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. Game odds are provided by Caesars Sportsbook, and fantasy advice is geared toward ESPN 10-team leagues with standard scoring.
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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
Kenta Maeda continues to shine, despite being rostered in only 25% of ESPN leagues. The veteran right-hander has posted a 2.47 ERA and an 11.9 K/9 in his eight starts since returning from the IL, giving up three or fewer earned runs in all of them. There's really no excuse for him to not be rostered in more leagues. That said, as long as Maeda is widely available, he remains a premiere streaming option -- and that's definitely the case on Thursday against the Detroit Tigers. Since the All-Star break, the Tigers rank bottom-five in baseball in both wOBA (.290) and wRC+ (84).
There aren't a ton of quality streaming options on Thursday's eight-game slate, but James Paxton (41% rostered) is another name that deserves your attention. Not only does he sport a 3.25 ERA over his last 11 starts, but he keeps racking up the strikeouts with a 27.3 K%. Against a Kansas City Royals lineup that's struggled against left-handed pitching this season (88 wRC+, 23.8 K%), Paxton belongs on the streaming radar.
It might surprise you to learn that, over the last month, CJ Abrams (29%) has been the No. 3 player in fantasy baseball, according to the ESPN Player Rater. During that stretch, he's hit .322/.376/.504 with four homers, 11 RBIs, and 26 runs while going a perfect 18-for-18 in stolen base attempts. Yet somehow, he's not even rostered in one-third of ESPN leagues. On Thursday, Abrams draws the platoon advantage against Aaron Nola, who has not done a good job of keeping runners close (14 stolen bases allowed).
Speaking of pitchers who do a poor job of keeping baserunners honest, Noah Syndergaard and Alek Manoah are set to square off on Thursday afternoon. Both hurlers are among the league leaders in stolen bases allowed, with Syndergaard giving up 20 and Manoah allowing 13. Needless to say, if you need a boost in steals, this matchup is a good one to target. Whit Merrifield (66%), Andres Gimenez (53%), Myles Straw (3%) and Ramon Laureano (2%) are all SB threats who should be off and running if given the opportunity.
Matthew Liberatore of the St. Louis Cardinals faces his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, on Thursday. The way he's been pitching of late, he's going to have his hands full. The 23-year-old southpaw wasn't pitching particularly well in Triple-A prior to his most recent promotion (6.00 ERA over his previous three starts), and his most-recent big league outing (last Thursday) didn't go well, either (5 ER over 5 2/3 IP). With a .339/.414/.548 line allowed to right-handed batters this season, righty hitters Isaac Paredes (70%), Jose Siri (4%), Harold Ramirez (15%), and Curtis Mead (1%) are all names to target when Liberatore takes the hill on Thursday.
Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday
Bullpen usage watch for Thursday
By Todd Zola
Mea culpa. Yesterday, it was recommended to reserve Raisel Iglesias since he had pitched on two consecutive days and, with the Atlanta Braves' big lead and deep bullpen, it made sense they wouldn't overextend their closer. As it turns out, Iglesias appeared for the third straight day, collecting two strikeouts and his 22nd save in the process. Let's try this again. After pitching three days in a row, Iglesias is due a day off, so the wise play is reserving him. A.J. Minter threw 15 pitches last night, and with an early start today, he'll likely join Iglesias on the bullpen bench. Kirby Yates and Joe Jimenez are both well rested, and can even be used together on a slate where a fantasy staff has holes with only eight games on the docket.
Kenley Jansen provided some anxious moments after surrendering a solo homer to Freddy Fermin in the ninth, but he held on for his 25th save as the Boston Red Sox downed the Kansas City Royals, 4-3. Jansen's pitch count was 19, which came after throwing 13 on Monday. The combined 32 pitches over three days jeopardizes Jansen's eligibility for tonight. Primary setup men Chris Martin and Josh Winckowski have also pitched in two of the last three days, leaving John Schreiber as the likeliest candidate for late-inning duties.
As mentioned, there are only eight games on Thursday's slate. A viable tactic to take advantage is to double up on a bullpen from a team favored to win. Ideally, the team doesn't have a clear-cut closer, so you increase the chance of capturing the save, with the possibility of also gathering a hold. WIth Craig Kimbrel (48.8% rostered) and Seranthony Dominguez (2.6%) both recording multiple saves recently, pairing them for tonight's tilt between the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals is a viable play.
Another bullpen to target is that of the Tampa Bay Rays. Pete Fairbanks (25.2%) is the clear-cut closer, but pairing him with Jason Adam (17,2%) is never a bad idea, especially with Zack Littell starting. Littell is stretched out enough to be a traditional starter, but he'll still need to "tag in" his bullpen for a few frames.
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.
Triston Casas (BOS, 1B -- 42%) vs. Marsh
Jarren Duran (BOS, CF -- 30%) vs. Marsh
Adam Duvall (BOS, CF -- 22%) vs. Marsh
Worst over-50% rostered hitters for Thursday
Tommy Edman (STL, 2B -- 71%) at Littell
Keibert Ruiz (WSH, C -- 58%) at Nola
Michael Harris II (ATL, CF -- 85%) at Falter
Willson Contreras (STL, C -- 74%) at Littell
Gunnar Henderson (BAL, 3B -- 79%) vs. Brown
THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Thursday
Prop of the Day
Ty Blach, Rockies, 3.5 strikeouts (+115/-150)
THE BAT X sees Blach putting up 2.3 strikeouts for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 21.1% of the time. THE BAT X believes there is positive value on the UNDER with an expected value of $47.23.
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
THE BAT X ranks Dodger Stadium as the eighth-best venue in baseball for strikeouts.
As far as temperature and humidity go, the best pitching weather on the schedule is expected for this contest.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
As it relates to his strikeout talent, THE BAT X puts Blach in the 0th percentile among all starters in the game.
THE BAT X expects Blach to be limited in this game, projecting a maximum of 85 pitches.
The Dodgers (20 K%) are projected to have the fourth-least strikeout-heavy group of batters of all teams today.
With seven batters who hit from the other side in the opposing team's projected lineup, Blach encounters a tough challenge, lacking the platoon advantage in most plate appearances today.