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

Lars Nootbaar of the St. Louis Cardinals attempts a bunt. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

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 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 Friday's MLB Games

By Todd Zola

  • Friday's standard 15-game slate gets underway at an unusual time with the Cincinnati Reds hosting the Milwaukee Brewers at 5:10 PM ET. The early start is due to a concert for attendees after the game. First, the fans will be treated to a matchup between Corbin Burnes and Reds rookie Brandon Williamson. Williamson is predictably struggling after being forced into the rotation with Nick Lodolo out. Burnes, on the other hand, is unexpectedly having a down season, though he is coming off his best outing of the campaign. Burnes' velocity, especially on his signature cutter, has been down all season, but it was up last time out. Perhaps throwing over 200 innings last season led to Burnes being a bit slow out of the gate. The Reds offense is below average, with a generous strikeout rate against right-handers. Don't worry about an away tilt in the Great American ballpark, Burnes is used to pitching in a hitter's haven, not to mention getting frequent visits to Cincinnati. The window to buy low on Burnes is rapidly closing, perhaps it will be shut with a solid outing on Friday. Start him with confidence, and don't be afraid to acquire him if his current team manager is still wary of a return to form.

  • There hasn't been any middle ground for Edward Cabrera (13.2% rostered). In 11 starts, he's either walked four or more, or no more than two. Unsurprisingly, his ERA is a palatable 4.00 in the latter five, compared to 6.12 for the rest. On Friday, Cabrera draws an Oakland lineup with a slightly above average walk rate, but they fan at an elevated 26.2% clip while sporting a league's worst .279 wOBA against righties. There's always a risk Cabrera can't find the plate, but there is huge upside, especially with strikeouts.

  • Mike Clevinger (6.3%) is expected to come off the IL to face the Tigers this weekend, perhaps as early as Friday night. It's always risky using a pitcher in their first start back, but Clevinger was pitching well before suffering a jammed wrist, and the setup couldn't be better with a tame Detroit lineup on tap. Beware, however, Clevinger could be limited to 80-85 pitches, but that's sufficient to get through five frames against the fourth lowest scoring team in MLB.

  • Bailey Ober (33.4%) is a good example of a pitcher whose rostership is in the streaming range this season, whereas he probably would have been a mainstay on more fantasy teams in previous years when the active pitching roster had two more spots. Ober has been saddled with a loss in his prior two outings, but he deserved a better fate last time out when he limited the Blue Jays to two runs over five stanzas, with seven punch outs. Ober will be favored to get back in the win column on Friday night when the Twins host the Guardians. For the season, Cleveland's strikeout rate has been one of the league's lowest, but it's been elevated for a little over a week. The Twins will face Aaron Civale in his first outing since April 7. Civale was shaky in his last rehab outing, so Minnesota should be able to score some runs.

  • Friday is often a day to replenish hitters since some solid bats may have been dropped to fortify Thursday's active lineup. Some candidates with the platoon edge are Jarred Kelenic (48.9%) facing Jon Gray, Bryson Stott (40%) versus Josiah Gray, Lars Nootbaar (22.5%) against Roansy Contreras and Owen Miller (12.7%) drafting Brandon Williamson. Royce Lewis (14.5%) lacks the platoon edge on Civale, but he's in a good spot regardless.

Starting pitcher rankings for Friday

Bullpen usage watch for Friday

By Todd Zola

  • Only three closers are flagged as possibly unavailable for Friday, but chances are all three will be asked to work in back-to-back games if needed. However, there is a doubleheader on the docket tomorrow, so picking up a reliever from that contest can fortify tonight's active pitchers as well as offering two chances for a save or hold on Saturday.

  • Ryan Pressly threw only 13 pitches while locking down his 11th save last night. There are multiple instances when Astros manager Dusty Baker used Pressly on consecutive days with a similar workload.

  • When Kenley Jansen began warming up in the eighth inning last night, the Red Sox and Reds were tied 2-2. By the time he took the hill in Fenway Park to pitch the ninth, Boston led 8-2. Jansen needed the work and recorded three outs with 13 pitches. This should not be sufficient to prevent Alex Cora from calling Jansen's number tonight in the opener of a four-game set at home with the Rays.

  • Jordan Romano lost the Blue Jays shutout, but still saved their 3-1 home win over Milwaukee yesterday afternoon. He's worked consecutively after a similar pitch count multiple times this season, so Romano should be available for the opener of an interleague weekend set with the Mets in Citi Field.

  • The Red Sox and Rays play a split doubleheader on Saturday. Rays closer Jason Adam (20.1% rostered) is the main target for those wanting to be one step ahead of their league mates. Colin Poche and Kevin Kelly are in the mix for holds, and a possible save tomorrow. For the Red Sox, Chris Martin and Josh Winckowski stand to benefit, as they're the main conduits to Jansen.

Best Sub-50% Rostered Hitters for Friday

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 Friday

THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Today

Prop of the Day

Roansy Contreras O/U 3.5 strikeouts (-170/+120)


THE BAT sees Contreras putting up 3.3 strikeouts for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 44.5% of the time. THE BAT believes there is positive value on the UNDER with an expected value of $22.11.

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.


  • Roansy Contreras has utilized his slider 7.4% more often this season (43%) than he did last year (35.6%).

  • Contreras has been unlucky in regards to his strikeouts this year, compiling a 6.23 K/9 despite THE BAT estimating his true talent level to be 7.64 - a 1.41 K/9 deviation.


  • THE BAT X expects Contreras to be limited in this matchup, projecting a maximum of 85 pitches.

  • PNC Park projects as the No. 27 park in the game for strikeouts, according to THE BAT projection system.

  • Hot weather is strongly correlated with more offense (and fewer strikeouts), and the weather forecast forecasts the third-hottest weather of the day at 87 degrees.

  • Contreras's fastball velocity has dropped 1.3 mph this year (93.5 mph) below where it was last season (94.8 mph).