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MLB DFS Tournament Strategy: Leverage, Home Runs, Optimal Picks | Today, 8/4/21

Terry McBride



MLB DFS lineup picks today DraftKings FanDuel fantasy baseball free expert rankings projections ownership tournament strategy tips advice optimal lineup optimizer DOdgers Braves Giants Brewers NLDS playoff rosters home run predictions best bets betting picks odds lines parlays

The Wednesday MLB DFS slate brings a solid 11 game block that appears loaded with hitting and offers a few high-end pitching options and a reasonable number of mid-range plays. Run totals are inflated across the league for tonight’s contests, which include a Coors Field game once again. With several spots looking ripe for home runs and run creation, the field is flocking to similar bats once again, making it paramount to focus on differentiation and unique constructions. There are several strong value positions that will help, though the chalk is on the bulk of the most likely positions, making this a strong GPP slate.

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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 will not always be the absolute top-ranked player, particularly when there is an obvious star in that spot every day.

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Home Run Ratings

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Scale: 5-10 Average; 10-20 Good; 20-25 Very Good; 25+ Great

Arizona Diamondbacks: Carson Kelly — 4.49

Atlanta Braves: Austin Riley — 13.56

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini — 11.47

Boston Red Sox: Enrique Hernandez — 10.00

Chicago Cubs: David Bote — 5.92

Chicago White Sox: Jose Abreu — 8.93

Cleveland Indians: Jose Ramirez — 15.46

Colorado Rockies: C.J. Cron — 10.38

Detroit Tigers: Robbie Grossman — 5.26

Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker — 10.66

Kansas City Royals: Carlos Santana — 8.47

Los Angeles Angels: Max Stassi — 8.00

Los Angeles Dodgers: Mookie Betts — 12.19

Miami Marlins: Isan Diaz — 5.05

New York Mets: Michael Conforto — 4.37

New York Yankees: Joey Gallo — 15.74

Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins — 11.38

San Francisco Giants: Mike Yastrzemski — 7.12

St. Louis Cardinals: Nolan Arenado — 10.87

Texas Rangers: Adolis Garcia — 5.65

Toronto Blue Jays: Bo Bichette — 10.45

Washington Nationals: Josh Bell — 14.18

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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. Ensure to check out the ownership projections for critical updates and monitor the top stacks tool throughout the day for changes.

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On the Hill

Wednesday’s pitching slate has numerous interesting pitching options and a few standout plays atop the board on both DraftKings and FanDuel. The leading candidates for success are the obvious names, though Max Scherzer will be in a difficult spot making his Dodgers debut against the Astros. Lucas Giolito stands to post a solid outing against the Royals, while Shohei Ohtani has perhaps the easiest opponent among the aces, taking on the weak Rangers lineup. Additional options for quality include Kevin Gausman, who faces the Diamondbacks and Eduardo Rodriguez in a strong spot for strikeouts against the Tigers. MLB DFS gamers can potentially squeeze value from Jameson Taillon in a start against the Orioles, though he is a dice roll every time out. Carlos Carrasco only made it through four innings in his return from a season-long injury last week and he is mispriced for a short start, but in a strong spot against the Marlins.

Scherzer takes his talents to Los Angeles in time for a start against the excellent Astros offense. He has a 34.3% strikeout rate over 111 innings in 19 starts, providing excellent depth and a reliable shot at a quality start in each outing. With an improved team behind him in his new home, there will typically be improved win equity as well. Scherzer is pitching to a 3.46 xFIP with a 0.89 WHIP, inducing a 16.1% swinging strike rate and a 32% CSW. He has allowed an 11.4% barrel rate, but it hardly matters with his ability to keep runners off bases and get out of jams via the strikeout. He allows just 34.7% hard hits on the high barrel rate as well, which speaks to his quality. If Scherzer makes a mistake the damage is typically limited as runners are rarely on base. The opposing Astros lineup strikes out at a league leading 20.1% rate against righties, they have a 4.31% home run rate that is in the top third of the league and they have a collective .189 ISO while creating runs 22% better than average. This is a difficult spot for Scherzer, but he is one of the most reliable premium pitchers in baseball. He is underpriced at just $9,100 on DraftKings, where he is drawing heavy ownership. At $10,500 on FanDuel he will be less attractive to the public, but still owned.

