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

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.

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

  • When looking at streaming options for Thursday, it's hard to look past J.P. France (14% rostered in ESPN leagues), who gets an extremely favorable road matchup versus the Oakland Athletics. France hasn't been flashy in his 12 starts for the Houston Astros, as his K/9 rate comes in at just 6.4, but he sports a helpful 3.31 ERA. Since June 1, he hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of his seven outings. Look for France to continue that streak against an Oakland lineup that sports an 81 wRC+ (27th in MLB) and 25.1 K% (25th) over the last 30 days.

  • Michael Lorenzen (8%) is another widely available hurler who is set up well on Thursday against the Kansas City Royals. The Royals offense has actually been worse than Oakland's over the past month, ranking last in the American League with a 70 wRC+ and a 26.1% strikeout rate. Lorenzen, meanwhile, has held opponents scoreless in back-to-back outings. And when he last faced Kansas City in mid-June, he fired off six innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts.

  • Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Cincinnati's most-recent top prospect callup, is currently rostered in only 17% of ESPN leagues, but that number could spike quickly. The 23-year-old slugger was promoted after hitting .331/.405/.637 in Triple-A with 20 homers, 65 runs, and 62 RBI in 67 games, and he popped his first big-league dinger on Tuesday. Once known for his aggressive, strikeout-heavy approach, it's noteworthy that CES walked 10.4% of the time at Triple-A and fanned at just a 21.8% clip (both significant improvements over his Double-A rates). Playing half of his games in Great American Ballpark, one of baseball's most hitter-friendly venues, Encarnacion-Strand could be a huge power threat in the second half, so now's a good time to scoop him up.

  • After spending some time in the bullpen, Steven Matz is back in the starting rotation for the St. Louis Cardinals. Considering the .309/.369/.477 line he's allowing to right-handed batters this season, he's one of the starters that we want to attack when he matches up with the Chicago Cubs on Thursday. Christopher Morel (46%), Seiya Suzuki (45%), and switch-hitter Ian Happ (51%) are some names who should take advantage of this tasty matchup.

  • Jose Quintana (3%) is set to make his 2023 debut on Thursday against the Chicago White Sox after being sidelined for the first three-plus months due to a rib injury. The veteran southpaw worked 4 1/3 innings on 78 pitches in his most recent rehab outing, so he may not be ready for 100+ pitches just yet, but the New York Mets have little reason to baby him. Quintana experienced a bit of a resurgence in 2022, as he put up a 2.93 ERA across 32 starts between the Cardinals and Pirates. Against a White Sox team that's been middle-of-the-road against lefties this season, the 34-year-old carries some risk, but there's some deep-league appeal here.

Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday

Bullpen usage watch for Thursday

By Todd Zola

  • Only one closer is flagged for questionable availability on Thursday. Alexis Diaz collected his 27th save last night, needing only 11 pitches in the process. However, the Cincinnati Reds closer has pitched on three of the last four days, albeit with a reasonable 34 combined pitches. Even so, that's sufficient for manager David Bell to do his best to give Diaz the day off, especially since it's a fast turnaround from last night with a 12:35 PM ET start today. Buck Farmer has struggled in July, but he's still next in line with Lucas Sims in the late-inning mix as well.

  • Having only 10 games on the docket avails a chance to pick up a closer to fill in for someone with an off day. It's a bonus if the pickup is in a good spot to contribute through the weekend. According to the W% used in the Forecaster, the top-six three-day totals belong to teams whose closer is a frequent visitor to this space, indicating they are rostered in more than half of ESPN leagues. For the record, they are the Houston Astros (Ryan Pressly), San Francisco Giants (Camilo Doval), Reds (Diaz), New York Mets (David Robertson), San Diego Padres (Josh Hader) and Atlanta Braves (Raisel Iglesias).

  • Next on the list are the Chicago White Sox, who finish a series with the Mets today, then travel to Target Field for a weekend set with the Minnesota Twins. The White Sox have a losing record, but with Michael Kopech, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease and Lucas Giolito slated to start the next four games, they should have a chance to collect some wins. Kendall Graveman (9.9% rostered) is the primary target.

  • Another option is Jordan Hicks (13.5%) who has emerged as the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals. The club embarks on a four-game set in Wrigley Field starting today and has somewhat quietly won five games in a row and seven of their last eight.

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.

Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Thursday

THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Thursday

Prop of the Day

Chris Bassitt, Blue Jays, 17.5 pitching outs (-157/+120)


THE BAT X sees Bassitt putting up 16.4 pitching outs for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 41.6% of the time. THE BAT X believes there is positive value on the UNDER with an expected value of $28.55.

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 X projects Bassitt in the 84th percentile when assessing his overall pitching skills.

  • In terms of temperature and humidity, the weather forecast forecasts the third-most suitable pitching conditions on the slate today.


  • The best projected batting order of all teams on the slate in terms of overall offensive ability belongs to the Padres.

  • The Padres have been the third-unluckiest offense in the majors this year, according to THE BAT X, and are likely to positively regress going forward

  • Stu Scheurwater grades out as a huge hitter's umpire and is anticipated to be behind the plate in this game.

  • Rogers Centre profiles as the No. 8 field in MLB for home runs, per THE BAT X.