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

Ryan Pepiot of the Tampa Bay Rays is the day's top streamer. Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire

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 ESPN BET, and fantasy advice is geared toward ESPN 10-team leagues with standard scoring.

Note: This file will be 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.

Texas two-step

For the second time, Houston Astros starting pitcher Ronel Blanco has a date with the Texas Rangers, this time at home. Last Sunday night, Blanco blanked the Rangers for six innings in Arlington, yielding just one hit with four strikeouts, though he did walk four. Of course, in his 2024 debut, Blanco authored the season's only no-hitter so far, stifling the Toronto Blue Jays at home.

In two starts spanning 15 stanzas, Blanco has yet to yield a run with just one hit allowed, but he has fanned a pedestrian 11 with six walks. Numbers like a .029 BABIP and 100% left on base mark have less impact over such a small sample, but they do indicate Blanco has enjoyed good fortune.

To his credit, Blanco is a different pitcher than last season. He's throwing far fewer sliders while increasing the deployment of his changeup. It's premature to conclude that there is a direct cause and effect, but so far Blanco's Hard Hit Rate is 20.0%, down from 35.0% last season. His Barrel Rate is a tiny 5.7%, compared to 18.9% last year. Research shows that there is no benefit or disadvantage when facing the same twice in a week. On paper, the fact Blanco will be at home for the rematch should be in his favor. Blanco has been one of the most popular pickups in ESPN leagues with a rostership of 75%, up a whopping 46.6%. Those picking up Blanco are doing so with the intent of using him.

One of the tenets of playing this game is sometimes, you must be willing to be wrong. With due respect to the masses picking up Blanco for this start, I wish you luck, but I'm not trusting the third time remains a charm.

What you may have missed on Friday

  • Henry Davis now qualifies as catcher in ESPN leagues. He's batting only .205/.327/.282, but over the past three games, his line is .444/.583/.556. Even with the hot streak, Davis is still only a factor in deep two-catcher formats. Initially, the Pittsburgh Pirates intended on using Yasmani Grandal as their primary backstop, with Davis playing some outfield and designated hitter along with spelling Grandal behind the plate. Grandal has been out with plantar fasciitis, so Davis has caught 11 of the Pirates first 14 games.

  • Any faint hope Spencer Strider may return late in the season was dashed after Strider underwent an internal brace procedure yesterday. The silver lining is the Atlanta Braves ace did not require a second Tommy John surgery. The recovery for the internal brace procedure is typically a few months shorter than Tommy John surgery, so Strider could return sometime in the first half of the 2025 season.

  • The Minnesota Twins are already playing shorthanded with Royce Lewis and Max Kepler on the IL, and now they'll be without shortstop Carlos Correa for at least 10 days as he was placed on the IL with a right oblique strain. Willi Castro will fill in as the regular shortstop with Kyle Farmer and Jose Miranda handling the hot corner. This could also pave the way for lefty-swinging second baseman Eduardo Julien to garner more at playing time against southpaw pitching.

  • With Bowden Francis struggling, the Toronto Blue Jays have summoned Yariel Rodriguez for today's home start against the Colorado Rockies. Rodriguez is from Cuba, but he moved to Japan and pitched as a reliever for the Chunichi Dragons from 2020-2022. Other than pitching for Team Cuba in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Rodriguez did not pitch at all last season. The Blue Jays envision Rodriguez as a starter, but he'll need to have his workload limited. Over two starts for Triple-A Buffalo, he's pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts. Facing the Rockies is a favorable matchup, but Rodriguez isn't likely to work the necessary five innings to qualify for the win.

  • The defending World Series champions will restrict their closer to low-leverage scenarios until he gets back on track. Jose LeClerc has opened the season in a rut, so the Texas Rangers will turn to veterans David Robertson and Kirby Yates for late inning duties. The move was termed temporary by manager Bruce Bochy, but at least for now, Roberston is a must-add for team managers needing saves.

Everything else you need to know for Saturday

  • We have bonus baseball with a pair of doubleheaders, the first kicking off the slate with an early 12:10 p.m. first pitch in Progressive Field with the Cleveland Guardians hosting the New York Yankees. Friday's scheduled starters, Carlos Carrasco and Clarke Schmidt will now join Saturday's original starters, Triston McKenzie and Luis Gil. All four meet the streaming criteria with ESPN rostership below 50%, but only McKenzie is ranked in an area worthy of a pickup, and streaming against the Yankees is a risk. There are a few Yankees hitters who may play both games, led by Giancarlo Stanton (29.9% rostered in ESPN leagues), Alex Verdugo (15.4%), Oswaldo Cabrera (22.9%) and Anthony Rizzo (20.1%).

  • The other twin bill is in the Motor City with the Detroit Tigers entertaining the Minnesota Twins. The Twins are calling up Simeon Woods Richardson to pitch one of the contests. The promotion was more out of convenience than merit as Woods Richardson was hit hard in his last start for Triple-A St. Paul, yielding seven runs over 3⅓ innings. However, Woods Richardson is on the 40-man roster, and his schedule lines up to pitch on Saturday. Joe Ryan is slated to work the other game for the Twins, and even though he's a solid hurler, the Tigers Spencer Torkelson (62.4%), Riley Greene (28.9%), Colt Keith (11.3%), Kerry Carpenter (9.5%) and Parker Meadows (3.1%) all have a chance to appear in both games, with the likelihood of facing Woods Richardson.

  • The day's top streamer is Ryan Pepiot (44%) who will take the hill in Tropicana Field with the Tampa Bay Rays hosting the San Francisco Giants. Pepiot struggled in his Rays debut, but he was stellar in Coors Field, punching out 11 Colorado Rockies in six scoreless frames.

  • Betting Tip of the Day: If I'm fading Ronel Blanco as a fantasy starter, let's back that by taking the over on 9.5 runs (even) when the Houston Astros host the Texas Rangers. It's not just about the Rangers getting to Blanco in their rematch, but Houston should be able to score some runs against Rangers starter Andrew Heaney, and both club's bullpens are underperforming.

It's not too late to start a free fantasy baseball league. Leagues drafted this week will start scoring fresh the following Monday. Come and join the fun!

Starting pitcher rankings for Saturday

Reliever report

To get the latest information on each team's bullpen hierarchy, as well as which pitchers might be facing a bit of fatigue, and who might be the most likely suspects to vulture a save or pick up a surprise hold in their stead, check out the latest Closer Chart, which will be updated every morning.

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.

Worst Over-50% rostered hitters for Saturday

THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Today