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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 6/8/21

Terry McBride



MLB DFS lineup picks today DraftKings FanDuel optimal optimizer free expert rankings projections ownership home run predictions power rankings yankees astros white sox A's Blue Jays yahoo espn cbs fantasy baseball

The feast-or-famine MLB DFS schedule rolls on with a huge 15-game Tuesday. The slate is loaded with pitching and standout spots for bats, though combining the best overall stacks with the top-end pitchers is a pricing challenge on both sites. Both DraftKings and FanDuel have priced up the premium pitching options, but with 30 teams from which to snag hitters, daily fantasy baseball gamers will have some options if they are willing to embrace variance and risk. The Top Stacks Tool is going to be a major help for lineup construction on this slate, pay close attention to the leverage column and look for the teams whose probability of being a top option is outpacing their public ownership.

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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

Arizona Diamondbacks: Ketel Marte — 4.49

Atlanta Braves: Austin Riley — 7.32

Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle — 6.85

Boston Red Sox: Bobby Dalbec — 4.24

Chicago Cubs: Willson Contreras — 3.00

Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu — 16.15

Cincinnati Reds: Tyler Naquin — 7.06

Cleveland Indians: Eddie Rosario — 7.82

Colorado Rockies: Charlie Blackmon — 4.20

Detroit Tigers: Eric Haase — 7.34

Houston Astros: Carlos Correa — 5.92

Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana — 9.19

Los Angeles Angels: Justin Upton — 9.21

Los Angeles Dodgers: Max Muncy — 10.00

Miami Marlins: Jazz Chisholm — 7.46

Milwaukee Brewers: Daniel Vogelbach — 5.60

Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano — 10.07

New York Mets: Pete Alonso — 20.37

New York Yankees: Gleyber Torres — 7.40

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Oakland Athletics: Mitch Moreland — 11.36

Philadelphia Phillies: Andrew McCutchen — 9.29

Pittsburgh Pirates: Colin Moran — 8.43

San Diego Padres: Wil Myers — 5.83

San Francisco Giants: Wilmer Flores — 8.88

Seattle Mariners: Kyle Seager — 9.24

St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill — 7.19

Tampa Bay Rays: Austin Meadows — 8.30

Texas Rangers: Khris Davis — 6.48

Toronto Blue Jays: Randal Grichuk — 4.67

Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman — 10.06

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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 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

A loaded pitching slate gives us the complete opposite of yesterday’s pitching desert, this slate is absolutely lush with options from up and down the salary spectrum on both sites. The industry has done well with pitching pricing on this slate, pushing most of the primary aces up to the top tier while the upper echelon of the mid-range talents is in a tricky price range as well. There are several clear-cut value plays on the board and several interesting question marks, not the least of which is, “can we get five innings out of Dinelson Lamet?” In addition to the Padres enigmatic strikeout machine, MLB DFS gamers have expensive options including Shane Bieber, Walker Buehler and Tyler Glasnow all in relatively good matchups, while other premium arms like Robbie Ray and Aaron Nola are facing more challenging opposition. Chris Bassitt is priced up to a level that may suppress his overall popularity in a good spot, on name recognition alone he should be less popular than the primary aces. Alex Wood, Pablo Lopez and Sonny Gray all seem slightly underpriced for their talent levels and strong strikeout matchups, while Matthew Boyd of the Tigers is a major dice roll against the Mariners.

Bieber has completed 79.0 innings in his 12 starts this season, dominating hitters with a 35.6% strikeout rate and a 17.2% swinging strike rate. He throws 34.4% combined called plus swinging strikes, pounding the zone with his elite five-pitch arsenal. He is facing a Cardinals lineup that sits 10th in baseball with a 23.3% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season. They have hit 55 home runs, among the league leading teams, while their collective ISO sits at .153 in the split. St. Louis has struggled to create runs against righties, however, coming in with a WRC+ 13% below average. The Cardinals win games with home runs and Bieber has a 2.7% home run rate; this is a strong spot for one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Buehler is facing a Pirates team that has struck out just 21.9% of the time against right-handed pitching this season, good for third-best in baseball. The team struggles with everything else, compiling just a .124 ISO against righties and creating runs 11% below average. The Pirates have hit just 28 home runs against righties this season, they have one of the weakest offenses in baseball. Buehler is dealing to the tune of a 3.53 xFIP and a 0.95 WHIP with a 25.7% strikeout rate. He induces 12.1% swinging strikes and has a 30.5% combined rate. He is slightly less expensive than Bieber at $10,800 on FanDuel and $9,800 on DraftKings. He is a solid second option on the slate, though it is price-restrictive to roster the pair together on the latter site.

