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Note: This file has been updated with 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
Is there big-league pitcher more vulnerable than Graham Ashcraft right now? With Alek Manoah being sent to the minors on Tuesday, it's hard to argue against Ashcraft, who has been pummeled for a 12.99 ERA and 2.21 WHIP over his last six starts, including a 10-run blowup against the Milwaukee Brewers his last time out. Most of the Los Angeles Dodgers' big bats are already rostered, but James Outman (36%), Miguel Vargas (20%), and Chris Taylor (6%) are all still widely available. Plus, for those who play in shallow formats, the red-hot J.D. Martinez (.351/.361/.877 over his last 14 games) is still on the wire in 25% of ESPN leagues.
After going nine consecutive starts with two earned runs allowed or fewer, Drew Smyly (42% rostered in ESPN leagues), has been tagged for eight runs over his last 10 1/3 frames. Still, the veteran lefty sports a strong 3.56 ERA and 1.11 WHIP this season, and he's been excellent at avoiding hard contact, as his 30.7% hard-hit rate allowed ranks in the top 10% of baseball. It's true that the Los Angeles Angels have been tough on left-handers this year, but Smyly remains one of the more reliable arms in the streamer discussion on Thursday.
Reid Detmers' (27%) 5.15 ERA is probably enough to scare most fantasy managers away, but he carries big-time strikeout upside into Thursday's matchup against the Chicago Cubs. The 23-year-old southpaw sports an impressive 10.7 K/9 rate this season, while the Cubs have been fanning at an NL-worst 27.1% clip over the last 30 days. Not only that, but their 25.5% K rate versus lefties this season is sixth-worst in baseball. Sure, there's some ratio risk here, but there's also double-digit K upside.
Thursday's Coors Field matchup has Chase Anderson toeing the rubber for the Colorado Rockies. Anderson possesses a 5.56 ERA in seven career starts at Coors, and his career-worst 4.1 K/9 this season means lots of balls in play in the game's most hitter-friendly environment. In other words, this is a prime spot to stream hitters from the visiting San Francisco Giants. The entire Giants' lineup is still on the waiver wire in most leagues, so you can have your pick, but the top options include Joc Pederson (6%), LaMonte Wade Jr. (15%), Michael Conforto (14%), and Mike Yastrzemski (9%), all of whom carry the platoon advantage.
Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday
Bullpen Usage for Thursday
by Todd Zola
Four closers are flagged for questionable availability today, but only one is in serious jeopardy of sitting out the Thursday slate. However, with eight teams not on the docket, getting a head start on grabbing relievers lined up for a productive weekend could prove prescient. Not to mention, there is a doubleheader in the Bronx today.
Alexis Diaz is the only closer on the list pitching twice over the last three days. He picked up the win in last night's exciting come-from-behind win over the Dodgers after collecting his 14th save on Monday night. He only used a total of 23 pitches, so he could be available today, except the Reds wrap up their series with the Dodgers at 12:35 PM ET, so the short turnaround from last night probably signals an off day for Diaz. Buck Farmer and Lucas Sims also worked Monday and last night, though Sims threw just 16 combined pitches. Ian Gibaut didn't pitch yesterday, so he could be in the late-inning mix. However, with Clayton Kershaw opposing Graham Ashcraft, the sage play is avoiding the Reds bullpen today.
Jordan Romano, Camilo Doval and Emmanuel Clase all made the usage chart list, but they have all only pitched once over the last three days, and there is precedent for each coming back to work in consecutive games after a similar pitch count.
Both of last night's postponements will be played today. The Phillies and Tigers both had a scheduled off day today, so their makeup is just a single game at 6:05 PM. However, the White Sox and Yankees will play an old-fashioned single admission doubleheader. As such, targeting their bullpens could pay dividends. Clay Holmes (42.6% rostered) leads the Yankees in saves with six, but manager Aaron Boone has been calling on Holmes to face the meat of the opposition order, allowing Wandy Peralta and Michael King to collect saves. All three are also in the mix for holds. On Monday night, Liam Hendriks (23.0%) earned his first save since beating cancer. However, even though he's reclaimed the closer gig, Hendriks probably won't be asked to pitch twice today, putting Kendall Gravemen in play.
Even though the Phillies host the Dodgers over the weekend, their bullpen has a chance to be productive since the pitching matchup favors Philadelphia, plus the Phillies entertain the Tigers today with Zack Wheeler on the hill. For the season, Craig Kimbrel (18.3%) has posted a high 5.09 ERA, but most of the damage was early as evidenced by a 1.64 mark over his last 11 innings, over which he's fanned 19 while compiling six saves.
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.
Anthony Volpe (NYY, SS -- 42%) vs. Lynn and Clevinger
Josh Donaldson (NYY, 3B -- 4%) vs. Lynn and Clevinger
Mitch Haniger (SF, RF -- 11%) at Anderson
J.D. Davis (SF, 3B -- 10%) at Anderson
LaMonte Wade Jr. (SF, RF -- 15%) at Anderson
Michael Conforto (SF, RF -- 14%) at Anderson
Yoan Moncada (CHW, 3B -- 9%) at Severino and Vasquez
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Thursday
Jeremy Pena (HOU, SS -- 65%) at Berrios
Francisco Lindor (NYM, SS -- 99%) at Strider
Carlos Correa (MIN, SS -- 75%) at Glasnow
Daulton Varsho (TOR, C -- 89%) vs. Valdez
The Bat X's Best Stacks for Thursday
Prop of the day
Alex Cobb 17.5 pitching outs (-115/-115)
THE BAT sees Cobb putting up 14.7 Pitching Outs for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 31.4% of the time. THE BAT believes there is positive value on the under with an expected value of $32.54.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE OVER
The Colorado Rockies projected offense projects as the worst on the slate.
Cobb is an extreme groundball pitcher (55.7% GB% per THE BAT projections), which should make him somewhat immune to the dangers of pitching in Coors Field -- the #3 HR venue in MLB -- today.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
The Colorado Rockies have been the 10th-unluckiest offense in the game this year, according to THE BAT X, and are likely to positively regress in the future.
Shane Livensparger profiles as a Hitters Umpire and is expected to be calling pitches in this game.
Coors Field ranks as the No. 1 ballpark in MLB for batting average, per THE BAT projection system.
The weather forecast calls for the fourth-best hitting weather of the day, as it relates to temperature and humidity.