Giolito will be less popular on DraftKings for the $10,600 price, but more owned at $9,200 on FanDuel. He has a 28.4% strikeout rate across 125 innings in 21 starts this season. He has pitched to a 3.80 xFIP with a 1.13 WHIP while inducing a 15.1% swinging strike rate. Giolito walks 7.7% of opposing hitters and allows a 7.5% barrel rate. His .358 expected slugging percentage against stands in the 67th percentile, Giolito stands a strong chance of limiting the opposing Royals lineup. Kansas City is fourth best in baseball with a 22% strikeout rate against righties, but they are below average across the board in other team hitting categories. The Royals have just a .144 collective ISO in the split, their 2.95% home run rate is well below average, and they create runs 12% behind the curve by WRC+. Giolito is in a good upside spot, though the strikeouts could be more limited than usual. Playing the pricing and ownership game between the top two pitchers from site to site is an easy approach to take.

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Ohtani draws the weak and depleted Rangers lineup and stands a strong chance of putting up the night’s best pitching score. As a pitcher, he has completed 80 innings in 15 starts, posting an excellent 30.1% strikeout rate but walking too many hitters at 10.8%. He has a 3.65 xFIP on the season with a 1.13 WHIP and induces a 13.7% swinging strike rate. Ohtani has allowed a 6.9% barrel rate with a 42.3% hard-hit rate, opponents can make premium contact against him when they are not swinging and missing. Combined with the hefty walk rate, he can get into the infrequent jam, but he has enough stuff to get himself out of them reliably. The Rangers active roster has a 23.8% strikeout rate against righties, and they have struggled for power and runs. Texas has a 3.20% home run rate and a .143 ISO in the split, and they create runs 20% worse than average, this is a bad lineup facing a good pitcher. Ohtani costs $10,700 on FanDuel and $9,500 on DraftKings.

Gausman will be facing an Arizona roster that is among the weakest in baseball against right-handed pitching. The active roster has a measly .128 collective ISO and a 2.07% home run rate in the split, worst in the league. Arizona creates runs 17% worse than average in the split and they have a 24.1% strikeout rate, creating a prime opportunity for Gausman, who has struggled in recent outings. He still has a 3.45 xFIP on the season with a 0.95 WHIP and an excellent 30% strikeout rate with a 14.8% swinging strike rate. Gausman has walked 7.8% of opposing hitters and allowed a 6.8% barrel rate with a 38.1% hard-hit rate, but against a team like this he should be safe from power on all but the most egregious mistake pitches. He costs $10,000 on the blue site, rendering him unpopular, though not so much so as Ohtani, while he will be owned for $9,700 on DraftKings, though not to the level of a discounted Scherzer.

Coors Field

The hitters paradise in Colorado reared its ugly head on last night’s slate, with the Rockies putting up 13 in a 19-run game and connecting for MLB DFS relevance. Coors is a situation that can typically be judged by ownership and leverage with little else mattering. On a slate where either of the prime teams is trending toward positive leverage, they are an easy go-to option. When teams are as negatively leveraged as the Rockies appear on DraftKings today, they become an easy pivot point despite the presence at the top of the Top Stacks Tool. On the FanDuel slate, the Rockies are in negative leverage territory. but there is a bit more room. The depleted Cubs lineup ranks several spots down the board, despite being the road team and potentially picking up additional plate appearances. Chicago is also in extreme negative leverage territory on the DraftKings slate, but they come up with space on the positive side of the FanDuel ledger, putting them somewhat in play. The lineup is lacking in talent following the trade deadline exodus of many of the team’s best hitters, but a stack that includes Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Patrick Wisdom, David Bote and Jason Heyward at least has actual Major League talent remaining. The Cubs will be facing Jon Gray, who is about a league-average pitcher in most respects. Gray knows how to pitch at Coors Field, but that does not make him completely safe, particularly when factoring in a minimal strikeout rate of just 21.7% and an inflated 9.8% walk rate. In the big ballpark, even a pitcher who limits barrels to 5.4% and hard hits to 35% can get dinged easily if too many runners are on base. The Cubs have minor upside where they are under-owned.