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Glasnow is rounds out this trio of aces. He has a 35.6% strikeout rate and 16.7% swinging strike rate on the season. He is another heavy strike thrower, coming in at a 33.4% CSW and he lands in the 75th percentile of expected slugging percentage against. He is facing a Washington team that is fifth-best in baseball against righties, with just a 22.2% strikeout rate. The Nationals are similar to the Pirates in that everything else they do offensively is sub-par, though not quite as dramatically as with Pittsburgh. Washington has a .137 team ISO and has hit 38 home runs in the split this season, while creating runs 12% worse than average. This is a solid spot for Glasnow, though he is drawing ownership marks that exceed his probability of being the best option across both site in the Top Pitchers Tool as of the early afternoon. Monitoring the ownership/leverage metrics for the premium starters is the best way to find advantage over the field in pitcher selection on today’s slate.

Cincinnati’s Sonny Gray is the highest-ranked pitcher from the more affordable range of salary. He costs just $8,000 on FanDuel and $8,400 on DraftKings. He is taking on a Brewers squad that ranks fourth worst in baseball with a 26.1% strikeout rate against right-handed pitchers. Milwaukee’s active roster has just a .150 collective ISO, though they have hit 50 home runs in the split, somewhat above average. Despite the occasional home run, the Brewers have created runs 17% worse than average in the split. This is an exploitable spot if Gray brings his best stuff. He should have a strong opportunity for a large number of strikeouts while not being overly threatened the other way. Gray has a 29.4% strikeout rate with a 3.34 xFIP but a 1.34 WHIP on the season. He has walked 9.8% of hitters over his first 47.0 innings in nine starts, a bit higher than we’d like and a contributing factor to the high WHIP. In this matchup, Gray will need to avoid the long ball if he issues any free passes, otherwise he should be a relatively safe option as an SP2 on DraftKings and is in play as a value from the upper midrange on the blue site.

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Bassitt is a horse that was expected to buck those who have been riding him for MLB DFS production long before this. Over his first 12 starts and 74.0 innings this season, he is having a career year. He has a 26.5% strikeout rate and a 3.64 xFIP with a 1.04 WHIP. Bassitt induces 11.4% swinging strikes, well up from his career numbers, and he has excelled at avoiding premium contact. He lands in the 85th percentile in hard hit rate allowed, the 71st in average exit velocity allowed and the 71st in barrel rate, as well as the 76th of expected slugging percentage against. Bassitt is priced like one of the best starters on the slate in his matchup against the Diamondbacks. He costs $9,700 on FanDuel and $8,800 on DraftKings, but the pricing is pushing ownership in other directions. As it stands in the early afternoon, Bassitt has a stronger probability of success than he is drawing in ownership, an ideal target to claw back some advantage against the field. The Arizona active roster is around the league average with a 24.4% strikeout rate against righties, while compiling juts a .137 collective ISO in the split. They have hit just 39 home runs and create runs 16% worse than average against this side of platoon splits. Bassitt is an underappreciated option on this slate on both sites.

[osBestBetsSingleGameOdds league=”mlb” date=”06/08/2021″ team=”mets”]

New York Mets

The Mets are one of the top ranked teams on both DraftKings and FanDuel. They are facing lefty Bruce Zimmermann in a positive hitting environment in Baltimore. Zimmermann has a 4.31 xFIP and an ugly 1.53 WHIP on the season and has struck out just 19.7% of opposing hitters. The Mets bats are profiling well for home runs, leading the power index above, but their key bats will be popular, particularly on FanDuel where they are priced at an extreme discount. The stack is more playable as a pay-up option on DraftKings, though the $4,600 price on Francisco Lindor is drawing significant attention. Other Mets bats are at less of an ownership premium, all of Jonathan Villar, James McCann, Pete Alonso, and Dominic Smith are projecting for less than 10.0% popularity on DraftKings. On the FanDuel slate they are all extremely popular, pushing out toward the edge of viability on such a large slate.

