MLB DFS: Power Index – 5/1/23 – DraftKings & FanDuel Main Slates

The first MLB DFS main slate of May starts at a traditional 7:05 ET start time, with six games on both DraftKings and FanDuel. The slate features a mixed bag of pitching options ranging from “meh” to uninspiring, and several spots grade out for equivalent mid-range power opportunities. The two top starters on the board are facing relatively low end competition in the Giants and Reds, the power comes against the more obvious targets on the mound, including a great opportunity for the Astros and an interesting spot in Yankee Stadium for the Guardians taking on the diminished Yankees, who would rank significantly higher on the board were it not for the absence of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

Main Slate Power Index – 5/1/23 – DraftKings & FanDuel Main Slates

The power index represents a team’s opportunity for home run upside in the matchup against the scheduled starting pitcher. This is not a direct guideline for stacking, but it can be utilized to determine the most likely sources of power-based contact, hitters who are not homering are frequently hitting doubles and driving in runs, and providing valuable MLB DFS scoring. The “Full” column is the average of our home run opportunity score for each player in the lineup from 1-9, while the “Top 6” column averages only hitters 1-6, where teams typically place their biggest bats.

The Astros are at home for a series against the Giants, who will have veteran righty Ross Stripling on the mound tonight. Stripling is a roughly league-average pitcher for his career, last season he threw 134.1 innings in 24 starts and posted a 3.67 xFIP with a 3.01 ERA in a solid year, the season before he was at a 4.59 xFIP and a 4.80 ERA over 101.1 innings, and he was also bad for allowing power with a 10.2% barrel rate, a 40% hard-hit rate with a 90 mph average exit velocity, and a 5.34% home run rate. In his first 15.2 innings this year, that was the version of Stripling that was on the mound. The righty has made two starts and he has three other appearances out of the bullpen in a long-relief role, he allowed three home runs in his first start, striking out three Yankees and allowing four earned runs in five innings, his second outing lasted just 1.2 innings in relief. In that appearance, Stripling gave up a pair of home runs and four earned runs on four hits while striking out just one of the lowly Royals. He allowed his sixth home run of the season in the next outing, a better 3.1-inning appearance against the Dodgers that saw him strike out six, after which he threw 2.1 scoreless innings with three strikeouts against the Marlins, then made a 3.1-inning start in which he allowed six hits and two runs while striking out just one but keeping the ball in the yard. All of this amounts to a 4.34 xFIP under an ugly 6.89 ERA with a 44.2% hard-hit rate, a 15.4% barrel rate, and 90.9 mph of average exit velocity that have yielded home runs at an 8.33% clip, none of which is sustainable. The brief homerless innings streak seems likely to come to an end tonight, and Stripling is not much of an option on the mound at $6,400/$7,100, he makes the Astros bats look very appealing. The projected lineup for Houston has Mauricio Dubon leading off, as has been the recent trend. Dubon is not much of a home run option, he has a .083 ISO and zero homers in his 101 plate appearances this year and he hit just five in each of the past two seasons in 265 and 187 opportunities respectively. Dubon is appealing for his hit tool and moderate talent for getting on base ahead of the team’s power core, he is slashing .302/.327/.385 with a 99 WRC+ for the season, slipping him slightly below average for run creation. Jeremy Pena is slashing .241/.298/.464 with a 111 WRC+ for the season, he is a power threat at the plate and he is carrying a 9.47 in our home