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 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 presents us with an abbreviated eight-game slate that's headlined by the second annual Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa. Last year's contest featured a thrilling 9-8 affair between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees that ended with a Tim Anderson walk-off homer. This year's version, which pits the Chicago Cubs against the Cincinnati Reds -- two of the worst teams in the National League - may not look too exciting on paper, but there are still some intriguing fantasy options worth exploring. Tops on the list is Reds hurler Nick Lodolo (13% rostered in ESPN leagues). The rookie left-hander, who sports a 2.16 ERA over his last three starts, has big swing-and-miss stuff that should play up well against a Cubs team that's fanning 24% of the time versus lefties this season, putting him squarely on the streaming radar.
There may not be a more dominant pitcher right now than Dylan Cease. The Chicago White Sox right-hander has been lights out for nearly two and a half straight months, ripping off 13 straight starts with one or zero earned runs allowed. His ERA during that stretch sits at just 0.59 with 95 Ks in 76 frames. Not surprisingly, Cease has been the No. 1 starting pitcher on the ESPN Player Rater over the last month. Against a Kansas City Royals offense that's striking out at a 24.2% clip since the All-Star break, Cease will be difficult to fade in DFS cash games on Thursday.
Edward Cabrera (18%) looked sharp in his return from the injured list last week, firing five shutout frames against the Cubs while striking out eight. After he missed nearly two months with elbow tendinitis, it was encouraging to see the young right-hander average 96.3 mph on his four-seamer, which essentially matches his season average (96.7 mph). Cabrera also notched an impressive 18 whiffs in the outing, as he generated five swings and misses with three different pitches (slider, curve, changeup). A matchup against the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday does present some risk, but the 24-year-old deserves a look regardless.
Dakota Hudson has benefited from plenty of good fortune this season. His 5.49 xERA is significantly higher than his actual ERA (4.20), and his 2.3% K-BB% is worst in baseball (min. 100 IP). With that in mind, a start at Coors Field on Thursday may not turn out so well for the Cardinals right-hander. Ryan McMahon (57%), Randal Grichuk (50%), Connor Joe (42%) and Jose Iglesias (16%) are all appealing streaming options in this appealing matchup.
While you may want to avoid Vinnie Pasquantino (5%) in Thursday's matchup against Cease, he's someone to monitor closely, as he could provide some value down the stretch. The 24-year-old is hitting a disappointing .237/.325/.385 in 37 games this season and has basically been a non-factor in fantasy, but there are some very encouraging things going on under the hood. In addition to showing terrific plate discipline with a 10.3% walk rate and a 15.8% K rate, he also boasts an impressive 49.1% hard-hit rate, which would rank top-20 in baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. After blasting a pair of bombs in Tuesday's doubleheader, Pasquantino might soon take off.
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.
Nolan Gorman (STL, 2B -- 16%) at Marquez
Christian Arroyo (BOS, 2B -- 1%) vs. Kremer
Terrin Vavra (BAL, 2B -- 0%) at Winckowski
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Thursday
Jonah Heim (TEX, C -- 52%) at Valdez
Nathaniel Lowe (TEX, 1B -- 53%) at Valdez
Salvador Perez (KC, C -- 91%) vs. Cease
Franmil Reyes (CHC, DH -- 51%) at Lodolo
Jeremy Pena (HOU, SS -- 53%) vs. Ragans
Ian Happ (CHC, LF -- 85%) at Lodolo
Bobby Witt Jr. (KC, SS -- 95%) vs. Cease
THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Thursday
Prop of the Day
Framber Valdez pitching outs: Over/Under 18.5 (-115/-115)
THE BAT X sees Valdez putting up 20.6 pitching outs for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 64.3% of the time. THE BAT X believes there is positive value on the OVER with an expected value of $23.21.
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 Rangers have been the eighth-luckiest offense in the league this year, according to THE BAT X, and are likely to perform worse in future games
Minute Maid Park profiles as the No. 22 stadium in the game for batting average, per THE BAT X projection system.
The Minute Maid Park roof projects to be closed today, making weather conditions in this matchup 10 degrees colder than the average outdoor game on the slate - favorable for pitching.
Valdez's fastball velocity has jumped 1.4 mph this season (93.4 mph) over where it was last season (92 mph).
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
Junior Valentine, expected to be in charge of the strike zone in this game, profiles as a hitter's umpire.
Minute Maid Park has the second-shallowest LF fences in the league.