New York Yankees

In another borough, Yankees fans are in the midst of a full-on crisis alert. The team has struggled mightily on the offensive side of the dish this season. The Yankees’ arsenal has been largely loaded with duds, outside of infrequent outbursts of power. Their active roster has hit just 42 home runs against right-handed pitching this season with a collective team ISO at .138, among the worst in the league. They strike out at a 25.6% rate and create runs 12% worse than average in the split. New York is facing Minnesota righty Michael Pineda in Minneapolis, in what could be another ugly performance for this lineup, though they project well for MLB DFS purposes once again. Pineda has been solid for the first part of his season, putting up a 25% strikeout rate and a 3.96 xFIP with a 1.07 WHIP over 47.2 innings in nine starts. He is not a go-to option as a pitcher, but he has the talent to keep the Yankees lineup in check. Still, New York rates well in the power index, my personal model and in Awesemo’s Top Stacks tool. They are drawing attention, given the price tag to name recognition factor, but there are easy ways to roster the projected lineup in different configurations, lending to the upside of the stack. Getting to Yankees bats is likely still a plus, particularly when there is little cost in doing so, but monitoring the public ownership and leverage metrics will be crucial, if New York trends too far into the negative range this is an easy spot from which to pivot, given the total lack of production in the lineup through the first third of the season.

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Oakland Athletics

The Athletics will be backing up Bassitt with a strong offense facing a weak right-handed pitcher. Jon Duplantier has a 5.78 xFIP and a 1.85 WHIP through his first 8.2 innings over two starts at the major league level. Duplantier has also made two starts at AAA this season. He has an 8.13 xFIP at that level and was at 5.27 over 11 AAA starts in 2019. These are not good marks. This not currently a major league pitcher, but he will be asked to play one tonight against an Athletics lineup that creates runs 5% better than average and has 49 home runs against righties this season. Oakland has just a 23.4% strikeout rate in the split, and they have hit for power, compiling a .173 ISO against righties. This is a targetable spot; the A’s bats rank highly on the stacks tool on both sites, but they are not drawing enough attention.

32-year-old Mark Canha is attempting to prove that his late career breakout in 2019 was not an aberration. He was a productive hitter earlier in his career, but he bloomed at age 30, seeing 497 plate appearances for the Athletics and delivering a .273/.396/.517 slash with 26 home runs and a WRC+ 47% above average. Canha struggled through 2020, but who didn’t? This season he has a .259/.388/.477 slash and has created runs 49% better than average. He has already hit 11 home runs in just 263 plate appearances, threatening to set a new career high if tends continue.

The A’s have recently gone with Tony Kemp hitting second in several games. If he lands in this spot again, Kemp can be rostered in stacks for just $2,100 on FanDuel and $2,700 on DraftKings, while pulling in single-digit ownership projections. Kemp hits from the left side of the plate and has multi-position eligibility on DraftKings between second and outfield. He has put together a solid start to 2021, over 118 plate appearances he has a .287/.391/.457 slash with two home runs and three stolen bases. He creates runs 42% better than average this season and has a solid-for-him .170 ISO. This is ultimately a hitter largely bereft of power and significant upside; however, his career high is eight home runs in 279 plate appearances as a 27-year-old in 2019, putting up a .167 ISO that is also a career peak. Kemp is not a hit tool specialist or particularly adept at getting on base, for his 981 career plate appearances he has just a .241/.329/.370 slash. The Athletics and MLB DFS owners would be better off if Chad Pinder hits second tonight, but Kemp is not off the board.

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If Pinder hits second, he can be rostered with confidence. Pinder costs just $2,800 on the FanDuel slate and $3,400 on DraftKings, but he will not be popular. In 76 plate appearances since returning from injury, he has a .222/.263/.444 slash but a .222 ISO and three home runs. He has created runs 2% below average in the small sample, marks which are tracking toward career norms.

