent .292/.322/.526 to start the season and he has hit seven home runs and owns a .234 ISO through 146 plate appearances. Molina has created runs 32% better than average this season. He should be rostered more than this even on the blue site, where catchers are an afterthought.

Outfielder Tyler O’Neill has moonshot power and is creating runs 51.0% better than average this season. He has 12 home runs in just 129 plate appearances, creating a ridiculous .352 ISO so far. O’Neill is at .270/.302/.623 for the season, though last year he slashed just .173/.261/.360 in 157 opportunities. O’Neill is an all-or-nothing slugger; he has a career 34.2% strikeout rate and is at 34.9% for the season. This is a strong GPP play both in stacks and as a one-off on both DraftKings and FanDuel.

The Cardinals projected lineup rounds out with Edmundo Sosa batting seventh. He costs just $2,100 on FanDuel and $2,700 on the DraftKings slate and would normally have utility in offsetting cost or ownership. As neither of those are a problem when stacking Cardinals on this slate, the appeal in Sosa shares at shortstop is somewhat slimmed. However, over 70 plate appearances, he is off to a .293/.414/.379 start and has created runs 31.0% better than average so far. As a mix-in for just a few shares, Sosa is not entirely off the board.

Similarly, Lane Thomas has little appeal batting eighth. He costs $2,100 on FanDuel and $2,000 on DraftKings but has just a .114/.279/.143 slash with a .029 ISO over his first 43 plate appearances and struggled similarly in 40 opportunities last year. Outside of the small Major League sample, Thomas had a 27 home runs season across 545 plate appearances in AA and AAA in 2018, so he is not entirely without upside. Limiting Thomas shares to a simple few would be the correct approach, if one felt compelled to roster him at all.

HR Call: Tyler O’Neill — St. Louis Cardinals

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 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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