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 towards ESPN 10-team leagues with standard scoring.
Note: This file has been updated with any overnight pitching changes and 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
If you're searching for that DFS anchor on Thursday's abbreviated slate, Logan Gilbert can certainly make a case that he's worth the investment. Not only has he delivered a 2.44 ERA with a strikeout per inning over 15 starts, but he's been incredibly consistent, holding opponents to three or fewer earned runs in all but one outing. Better yet, the 25-year-old draws one of the best matchups of the day, as he gets an Oakland Athletics offense that's been the worst in baseball in June with a 71 wRC+ and .260 wOBA.
Despite being rostered in only 5% of ESPN leagues, JT Brubaker has been quietly putting together a solid season. While his 4.14 ERA over 15 starts isn't all that impressive, he has a 2.93 ERA over his last seven turns and has been consistently working deeper into games. Don't go chasing wins here, since Brubaker has managed just one victory for the season, but he has reeled off three quality starts in his last four tries. On Thursday, he matches up well with the Milwaukee Brewers, who have been middle-of-the-road offensively in June.
It's often difficult to buy into a hurler like Graham Ashcraft (14% rostered in ESPN leagues), who barely misses any bats (5.9 K/9). The margin for error is so small, and things can unravel quickly. The 24-year-old right-hander does have some things going for him, though. Although he's not getting those strikeouts, Ashcraft is showing pinpoint control (1.5 BB/9), keeping the ball the ground (58% GB), and limiting both Barrels (4.4%) and hard contact (34.8%). That's led to a 3.27 ERA and 1.09 WHIP across seven starts. It's fair to still have some hesitancy here, but Thursday's matchup against the Chicago Cubs is a favorable spot for the right-hander, putting him in the streaming discussion.
Squaring off against Ashcraft and the Cincinnati Reds is Kyle Hendricks (55%). While the veteran right-hander has only a 4.90 ERA on the season, he is coming off a dominant outing against the St. Louis Cardinals in which he fired 7 1/3 scoreless frames. That's certainly not enough to trust Hendricks going forward, but he at least makes for a passable streaming option against a Reds club that ranks bottom-five with an 87 wRC+ over the last two weeks. Reds batters will also have to deal with a significant ballpark downgrade, trading in Great American Ballpark for Wrigley Field.
Catcher production is often a fleeting commodity in fantasy baseball, so it's important to pounce when a fantasy-relevant backstop emerges. Judging from his 9% roster percentage, Jorge Alfaro is still flying under the radar. Dating back to May 14, Alfaro is batting .310/.341/.540 with four homers and 17 RBI in 25 games. He's been a mainstay in the San Diego Padres lineup, splitting time between catcher and DH and frequently hitting third or fourth in the order. In fact, Alfaro has been the No. 6 catcher in fantasy over the last month, coming in right behind J.T. Realmuto and Will Smith. Scoop him up for Thursday's matchup against Mitch White of the Dodgers and keep him around until he stops hitting.
It's never 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.
Isaac Paredes (TB, 2B -- 27%) at Kikuchi
Steven Kwan (CLE, CF -- 37%) vs. Archer
Andrew McCutchen (MIL, LF -- 35%) at Brubaker
Harold Ramirez (TB, LF -- 2%) at Kikuchi
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Thursday
Travis d'Arnaud (ATL, C -- 77%) at Nola
Austin Riley (ATL, 3B -- 99%) at Nola
Marcell Ozuna (ATL, LF -- 91%) at Nola
Chris Taylor (LAD, CF -- 80%) vs. Musgrove
Cody Bellinger (LAD, CF -- 92%) vs. Musgrove
Josh Donaldson (NYY, 3B -- 68%) at Garcia
Prop of the Day
Graham Ashcraft pitching outs: Over/Under 16.5 (-120/-110)
THE BAT sees Ashcraft putting up 14.5 pitching outs for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 36.3% of the time. THE BAT believes there is positive value on the UNDER with an expected value of $23.71.
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 Chicago Cubs have been the third-luckiest offense in the majors this year, according to THE BAT X, and are likely to hit worse the rest of the season
Dan Bellino profiles as a Pitchers Umpire and is expected to be behind the plate in this game.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
THE BAT X projects Graham Ashcraft to throw 80 pitches today (fifth-fewest on the slate), considering both his underlying tendencies and the matchup.
Wrigley Field profiles as the No. 7 park in MLB for batting average, per THE BAT projection system.
The weatherman calls for the best hitting weather on the slate today, as it relates to temperature and humidity.
The wind projects to be blowing out to CF at 14-mph in this game, the most-favorable of the day for hitters.