Someone is going to come out of tonight’s $1 Million Home Run with a $100,000 grand prize. I’m hoping that person is me. But if not, I’m hoping it’s someone I know. But if not, I’m hoping it’s a friend of a friend. But if not, I’m hoping it’s one of you.

ALERT – The Chicago White Sox at Baltimore Orioles Game Tonight Has Been Postponed. Adjust Lineups Accordingly

In leagues of this size (3,700 max, although it could overlay), I think there’s an incentive to be contrarian, but you don’t need to necessarily go completely off the map. That is, I don’t think you need to be worried about ownership percentages at every single position; you can still stack a popular offense or use a pitcher you think will be in a lot of lineups.

However, I typically like to work in a few against-the-grain elements into all of my tournament lineups, and the way I do that depends on how I plan to approach my batters. If I’m planning to stack an entire offense, the bats I choose could be dictated by my prediction of ownership percentages. One thing I like to do is stack bats that are actually low in the order on really explosive offenses—like the Rockies when they’re at home—so I can get access to big upside without running into too much lineup overlap. You can’t do that with most offenses, but it’s one trick I like to use to help separate from the pack.

If I stack batters who I think could be popular, I typically want to go against the grain with my other values and probably one pitcher as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean going low-priced. Actually, I’d say one of the most common lineup constructions for me is to stack a cheap, under-the-radar offense, then use two expensive pitchers who are in good spots but others might view as overpriced. If you can get a guy like Cole Hamels at 3% usage, that’s a win pretty much all the time.

If I decide to go against the grain with my stack, I think there’s less incentive to be contrarian elsewhere. I might “chalk up” on pitchers and obvious value bats, for example, when I stack a team like the Rays.

Just keep this in mind as you try to take down the $100k tonight. This isn’t a Millionaire Maker in which there are 100,000 entries and you need to purposely forgo value to create a unique lineup; you can have the best of both worlds. Even if the Home Run fills tonight, if you can find an offense that’s stacked in, say, 3% of lineups, that’s right around 100 lineups with which you need to compete if that offense goes off—certainly not a situation in which you need to be completely contrarian with your remaining lineup spots.


The Teams

Detroit Tigers (vs Mike Pelfrey)

I’m going to give you one chalk stack and one contrarian stack for tonight, and this is obviously the chalk. I don’t normally stack the Tigers versus right-handers (and I’m hoping it drags down the ownership of their righty-dominant lineup), but Vegas loves the Tigers tonight and they do have a few players (Kinsler, Cabrera) who are basically “even splits,” meaning they don’t excel versus one handedness much more so than the other. I like really like Alex Avila, who I believe few players will use even if they do stack Detroit.

This is the type of offense that 1) is expensive and 2) might necessitate going against the grain elsewhere. If you like a cheap pitching option tonight, the Tigers will offer you more value as a potential stack.


Oakland A’s (vs Jered Weaver)

The A’s are rarely stacked heavily, likely due to a perceived lack of upside. They do have a problem in that department with a dearth of power and speed, but they have a handful of bats—their lefties—who I really like tonight.

For one, Jered Weaver struggles versus lefty hitters. Second, Oakland’s lefty bats are mostly extreme splits players who struggle badly versus southpaws but crush right-handed pitching. Stephen Vogt and Ike Davis in particular are awesome plays.

I think this sets up best as a mini-stack that you can combine with either another mini-stack or just play with value bats around it. It should also allow for two top-priced pitching options, which could actually be a semi-contrarian strategy itself.


The Players

OF Corey Dickerson, Colorado (vs Archie Bradley) – $5000

Simply put, Corey Dickerson might have the most underrated ceiling in baseball. He can steal bags. He can go deep. And it shows in his numbers.

I’m working on a new statistic called breakout percentage that looks at how often a batter reaches twice his expected production (based on his salary). Over the past 12 months, Dickerson’s breakout percentage is 27%, which is unreal. In comparison, Miguel Cabrera’s breakout percentage is only 15%.

I don’t mind that Dickerson is $5,000, and I actually prefer it since it will hopefully scare some people away. He’s my top batter tonight, though, in an amazing spot in basically every meaningful way. He’s facing a weak right-handed pitcher, and Dickerson mashes righties to the tune of a 12-month running ISO of .289. That’s bananas. Factor in the park and the weather and you have the makings of a huge game for the Colorado outfielder.


1B Lucas Duda, NY Mets (vs David Phelps) – $4700

Duda rarely has high tournament usage because there are just so many first basemen available each day. That’s one reason I don’t really think you need to be very contrarian at the position; how much you need to worry about ownership is related to position scarcity, as scarce resources are in higher demand.

Nonetheless, I don’t see Duda as a “low-value” play in any sort of way since he absolutely crushes right-handed pitching and is in a great situation for hitters tonight in Miami. I love playing batters in warm weather early in the year when it’s often cold elsewhere in the country.

Duda has a .270 ISO over the past year versus righties and I think he’s probably a top-five sort of guy in terms of home run probability tonight.


OF Nelson Cruz, Seattle (vs Ross Detweiler) – $5300

Despite his cost, I think Cruz is going to be popular tonight. He has an insane .626 slugging percentage versus lefties over the past 12 months. As I’ve stated in the past, I think targeting righty bats who crush lefties but struggle versus righties is a great source of value since their overall stats are often mostly a reflection of their struggles versus righties.

You have to love the park and matchup for Cruz tonight, as well as his high 20% breakout percentage. Despite probable high ownership, I’ll still be on Cruz a bunch.


P Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles (vs San Francisco) – $12400

Look, people are going to fit Kershaw into their lineups no matter who he plays and how much he costs. But I have a tough time believing he’s going to have prohibitive ownership—I’m talking like 40+ percent—when he’s $2000 more than every other pitcher. If you’re going to stack a cheap offense like Oakland, it makes sense to “overpay” a bit for the top dog.