Fantasy baseball pitcher rankings, lineup advice for Friday's MLB games

Lane Thomas of the Washington Nationals has an opportunity to steal a base on Friday. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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 will be 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 Friday's MLB Games

By Todd Zola

  • Friday's full state begins with a Wrigley Field matinee, but the start time is 4:05 p.m. ET, a bit later than usual. A pair of lefties will take the hill with Carlos Rodon getting the nod for the visiting San Francisco Giants while Drew Smyly toes the rubber for the Chicago Cubs. Last season, Giants manager Gabe Kapler pushed all the right buttons. Things have not gone as swimmingly this year, but the platoon approach has led to San Francisco sporting the second highest HR% facing lefty pitching. Smyly yielded only one homer in 30 August inning, fueling a 0.90 ERA and 0.93 WHIP for the month. However, the southpaw gave up three long balls in his first September start, but it was to the Cardinals who have crushed lefty pitching all season. A case can be made for streaming Smyly (9% rostered in ESPN leagues), but hoping Lewis Brinson (2%), J.D. Davis (1%), Evan Longoria (2%) or Thairo Estrada (56%) takes him deep is also a viable play.

  • The rest of the slate will be contested under the lights. It's not the best setup for those looking for pitching help, but there are a couple options with Ross Stripling leading the pack as the Toronto Blue Jays open a weekend set in Arlington. Stripling has recorded four straight quality starts, fanning 27 over those 24⅓ frames. The Texas Rangers have been one of the weakest offenses facing right-handers all season.

  • After getting swept by the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-game set to begin the week, the Boston Red Sox will turn to rookie right-hander Brayan Bello (1%) when they travel to Camden Yards for a weekend series with the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles are no longer a pushover, though they handle lefties better than righties. Bello struggled when he was initially called up, but he's fared better in his second MLB stint, registering a 3.00 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in three starts, punching out 14 in those 15 homerless stanzas.

  • Deciding who not to start is just as important as choosing who to use. There are several difficult decisions on Friday's card. Frankie Montas struggled when he was first acquired by the Yankees, sparking rumors he can't handle the pressure of the big city. Granted, two of the three were on the road, but he's righted the ship. It's understandable to sit Montas if you're in a tight ratio battle, but he looks confident enough to use against the Rays in the Bronx as the Yankees look to fortify their lead in the AL East. Lucas Giolito has been one of the summer's biggest enigmas, but he's still rostered in 92% of ESPN leagues. On Friday, he faces the Oakland Athletics. If you're not going to start him against the weakest lineup in the game, why have him on your roster? Dustin May (at the Padres), Drew Rasmussen (at the Yankees) and Edward Cabrera (versus the Mets) are all solid hurlers with tough matchups. In June or July, it's easy to say always start your studs, but if you're in a tight ratio battle, don't be afraid to play it safe.

  • The Rockies are home over the weekend, taking on the Arizona Diamondbacks and their exciting group of lefty swinging outfielders. Jake McCarthy (30%) and Corbin Carroll (17%) are power/speed threats with righty German Marquez on the hill for Colorado. Victor Reyes (1%) is in a good spot facing Daniel Lynch. The Nationals don't run much, but Lane Thomas (6%), Cesar Hernandez (8%) and Ildemaro Vargas (3%) are the best options to swipe a bag with Noah Syndergaard on the hill.

Starting pitcher rankings for Friday

Best Sub-50% Rostered Hitters for Friday

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.

Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Friday

THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Today

Prop of the Day

Drew Smyly Strikeouts: Over/Under 4.5 (-148/+116)


THE BAT sees Smyly putting up 6.4 Strikeouts for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 74.8% of the time. THE BAT believes there is positive value on the OVER with an expected value of $37.61.

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.


  • THE BAT projects Drew Smyly in the 89th percentile when estimating his strikeout skill.

  • The San Francisco Giants (24.8 K%, per THE BAT X) project to have the 5th-most strikeout-heavy lineup today.

  • Drew Smyly has a large reverse platoon split and is fortunate enough to be facing 7 opposite-handed hitters today.

  • Despite conventional wisdom, fastballs are generally a pitcher's least effective pitch. Drew Smyly has relied on his off-speed and breaking pitches 12.6% more often this year (65.1%) than he did last year (52.5%).


  • High temperatures are strongly correlated with more offense (and fewer strikeouts), and the weather report calls for the 2nd-hottest weather of all games on the slate at 82°.

  • Drew Smyly's fastball velocity has decreased 4.1 mph this season (87.4 mph) below where it was last year (91.5 mph).