Look for our fantasy baseball starting pitcher rankings, hitter upgrades and downgrades daily to help you make smart fantasy baseball lineup decisions and for MLB betting tips. MLB game odds are provided by Caesars Sportsbook, and fantasy advice is geared toward ESPN 10-team leagues with standard scoring.
Note: This file has been updated with any overnight pitching changes or weather-related game postponements, along with the addition of the latest MLB game odds as of the indicated time of publication.
What you need to know for Thursday's MLB Games
By Mike Sheets
After a pair of lackluster outings to open the season, Dakota Hudson (5% rostered in ESPN leagues) spun 6⅔ scoreless frames against the Cincinnati Reds his last time out. The right-hander gets another favorable draw on Thursday, as he squares off against an Arizona Diamondbacks team that sports a 77 wRC+ and a bloated 25.8% strikeout rate. Although he doesn't possess overpowering stuff, Hudson is an extreme groundball pitcher with an elite infield defense behind him, giving him plenty of streaming appeal against one of baseball's weakest offenses.
Since returning from the injured list, all Taylor Ward (10% rostered) has done is hit .353 with three dingers, nine runs, five RBIs, and a steal in 10 games.
Perhaps most importantly, he's been a mainstay in the Los Angeles Angels lineup, frequently batting first or second, ahead of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. As someone who has consistently posted double-digit walk rates across his professional career, he's a big contributor in OBP leagues as well. If you're in need of either short- or long-term outfield help, Ward is an enticing add right now. Fellow Angels outfielder, Brandon Marsh (24.6%), who is batting .308/.396/.538 through 14 games, also deserves consideration.
Jameson Taillon (22%) has delivered three straight starts with two or fewer earned runs allowed, yet his roster percentage has remained stagnant. Sure, it would be nice to see the right-hander miss a few more bats (8.0 K/9) and find a way to limit the homers (1.8 HR/9). However, he's showing pinpoint control (0.6 BB/9) with what's essentially a six-pitch mix, and it's working right now. Given the longball issues, there might be some hesitation throwing Taillon out there against some of the league's more dangerous lineups, but that's not the case on Thursday with the Baltimore Orioles on the docket. The Orioles currently have a 26.7% strikeout rate and an 80 wRC+ that ranks bottom-three in the American League.
Seattle Mariners right-hander Chris Flexen sports a 3.63 ERA across three starts, but the underlying numbers suggest some rough times ahead. Not only is he pitching to contact (5.7 K/9), but he's allowing lots of very loud contact, as his 56.4% hard-hit rate is worst in the American League. The Tampa Bay Rays should be all over Flexen in this matchup, so it would be good to get some exposure to their left-handed bats. Ji-Man Choi (27%), with a 1.027 OPS versus righties this season, Josh Lowe (8%), and the switch-hitting Taylor Walls (1%) all make for interesting streaming and DFS plays on Thursday.
There are some red flags with Nick Martinez (1%), most notably a 6.1 BB/9 and a 3.1 HR/9, but we've seen some promising signs, too, as his changeup generates an impressive 42.4% whiff rate and a .111 wOBA against. If he alters his pitch mix a bit to rely less on his fastball and more on his secondary offerings, there could be something here. For now, Martinez can't be considered a safe streamer or DFS option by any means, but the risk is minimal against a Reds offense that can't seem to get things going, ranking dead last in MLB with a 56 wRC+ and a 27% strikeout rate.
It's not too late to start another free fantasy baseball league. Leagues drafted this week will start scoring fresh the following Monday.
Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday
Best Sub-50% Rostered Hitters for Thursday
Best and worst hitters from the day are generated by THE BAT X, a projection system created by Derek Carty using advanced methods like those used in MLB front offices, accounting for a variety of factors including player talent, ballparks, bullpens, weather, umpires, defense, catcher pitch-framing, and lots more.
Tommy Pham (CIN, LF -- 35%) vs. Martinez
Yandy Diaz (TB, 1B -- 21%) vs. Flexen
Chas McCormick (HOU, LF -- 1%) at Martin Perez
Andrew McCutchen (MIL, LF -- 43%) at Jose Quintana
Tyler Naquin (CIN, CF -- 5%) vs. Martinez
Nick Senzel (CIN, CF -- 2%) vs. Martinez
Manuel Margot (TB, RF -- 5%) vs. Flexen
Aledmys Diaz (HOU, 3B -- 2%) at Perez
Eric Hosmer (SD, 1B -- 37%) at Tyler Mahle
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Thursday
Ryan McMahon (COL, 3B -- 70%) at Zack Wheeler
Spencer Torkelson (DET, 1B -- 78%) at Bailey Ober
Bobby Witt Jr. (KC, SS -- 89%) at Michael Kopech
Javier Baez (DET, SS -- 89%) at Ober
Jonathan Schoop (DET, 1B -- 62%) at Ober
Randal Grichuk (COL, RF -- 62%) at Wheeler
Connor Joe (COL, LF -- 76%) at Wheeler
C.J. Cron (COL, 1B -- 94%) at Wheeler
Carlos Santana (KC, 1B -- 50%) at Kopech
Kris Bryant (COL, LF -- 99%) at Wheeler
THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Thursday
Cincinnati Reds vs. Martinez
Houston Astros at Perez
Prop of the Day
Alek Manoah strikeouts: Over/Under 6.5 (-116/-108)
THE BAT sees Manoah putting up 5.5 strikeouts for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 33.8% of the time. THE BAT believes there is positive value on the UNDER with an expected value of $29.72.
Note: Expected Value is a measure of how good a bet is, factoring the probability that it will win versus the odds the book is providing. If you were to wager $1.00 100 times on a bet with an Expected Value of $25, you would win some and you would lose some, but in the end you would expect to come away with $25 in profit on your $100 investment.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE OVER
THE BAT projects Monoah in the 92nd percentile when it comes to his strikeout ability.
Manoah has averaged 100 adjusted pitches per start since the beginning of last season, checking in at the 88th percentile.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
The Rogers Centre ranks as the No. 21 ballpark in the majors for strikeouts, according to THE BAT projection system.
The roof of the Rogers Centre projects to be closed today, making the temperature in this game 15 degrees hotter than the average outdoor game on the slate - which is favorable for offense.
Larry Vanover, expected to be behind the plate in this game, grades out as a hitter's umpire.
Expected catcher Zack Collins is estimated to be a horrible pitch framer, according to THE BAT projection system.