Matt Olson is in the running for the home run crown, a sentence that will remain true at season’s end, assuming full health. He has 15 home runs in just 230 plate appearances this season, posting a .298 ISO and creating runs 60% better than average over the first third of the baseball calendar. Olson has improved his hitting and on-base this season as well. He lands as a .278/.365/.576 hitter coming into tonight, but costs just $3,900 on FanDuel. He is priced up on DraftKings, but he is well worth the $5,200 when drawing low single-digit ownership in a matchup of this caliber. Olson is one of the leading home run candidates in my model.

Mitch Moreland has been a platoon split specialist throughout his career. He has a .211 ISO against righties and just a .137 mark against fellow southpaws over his 11 seasons in baseball. Moreland has hit five home runs in 127 opportunities this season, putting up a .167 ISO and creating runs 5% better than average. Against a righty who is categorically not MLB-ready, this is a prime spot for some of that patented sneaky Moreland power. He will be under-owned for the opportunity at just $2,700 on DraftKings and $2,600 on FanDuel.

Jed Lowrie is another candidate to occupy the No. 2 spot in the batting order, if the team opts to not go with Kemp or Pinder it will be Lowrie, who would gain appeal for the added potential plate appearance. Lowrie has a .250/.330/.385 slash over his 224 plate appearances this season. He has hit four home runs and has a .135 ISO; this is not a great power option despite an early flash in the season’s first few weeks. Still, Lowrie creates runs 7% better than average and he hits from both sides of the plate, making him matchup proof and reliable to play the full game from start to finish. On a slate of this size those aren’t the most appealing assets to search for, but Lowrie is a fully functional component of under-rostered Athletics stacks tonight, putting him in play.

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Catcher Sean Murphy is pulling in less than 1% ownership on the site where catchers are required, the same where they are not. Murphy has hit six home runs this season in just 184 plate appearances, putting up a .191 ISO and creating runs 8% better than average. He has a .222/.310/.414 triple-slash to start the season but hits everything hard. He sits in the 72nd percentile in hard-hit rate, the 74th percentile in average exit velocity, the 83rd in barrel rate and the 67th in expected slugging.

[osBestBetsSingleGameOdds league=”mlb” date=”06/08/2021″ team=”athletics”]

The bottom-third of the order includes struggling Matt Chapman, who should not be forgotten. Chapman has just a .205/.311/.330 slash to start the season. He has created runs 12% worse than average and has a .125 ISO with just five home runs in his 241 plate appearances and has struggled in every available contact metric. He has simply had a disastrous start to his 2021 campaign. Coming on the heels of a 2020 that saw him go just .232/.276/.535, albeit with a monstrous .303 ISO and 10 home runs in just 152 plate appearances, questions are beginning to emerge about the presumptive All-Star. Chapman is just two seasons removed from a 36-homer season in which he had a .257 ISO and a .249/.342/.506 slash over 670 plate appearances. If you are seeking a sleeping tiger to wake on this slate, Chapman may be the best possible candidate.

Outfielder Stephen Piscotty has just a .217/.288/.367 slash in his first 132 plate appearances this season and has hit far better against lefties than righties to this point, which has been true throughout his career. Still, Piscotty could work his way into the lineup, and he is not entirely without talent in same-handed matchups. For his career, Piscotty is a .253/.317/.423 hitter with a .170 ISO against righties, creating runs 2% better than average. He could provide sneaky inexpensive upside on any given slate, in this instance he lands at the minimum price on DraftKings and is drawing under 2% ownership, on FanDuel he is at $2,500 and even less popular.

Elvis Andrus was once a solid threat for mid-range power and speed. He has found wheels enough for just four stolen bases this season and is getting on at a miserable .259 clip over his first 201 plate appearances. Andrus left his talent in Texas, most likely in the year 2017 when he peaked at 20 home runs and 25 stolen bases. In 2019 he hit just 12 home runs but did manage to swipe 31 bags, providing some MLB DFS value. With those skills having departed and the on-base ability cratering, there is simply little reason to roster Andrus as anything more than cheap filler.

HR Call: Matt Olson – Oakland Athletics

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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