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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
Thursday's matchup between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates -- two teams that are a combined 29 games below .500 -- may not be the most exciting game on the slate, but it does provide some potential one-off value for Justin Steele (4% rostered in ESPN leagues). Since throwing a clunker against the Cincinnati Reds in late May (7 ER in 2 IP), Steele has posted a 2.63 ERA over his last four starts, including two seven-inning outings against the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals. While the 4.4 BB/9 and 66.4 LOB% suggest that some caution is warranted, this streaming recommendation is more about the matchup against the Pirates. Not only does Pittsburgh have a bottom-three wOBA against left-handed pitching (.285), but they're fanning at a bloated 25.3% clip in June.
The 36-year-old Johnny Cueto (12% rostered) just keeps on chugging along. He's put up a 2.95 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over seven games (six starts), and he's coming off his best start of the season in which he fired seven shutout frames against the Houston Astros. While Cueto isn't missing many bats (7.0 K/9), he's showing great control (2.3 BB/9) and is consistently pitching deep into games, as he's gone at least six innings in all six of his starts. The veteran should keep on rolling on Thursday against a Baltimore Orioles team that's well below average against right-handed pitching, putting him in position to be one of the day's better streaming options.
Andrew Vaughn (53%) is finally starting to fulfill his promise as a No. 3 overall pick, hitting .330/.381/.505 with seven homers and 31 RBI in 48 games. He's also solidified himself as Chicago's No. 2 hitter and hits in one of the game's most HR-friendly parks. Somehow, he's still barely rostered in 50% of ESPN leagues. Scoop him up for Thursday's bout against Baltimore's Dean Kremer, who has allowed a career .376 wOBA to right-handed swingers.
Despite holding a 3.52 ERA across seven starts this season, Devin Smeltzer could have some trouble looming ahead. His 5.37 FIP and 5.01 xFIP suggest he's been the beneficiary of some good fortune, and his dismal 4.5 K/9 leaves virtually zero margin for error. The lefty is also having trouble keeping the ball in the park, having surrendered seven homers over his last three outings. This looks like a good time to attack Smeltzer with some Guardians bats. Amed Rosario (50%), who is hitting .333/.338/.478 in June, and Oscar Gonzalez (4%) are two names to consider who will both have the platoon advantage on Thursday.
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.
Andrew McCutchen (MIL, LF -- 29%) vs. Hudson
Alex Kirilloff (MIN, 1B -- 25%) vs. Plesac
Brendan Donovan (STL, 3B -- 43%) at Alexander
Myles Straw (CLE, CF -- 39%) at Smeltzer
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Thursday
Josh Donaldson (NYY, 3B -- 70%) vs. Valdez
Luis Urias (MIL, 3B -- 53%) vs. Hudson
THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Today
Minnesota Twins vs. Zach Plesac
St. Louis Cardinals at Jason Alexander
Prop of the Day
Jose Quintana Earned Runs: Over/Under 2.5 (-135/+105)
THE BAT sees Quintana putting up 2.44 earned runs for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 39.7% of the time. THE BAT believes there is positive value on the UNDER with an expected value of $23.69.
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
PNC Park ranks as the No. 4 venue in Major League Baseball for walks, per THE BAT projection system.
The wind projects to be blowing out to RF at 8.2-mph in this game, the second-strongest of the day for batters.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
The Cubs projected batting order grades out as the fifth-worst on the slate today.
The Cubs have been the third-luckiest offense in Major League Baseball this year, according to THE BAT X, and are likely to negatively regress in the future
Cory Blaser projects as a Pitchers Umpire and is expected to be calling pitches today.
The weatherman calls for the fifth-best pitching weather on the slate, as it relates to temperature and humidity.