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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 Saturday's MLB Games
By Mike Sheets
The Kansas City Royals' acquisition of lefty Cole Ragans (6% rostered in ESPN leagues) at the trade deadline didn't make many waves, but he's forcing fantasy managers to take notice after his past two starts. The 25-year-old spun six shutout frames against the New York Mets with eight Ks last Wednesday, and he followed that up with 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball and 11 strikeouts versus the Boston Red Sox on Monday. Not only is Ragans showing increased velocity, topping out at 98.5 in his last outing, but he's now featuring a slider, giving him another bat-missing weapon. The St. Louis Cardinals offense presents a stiff test on Saturday, but go ahead and roll with Ragans, who looks awfully legit in his small sample.
Squaring off against Ragans and the Royals on Saturday is Steven Matz, who has been very impressive in his own right. Since rejoining the Cardinals' rotation, he sports a 1.65 ERA over his past six starts with 33 Ks in 32 2/3 innings, notching a quality start in each of his last three turns. Against a Kansas City lineup that ranks bottom five in MLB this season with an 88 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, Matz should continue to find success this weekend.
Since getting roughed up by the Washington Nationals on July 8 (7 ER in 3 IP), Andrew Heaney (39%) has righted the ship, delivering a 2.33 ERA and 1.11 WHIP across his past five outings. While his strikeout rate has dipped this season, he's still fanning more than a batter per inning, and he notched his second double-digit K performance of the season earlier this month. On Saturday, Heaney finds himself in an extremely favorable spot, taking the mound against the San Francisco Giants, who sport an MLB-worst 71 wRC+ over the last 30 days.
Maybe it's the lack of strikeouts (6.4 K/9), but it's curious as to why J.P. France is still rostered in only 25% of ESPN leagues. Dating back to June 1, the right-hander owns a 2.25 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 11 appearances (10 starts). And while pitcher wins are hard to predict, he's now picked up a victory in four straight games. France is a good bet to make it five straight on Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels, who have lost seven of their past nine with an AL-worst 28.1% K% over the last two weeks.
Matt Manning appears to be enduring a late-season collapse, as he's been hammered for at least six runs in two of his past three starts, leading to an ugly 9.18 ERA during that stretch. In Saturday's matchup against the Red Sox, Triston Casas (41%), who is batting .347/.427/.788 with nine homers since the All-Star break, and Jarren Duran (29%) both have the platoon edge and are high-priority streaming options. Adam Duvall (21%) and the recently activated Trevor Story (19%) are strong plays, as well.
Starting pitcher rankings for Saturday
Bullpen usage watch for Saturday
By Todd Zola
Often, a visiting manager will save his closer for a save chance in extra innings, but last night Milwaukee Brewers skipper Craig Counsell summoned Devin Williams in the bottom of the ninth of a 6-6 tie with the Chicago White Sox. Williams responded by striking out the side on 14 pitches. The effort was the third appearance in four days for Williams, with the 38 total pitches in this span putting his availability for today's contest in jeopardy. However, as we've witnessed this week, clubs in playoff contention are becoming more liberal with workload restrictions, and the Brewers are fending off both the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds for the NL Central lead. It isn't clear-cut for fantasy team managers to reserve Williams, especially since primary setup man Joel Payamps has also worked three of the last four days, but he's thrown 45 pitches. Recently acquired Andrew Chafin is well rested and has closing experience, but the southpaw struggled in his most recent outing last Tuesday, yielding four runs to the Colorado Rockies without recording an out.
Doubleheaders are solid targets for bullpen help since there is twice the chance a reliever appears and sometimes, they pitch in both ends of the twin-bill. Today, the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets hook up for a pair in Citi Field. The Braves will be favored in both games, so their relievers are the preferred options. Closer Raisel Iglesias did not appear on Thursday or Friday as manager Brian Snitker gave Iglesias two rest days after appearing in each of the three previous days, accumulating 61 pitches in the process. Iglesias should be ready for one game today, but probably not both. With A.J. Minter, Kirby Yates and Pierce Johnson all pitching last night, Joe Jimenez is the most rested of Atlanta's deep bullpen. Even so, Minter, Yates and Pierce are not sure things to sit out today. Collin McHugh is also in play as he hasn't appeared since Wednesday and is a candidate to pitch multiple innings -- especially in the opener which will be started by Allan Winans.
The Mets are playing matchups with their infrequent late-inning leads, with Brooks Raley, Drew Smith and Adam Ottavino all in the picture. The trio is well-rested, but there isn't an obvious individual to close. Raley is the best bet to appear in both games, so he's the priority.
Best Sub-50% Rostered Hitters for Saturday
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.
Ke'Bryan Hayes (PIT, 3B -- 12%) vs. Williamson
Orlando Arcia (ATL, 2B -- 32%) at Reyes and Quintana
Triston Casas (BOS, 1B -- 42%) vs. Manning
Rafael Ortega (NYM, CF -- 0%) vs. Winans and Strider
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Saturday
Gunnar Henderson (BAL, 3B -- 79%) at Kirby
THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Saturday
Prop of the Day
Brayan Bello, Red Sox, 5.5 strikeouts (-141/+106)
THE BAT X sees Bello putting up 5.1 strikeouts for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 40.7% of the time. THE BAT X believes there is positive value on the UNDER with an expected value of $22.16.
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
It is expected that we will see a pitcher's umpire (Jeremy Riggs) behind the plate today.
Bello will have the benefit of the platoon advantage against six opposing batters in this game.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
Fenway Park grades out as the No. 26 venue in the game for strikeouts.
Hot weather is strongly correlated with more offense (and fewer strikeouts), and the weather forecast projects the fifth-hottest weather of all games today at 83 degrees.
The wind projects to be blowing out to left at 9.1 mph in this contest, the fifth-most-favorable of the day for hitters.
Bello's fastball velocity has dropped 1.4 mph this year (94.3 mph) below where it was last season (95.7 mph).