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.
For an in-depth look at what to expect in this daily article and for how to best utilize the information contained within, check out our handy primer here.
What you need to know for Sunday's MLB Games
By Todd Zola
The full Sunday slate commences at 1:05 PM ET with the Phillies hosting the Reds and concludes with ESPN Sunday Night Baseball at 7:00 PM, featuring the Braves entertaining the Padres. In between are 13 matinees, with a lot of back-end pitching on the mound. To wit, there are only seven starters projected to tally at least 10 fantasy points, as measured by the standard ESPN scoring system. In contrast, Saturday's slate contained 10 hurlers expected to score in the double digits, while (spoiler alert) Monday's slate is loaded with 14 starters projected for at least 10 points.
Sunday marks the final day of the initial scoring period in head-to-head leagues. To better serve you, several of us responsible for the daily rankings and advice are playing in a standard 10-team league with daily moves (we are playing out this mock draft). Humblebrag alert but will likely embark on the Sunday schedule with a healthy lead. If it were closer, I'd have a tough decision, like what several of you are facing. I have Max Fried stashed on reserve, and we are not playing with an IL. Because of more than usual off days over the first 11 days of the season, I am carrying two bench bats. If I needed to catch up on Sunday, I'd need to either drop Fried, or a solid bat who has been used multiple times over the first scoring period. With Fried due back as early as next weekend, I likely would have dropped a hitter to pick up a spot starter, especially since there are 14 games on Monday's slate, so I won't need to worry about a reserve bat until Thursday. Learning how to navigate scenarios like this with the plusher available player pool is exactly why the writers and editors are competing in a house league.
Anthony DeSclafani (8.7% rostered in ESPN leagues) would have been my first choice for a steamer. He checks all the boxes with a home start in a pitcher's park facing a weak offense. According to our W%, DeSclafani and the Giants are the second-biggest favorites on the card. In his first start, DeSclafani threw six scoreless frames, fanning four White Sox on the road in the Windy City. Taijuan Walker (11.6%) did not fare so well in his opener, but he drew the Yankees in the Bronx. Walker threw 4.1 frames, yielding four runs on four hits, also issuing three free passes, albeit with five punch outs. Next up is a home tilt with a Reds lineup averaging the eighth fewest runs per game while striking out at an above average clip.
Like Walker, Carlos Carrasco (13.2%) is looking to rebound from a poor initial effort, and he also has the ideal foil with the Marlins wrapping up a series in Citi Field. Carrasco opened on the road in Milwaukee, surrendering five runs in only four stanzas. On Sunday, he'll square off with the offense averaging the third fewest runs per game in MLB.
Remember when it appeared everyone and the kitchen sink was running? After the first series, the league average was two steals per game, with an 83.3% success rate. Since, the frequency has dropped to 1.31 per game, with a 77% success rate. Both are still well up over last season, but down significantly from opening day weekend. The Red Sox lead the league in giving up steals with 14, though only four have come since allowing 10 to Baltimore in the first two games of the season. That said, only half of MLB has surrendered more than four for the whole season. What teams to pick on will come more into focus as the season progresses, but at least for now, targeting players against Boston seems wise. On Sunday, this includes Riley Greene (24.7%), Javier Baez (23.8%), Matt Vierling (1.5%) and Zack McKinstry (.1%).
Sunday AM added note: When today's notes were orignally filed, I had a seemingly comfortable lead in the ESPN Writers and Editors head-to-head league, so I opted not to drop a potentially useful player to fortify my Sunday lineup. However, I woke up with a precarious 19-point lead and my opponent has George Kirby on the hill today, whereas I have no scheduled starters, so I decided to make a couple of changes. As discussed above, Anthony DeSclafani is in a great spot, so I released Corey Kluber to pick up DeSclafani. In addition, there is only one reliever in the active lineup, which seems suboptimal in this format. A.J. Minter (39%) was available, so I picked him up. He's the Braves closer and hasn't pitched since April 6. Atlanta is sending Dylan Dodd to the bump against Seth Lugo and the Padres. This is a reasonable setup for a save chance. Plus, Atlanta plays the Reds and Royals next week, so barring six blowouts, Minter should be in line for a save or two. The drop was the most difficult decision, as Triston Casas was sent packing. Beginning today, Boston has a stretch of facing seven southpaws in eight days. As a left-handed hitter, this will push Casas to the lower portion of the order (like today), or to the bench. Since he won't have a solid matchup for at least a week, there is a good chance of picking him back up before the matchups are more favorable.
Looking for a free fantasy baseball league? Come and join the fun of ESPN's brand new standard scoring format. New leagues start play every Monday.
Starting pitcher rankings for Sunday
Best Sub-50% Rostered Hitters for Sunday
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.
Jurickson Profar (COL, LF -- 17%) vs. Chad Kuhl
Ryan McMahon (COL, 3B -- 15%) vs. Kuhl
Charlie Blackmon (COL, RF -- 35%) vs. Kuhl
Joey Meneses (WSH, 1B -- 29%) at Ryan Feltner
Alex Call (WSH, LF -- 0%) at Feltner
Jeimer Candelario (WSH, 3B -- 5%) at Feltner
Dominic Smith (WSH, 1B -- 1%) at Feltner
Jesse Winker (MIL, LF -- 27%) vs. Jake Woodford
Lane Thomas (WSH, LF -- 5%) at Feltner
Elias Diaz (COL, C -- 1%) vs. Chad Kuhl
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Sunday
Gunnar Henderson (BAL, 3B -- 83%) vs. Nestor Cortes
Jordan Walker (STL, 3B -- 55%) at Freddy Peralta
Triston Casas (BOS, 1B -- 52%) at Matthew Boyd
Anthony Volpe (NYY, SS -- 54%) at Tyler Wells
Anthony Santander (BAL, RF -- 91%) vs. Cortes
Jeremy Pena (HOU, SS -- 63%) at Tyler Mahle
Tyler Stephenson (CIN, C -- 60%) at Taijuan Walker
Cedric Mullins (BAL, CF -- 98%) vs. Cortes
Tommy Edman (STL, 2B -- 91%) at Peralta
Jake Cronenworth (SD, 2B -- 94%) at Dylan Dodd
THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Today
Prop of the Day
Christian Arroyo Hits: Over/Under 0.5 (-250/+180)
THE BAT sees Arroyo putting up 0.82 Hits for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 60.6% of the time. THE BAT believes there is positive value on the UNDER with an expected value of $10.37.
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
Comerica Park profiles as the #10 field in the league for RHB batting average, according to THE BAT projection system.
Arroyo will have the handedness advantage against Matthew Boyd today... and even better, Boyd has a huge platoon split.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
Arroyo has been replaced by a pinch-hitter 22% of the time when facing a left-handed pitcher since the start of last season.
Cold weather is strongly correlated with less offense (and more whiffs), and the weather report calls for the 4th-coldest temperature of all games today at 55°.
The wind projects to be blowing in from CF at 8.1-mph in this matchup, the second-most-favorable of the day for pitchers.
Arroyo hits a lot of his fly balls to center field (38.3% - 77th percentile) and faces baseball's second-deepest CF fences today.