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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 presents us with an ugly eight-game slate that offers very little in the way of pitching streamers. Among hurlers who are rostered in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues, there's James Kaprielian (6.46 ERA over his last six starts) against the Houston Astros, Daniel Lynch (5.31 second-half ERA) versus the Minnesota Twins, Dylan Bundy (seven earned runs in his last start) against the Kansas City Royals, Chase Anderson (9.00 ERA in four games this year) taking on the St. Louis Cardinals and Madison Bumgarner (8.42 ERA over the last month) matching up with the San Diego Padres. If there's one pitcher worth taking a chance on, it's probably JT Brubaker (6% rostered in ESPN leagues), who gets a tough matchup against the New York Mets. While the Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander holds an uninspiring 4.24 ERA since August 1, he's fanning over a batter per inning and has held opponents to three or fewer earned runs in five of his last six turns. Keep your expectations low, but Brubaker is at least usable if you're desperate.
On the surface, Pablo Lopez might look like one of the better pitchers on the slate, but the recent results paint a different picture. Since June 1, the Miami Marlins righty owns a 5.42 ERA in 18 starts. Looking at just his last 10 outings, his ERA balloons to 6.52. Needless to say, it's hard to count on Lopez during the fantasy baseball playoffs. Against a Philadelphia Phillies team that sports the second-best wOBA (.346) and wRC+ (122) over the last month, it's best to tread lightly with Lopez on Thursday.
Sean Manaea has been in a similar boat as Lopez. While he's rostered in over 80% of leagues, it's mostly because of name recognition at this point. The 30-year-old southpaw has cratered. After posting a 5.40 ERA in July, he was tagged for a 7.88 ERA in August, and his September ERA sits at 13.50. All told, Manaea owns a 6.91 ERA over his last 15 appearances. If you're in the fantasy playoffs or are looking to protect your ratios in roto leagues, strongly consider benching Manaea on Thursday, even in a favorable matchup against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
We already mentioned the recent struggles of left-hander Lynch, who has been tagged for a 6.11 ERA over his last seven turns. With the Twins on tap, Jose Miranda (31%), Gio Urshela (20%), Kyle Garlick (0%) and Gary Sanchez (33%) all carry the platoon edge against Lynch. Miranda is obviously the most appealing bat of the group, as he's hitting .301/.368/.451 since the All-Star break, including .316/.409/.474 in September.
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.
Vinnie Pasquantino (KC, 1B -- 12%) at Bundy
MJ Melendez (KC, C -- 26%) at Bundy
Jeremy Pena (HOU, SS -- 43%) vs. Kaprielian
Aledmys Diaz (HOU, 3B -- 8%) vs. Kaprielian
Joey Wendle (MIA, SS -- 10%) vs. Syndergaard
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Thursday
Whit Merrifield (TOR, 2B -- 81%) vs. McClanahan
Yasmani Grandal (CHW, C -- 53%) at Gaddis
Alec Bohm (PHI, 3B -- 53%) at Lopez
Mark Canha (NYM, LF -- 71%) vs. Brubaker
Matt Chapman (TOR, 3B -- 90%) vs. McClanahan
Jean Segura (PHI, 2B -- 76%) at Lopez
Eduardo Escobar (NYM, 2B -- 65%) vs. Brubaker
Teoscar Hernandez (TOR, LF -- 93%) vs. McClanahan
THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Today
San Diego Padres at Drey Jameson
Houston Astros vs. Kaprielian
Chicago White Sox at Gaddis