run model, the third-highest mark on the team today. Pena has hit six long balls this season, posting a .223 ISO so far, but he has a flawed contact profile with just a 6.3% barrel rate and a 34.2% hard-hit rate for the season. Last year he was able to push barrels up to 9.6% but hard hits were just 36.2% overall, and he had just a .173 ISO underneath his 22 home runs. Pena is capable of hitting the ball over the wall, but he is not a true home run hitter, for our purposes that is a thin distinction, he is in play at price and positioning for MLB DFS. Yordan Alvarez is a true home run hitter in addition to being one of the top overall bats in the league. Alvarez has six home runs in 98 plate appearances in 2023, posting a .272 ISO with a 157 WRC+. The outfield star has missed a few games with nagging injuries but is protected to be in the lineup after returning last night. Alvarez has a 16.7% barrel rate with a 48.1% hard-hit which is terrific production for premium contact, but actually represents a major dip from last year for this hitter. In 2022, Alvarez had a 21% barrel rate and a 59.8% hard-hit, rivaling Aaron Judge on a tier of two. With 37 homers on the board last year and 33 the season before, it seems fair to suggest that there is more power on the way for the superstar this season. Alex Bregman checks in with a $4,400/$2,900 salary, the price on FanDuel is simply too low for this hitter in this position in this lineup against this pitcher. Bregman has scuffled to start 2023, the veteran star is slashing just .219/.354/.343 with a .124 ISO and three home runs, yet he still has a 105 WRC+. When Bregman’s bat comes around to its true form, this already elite offense will skyrocket, if Jose Abreu starts hitting at the same time and Jose Altuve returns, we may as well award the American League crown right then. Bregman is a strong play for a low salary and probably less popular than he should be, hitting between him and Abreu is left-handed star Kyle Tucker, who has the second-highest Astros mark in our home run model at 12.02, trailing only Alvarez’s 14.16. Tucker has a 10.1% barrel rate with a 45.6% hard-hit this season in 119 plate appearances, over 609 last year he had a 10.1% barrel rate and a 41.9% hard-hit with 30 home runs and 25 stolen bases, so we can reasonably expect another potential small step forward for power for a player who is already a star. Tucker has five home runs and five stolen bases on the board already this year while creating runs 41% better than average and slashing .286/.390/.469. Abreu has dragged things down early in the season, the star first baseman is slashing just .235/.267/.270 with a .035 ISO and a 47 WRC+ over 120 plate appearances. There are some concerns with Abreu, the slugger’s power has been completely out since last August, and he has one home run on the board since August 3rd of last year, while playing essentially every day. Abreu hit just 15 in 679 plate appearances last year and has zero in 120 tries this year. He hit 30 home runs in 659 plate appearances in 2021, posting a .219 ISO but last year’s ISO dipped to .141, which Abreu was able to cover with a still-productive .304/.378/.446 triple-slash and a 137 WRC+. If his hit tool has also vanished this is a major problem. The sample is still incredibly small and there is a long track record of success for Abreu to lean on, but the Eye of Sauron is firmly fixed on Abreu’s spot in this lineup, for today he still has a 7.47 in our home run model, roughly half the mark of Alvarez, but still some lingering memory of a home run hitter. Rookie Corey Julks is slashing .297/.303/.432 with a pair of home runs and a 102 WRC+, he has a 6.47 in our home run model, Jake Meyers and Martin Maldonado round things out at 5.17 and 5.35, Maldonado hit 15 home runs with a .166 WRC+ from the bottom of the lineup at low ownership for MLB DFS last season.

