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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 Friday's MLB Games
By Todd Zola
Friday's 16-game slate gets underway at 2:40 PM ET in Wrigley Field with the Chicago Cubs hosting the Kansas City Royals in a weekend interleague series. Heading into his last start, Cubs righty Jameson Taillon (16.7% rostered) was on a roll, posting a 2.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in five outings after the break, fanning 26 in those 29 1/3 frames. However, in his most recent effort, The Toronto Blue Jays sent Taillon to the Rogers Centre showers after only three innings with an eight-run outburst. A home date with the Royals is exactly what Taillon needs to get back on track. Despite Bobby Witt Jr,'s first round worthy season, the Royals offense sports the sixth lowest wOBA with a right-hander on the hill.
Taillon checks in as a candidate for a spot start, but he just makes the top-five of best options on a ledger full of quality streamers. Leading the pack is Cleveland Guardians rookie Gavin Williams (22.7%) who will take the hill in one of the pair of games at Progressive Field against AL Central foe Detroit Tigers. Williams has punched out double-digit batters for two straight starts, totaling 22 in 12 frames. He only walked one in that span. Williams lines up for another strong outing as he'll face an offense with the third-lowest wOBA and seventh-highest strikeout rate facing right-handers -- and one that might be diminished in favor of not starting some players in both games of a bad weather-necessitated twinbill.
Two games in Cleveland also doubles the chance for Guardians and Tigers batters to produce. Cleveland is starting two right-handers, so lefty swinging Detroit hitters have the best chance to appear in both ends. Riley Greene (21.9%) and Kerry Carpenter (20.6%) are the prime targets, although Spencer Torkelson (18.3%) is also in play despite swinging from the right side. With Detroit starting one lefty and one righty, the Guardians will probably take advantage of platoon matchups, thus there is less of a chance to garner stats from an extra game.
Next up is J.P. France (33.0%), who will open a weekend series for the Houston Astros against the Seattle Mariners. Eleven of his 17 efforts are in the book as a quality start. France has fanned a pedestrian 73 in 102 innings, but he'll have a chance to pad his total facing a Mariners offense toting the second highest strikeout rate versus right-handers into Minute Maid Park.
Like Taillon, Kyle Gibson (28.2%) went into his last start on a hot streak but left after yielding nine earned runs in 5 1/3 innings to the Mariners. In his prior four outings, Gibson posted four quality starts with 27 strikeouts in 25 stanzas. On Friday, The Baltimore Orioles have a road date with the Oakland Athletics, giving Gibson the perfect panacea after his last start. The hosts sport the lowest wOBA in the league facing righties, along with the fourth highest strikeout clip.
Seth Lugo (20.5%) has also intertwined a poor outing amid several solid post break efforts. Lugo's speed bump was two starts ago when the Los Angeles Dodgers lit him up for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. However, Lugo rebounded last weekend with a five-inning, two run start in the desert. The San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks run it back in Petco Park. Since the break, the Diamondbacks have been a below average offense, boding well for Lugo for the home rematch.
Friday also features some batters in a great spot, all with the platoon advantage. For example, Christopher Morel (34%) draws southpaw Cole Ragans in the matinee. Under the lights, Francisco Alvarez (27.8%) faces Zack Thompson, Jarren Duran (21%) steps in against Jhony Brito and Brandon Belt (2.1%) squares off with Brett Kennedy.
Starting pitcher rankings for Friday
Bullpen usage watch for Friday
By Todd Zola
With no relievers setting off the usage alarm for Friday's schedule, let's shift our focus to the highest-ranked closers available in more than half of ESPN leagues, with an eye towards those who are in a favorable scenario this weekend.
Jhoan Duran (45.2% rostered) leads the Minnesota Twins with 22 saves. Even though he was hit hard earlier this week by the Tigers, Griffin Jax is a quality setup man, with 17 holds. Both should be busy this weekend with the Pittsburgh Pirates visiting the Target Center.
While the Texas Rangers fortified their bullpen for the stretch run, they did not upgrade from Will Smith (28.2%) as closer, indicating trust in the southpaw. So far this season, Smith has delivered 22 saves and five holds. He should have a chance to pad those totals with the Milwaukee Brewers visiting Arlington is what should be a weekend's worth of tightly contested affairs.
The Philadelphia Phillies visit the nation's capital for a set against a Washington Nationals club with the seventh-highest winning percentage since the All-Star break. This sets things up for some close games with Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel (45.2%) in the spotlight. Kimbrel leads the bullpen with 19 saves, although Seranthony Dominguez has also been chipping in lately.
The Los Angeles Dodgers put their 11-game winning streak to the test as they will entertain the Miami Marlins over the weekend. Evan Phillips (27.7%) is the primary closer as he leads the Dodgers with 18 saves. Brusdar Graterol is also in the mix with five saves and 16 holds.
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.
Matt Vierling (DET, CF -- 1%) at Williams and Curry
Spencer Torkelson (DET, 1B -- 14%) at Williams and Curry
Akil Baddoo (DET, LF -- 0%) at Williams and Curry
Kerry Carpenter (DET, LF -- 14%) at Williams and Curry
Zach McKinstry (DET, 3B -- 2%) at Williams and Curry
Charlie Blackmon (COL, RF -- 14%) vs. Kopech
Javier Baez (DET, SS -- 12%) at Williams and Curry
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Friday
Adolis Garcia (TEX, RF -- 97%) vs. Woodruff
MJ Melendez (KC, C -- 55%) at Taillon
Cody Bellinger (CHC, CF -- 95%) vs. Ragans
Willy Adames (MIL, SS -- 63%) at Heaney
THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Today
Prop of the Day
Michael Kopech, White Sox, 4.5 strikeouts (-155/+125)
THE BAT X sees Kopech putting up 4.2 strikeouts for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 41.3% of the time. THE BAT X believes there is positive value on the UNDER with an expected value of $31.99.
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
Kopech's 94.7-mph fastball velocity this year is in the 77th percentile among all starters.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
The No. 1 park in the league for suppressing strikeouts, according to THE BAT X, is Coors Field.
Hot weather is strongly correlated with more offense (and fewer Ks), and the weather forecast expects the hottest temperature (84 degrees) on the schedule today.
Kopech's fastball velocity over his last three starts (93.3 mph) has been a considerable dropoff from than his seasonal rate (94.7 mph).
Kopech's curveball utilization has dropped by 7.2% from last season to this one (10.5% to 3.3%).