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Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers will be backing up their newly acquired ace with one of baseball’s best lineups in a matchup against Jake Odorizzi. He has thrown 60.2 innings this season and he has simply lost the qualities that once made him a decent starter. Odorizzi is striking out 21.8% of hitters in the sample, pitching to a 4.51 xFIP, a 1.14 WHIP, 7.7% walk rate, 9.8% swinging strike rate and 24.1% CSW. He has yielded an 8.6% barrel rate with a 43.7% hard-hit rate and a 15.8-degree average launch angle, ideal home run trajectory and contact metrics. Odorizzi is targetable for both power upside and run creation via sequential hitting, both of which the Dodgers can provide. Los Angeles is an expensive team to stack, but they make for a quality angle into this slate. The Dodgers lineup is drawing attention around a few of the discounted bats on FanDuel; $3,100 Cody Bellinger, $3,000 Corey Seager and $3,900 Max Muncy are all drawing mid-teens popularity. On DraftKings, only Seager is trending above 10% popularity. Additional Dodgers to include in stacks are Mookie Betts, Chris Taylor, Justin Turner, Will Smith and A.J. Pollock.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants are the highest-ranked team stack with positive leverage on both DraftKings and FanDuel tonight. San Francisco has surprised with offensive excellence all season, though they are facing a decent starter in Zac Gallen. He has a 27.5% strikeout rate over 56.2 innings in 12 starts this season. He walks far too many hitters, coming in with a 10.8% rate which he pairs with a 7.3% barrel rate in a combination that approaches targetable for run creation, a lower strikeout rate would be his total demise. He allows a 40.7% hard-hit rate and induces just 9.8% swinging strikes with a 28.6% CSW. San Francisco’s 4.68% home run rate against righties is second, their .207 ISO first, and they create runs 12% better than average, though they strike out the second most. The Giants’ projected lineup includes seven out of eight hitters who are 14% better than average or more in run creation and six of eight hitters with ISOs in excess of .200. The projected lineup has an average strikeout rate of 22.3% against all pitchers while walking 10.1% on average.

LaMonte Wade Jr. slots into the leadoff spot and provides multi-position eligibility for just $3,500 on the DraftKings slate, where he is a first baseman and an outfielder. He is a $2,900 outfielder on the FanDuel slate, and he is drawing under 5% popularity at the top of a prime stack. Wade is slashing .253/.341/.568 with a .315 ISO in his 187 plate appearances this season, blasting 13 home runs in a display of major power in the short sample. Wade has created runs 41% better than average, and he makes a great way to begin a Giants stack on both sites.

Kris Bryant is fairly priced across the industry but drawing minimal attention. Bryant is slashing .263/.354/.500 with 19 home runs and a .237 ISO in 387 plate appearances this season. He has created runs 29% better than average and should excel in the Giants lineup.

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Mike Yastrzemski is slashing .227/.320/.471 with 18 home runs and a .255 ISO over his 369 plate appearances this year. He has created runs 15% better than average and is a major cog in the Giants machine, despite the lower than ideal batting average and on-base percentage. For just $3,600 on FanDuel and $4,300 on DraftKings, Yastrzemski comes at a discount on both sites and should be a strong consideration for most Giants stacks.

Buster Posey is slashing an excellent .329/.424/.544 with a .215 ISO and 13 home runs this season, creating runs 62% better than average. Posey is in the midst of his best season at the dish in several years, arguably reclaiming the mantle of baseball’s best hitting catcher, at least for this season. Posey is a no-brainer where catchers are required, and he makes an excellent play at under 2% ownership on the FanDuel slate as well.

Alex Dickerson costs just $3,100 on DraftKings and a near-minimum $2,100 on FanDuel but he will be well under 10% ownership despite the heavy discount. Dickerson is slashing .221/.288/.423 on the season and his lack of on-base skills hamper his run creation, which comes in 6% below average. Still, he has .202 ISO and 11 home runs in just 233 plate appearances. As a low-owned low-cost option, Dickerson makes a fine play from the middle of the Giants’ lineup.

Brandon Crawford is slashing .289/.365/.537 over 334 plate appearances. He has hit 18 home runs and has a .248 ISO while creating runs 40% better than average for the year. He is undervalued at $3,300 on FanDuel but more appropriately priced at $4,800 on the other side of town. He can be rostered for no ownership industrywide.

Wilmer Flores slots in at second or third base on both sites and comes with a cheap price tag. He is slashing .254/.332/.452 with a .197 ISO this year, but he creates runs 14% better than average and has any given slate upside. Flores is the first hitter on this list with an ISO below .200 this season, and the lineup’s extra-base ability should play very well for sequencing and run creation. Flores can be included in Giants stacks for his ability to drive run creation and turn the lineup over.

Steven Duggar is a $2,200 option on FanDuel and a $3,200 player on DraftKings. He is another Giants hitter creating runs ahead of the average, coming in 18% in front of the curve over his 236 plate appearances this season. He has hit seven home runs and has a .179 ISO for the year, slashing .274/.347/.453. As playable eight hitters go, Duggar is a fine option, though he strikes out at a team-leading 30.9% on the year.

HR Call: Josh Bell — Washington Nationals

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