The big market extremely expensive Yankees who purchase championships will be rolling out Domingo German and a lineup that includes Willie Calhoun, Oswaldo Cabrera, Franchy Cordero, Jose Trevino, and Aaron Hicks tonight, exactly according to plan and budget. The atrociously bad version of the Yankees will be at home to face the Guardians and German is showing all signs of a pitcher who will be in trouble tonight. The righty has a bizarre stat line on the surface with his very good 30.8% strikeout rate and a 1.08 WHIP but an awful 5.54 ERA and  6.54% home run rate in his 26 innings this year. The righty has a 3.52 xFIP under the surface, so there is an argument that he is better than what he has given up this year, but he has also yielded a 40.6% hard-hit rate and a massive 17.2% barrel rate. When German makes mistakes he tends to make them in big bad ways. Last season, the righty threw 72.1 innings in 14 starts, he had a 19.5% strikeout rate and a 4.33 xFIP with a similar 40% hard-hit rate but just a 6.9% mark for barrels and a still-high 3.69% home run rate. He was worse for contact but struck out more the season before at a 23.9% strikeout rate. Overall, German is an average pitcher at best, he does not have overly effective stuff, and he is targetable for power, making this a good opportunity for a Guardians lineup that excels at sequencing, running, and run creation and can hit the ball out of the park at the right moments. Cleveland’s projected lineup leads off with Steven Kwan, who is a correlation play in the outfield for $4,800/$3,100. Kwan has exactly a league-average mark for run creation with a 100 WRC+ but he was at 124 for all of last season on the back of a strong ability to get on base. Kwan slashed .298/.373/.400 and added 19 stolen bases with six home runs last year, he makes a good first click in a stack but has just a 5.09 in our home run model on his own. Amed Rosario has struggled to just a .227/.260/.330 triple-slash with a .103 ISO and a 60 WRC+ over 104 plate appearances and has Cleveland fans calling for his head. The former top prospect has underperformed expectations after a good 2021 that saw him hit 11 home runs and steal 18 bases while creating runs three percent better than average. Rosario is at 5.91 in our home run model today, while he has struggled to create runs or hit for average and he has struck out at an uncharacteristic 26.9% clip so far this season, there is an encouraging sign in his 48.5% hard-hit rate. Jose Ramirez is a star at third base, he costs $5,800/$3,800 and has been a bit slow out of the gate to start the season. Ramirez has three home runs and five stolen bases and he has created runs 23% better than average while slashing .280/.368/.467 with a .187 ISO. All of those are good numbers, but this is a player who is generally regarded as the best bat at his position for MLB DFS. Ramirez produced 29 home runs and 20 stolen bases with a .280/.355/.514 triple-slash and a .235 ISO while creating runs 39% better than average last year, he is arguably slightly discounted right now and he has a team-leading 12.40 in our home run model. Another scuffling Guardians bat who was a moderately popular last-round pick in re-draft leagues, Josh Naylor, is expected to hit cleanup tonight. Naylor is a first baseman at $3,400/$2,700, he has three home runs on the board but just a 65 WRC+ and a .129 ISO. Last year Naylor hit 20 home runs and had a .196 ISO in 498 plate appearances, so the lack of production is a disappointment to this point in the season. Still, there are good indicators for Naylor, he has increased his barrel rate from 8.6% last year to 9.9% in the small sample this season, with his hard-hit rate climbing from 42.5% to 45.1%. That is probably small-sample happenstance, but if that trend continues the power hitting should follow, there is enough meat on the bone to continue playing Naylor in good power situations. Josh Bell has three home runs and a .176 ISO but has also bounced along the bottom early in 2023. Bell is slashing .206/.305/.382 and he has an 8.1% barrel rate with a 37.8% hard-hit rate over 118 plate appearances, in 647 last year he hit 17 home runs and had a 123 WRC+ with a .266/.362/.422 triple-slash, and the year before he was better for power with 27 home runs. Bell is fourth on the team at 9.79 in our home run model today. The third-ranked hitter comes two spots later with catcher Mike Zunino, whose contact profile is a home run hitter’s dream when he is going right. Zunino hits behind Andres Gimenez, another player with mid-range power in the infield. Gimenez hit 17 home runs last year, posting a .169 ISO with an excellent 140 WRC+ in 557 plate appearances. The young infielder has not squared the ball well this season, he has just a 1.3% barrel rate and a 25.3% hard-hit mark, last year he was at a still-not-great 6.2% and 37.6%, so his 7.72 in the home run model may be thinner than others at similar ratings. Zunino has two home runs in 70 plate appearances so far this year, if he is in the lineup he is a two-homer threat in any given game. Will Brennan has one home run this year, his minor league career topped out with the nine that he hit in 433 plate appearances in AAA last year, he is not a player who is here for his power, which carries a 30-grade in traditional 20-80 scouting. Brennan looks like the Incredible Hulk next to nine-hitter Myles Straw.

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