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

Blake Snell of the San Francisco Giants is off to a slow start. Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

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 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.

Slow-to-sign starters square off in San Francisco

Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell will invariably be linked all season, comprising half of the "Boras Four," winter free agents who had Scott Boras as their agent and all signed well after spring training had begun, either for less money or for fewer seasons than what was initially projected for each.

(Montgomery has reportedly since switched agents.)

Interestingly enough, the two square off at San Francisco's Oracle Park, an extreme pitchers' environment, on Friday. Montgomery's assignment represents his first for the Arizona Diamondbacks, while Snell's is his third for the San Francisco Giants. Montgomery's final minor league tune-up, an April 13 start for Triple-A Reno, was unimpressive (3⅔ innings, seven runs, nine hits including two home runs). Snell's first two starts were similarly lackluster (12.86 ERA, .300 BAA).

But there's more Boras Four fun: A third member, third baseman Matt Chapman, is a fellow Giant and sure to be in the lineup against the lefty. Chapman also hasn't opened any eyes of yet, batting .208/.256/.416 through 19 games, albeit with four home runs.

What gives Montgomery the edge in this matchup, compared to either Snell or Chapman, is that the Giants have been a middling offense thus far, including against left-handed pitchers. A sinker/curveball/changeup reliant pitcher, Montgomery matches up well against this Giants offense that lacks many standouts against that particular pitch repertoire. Wilmer Flores (.937 OPS against sinkers, .735 curves, .770 changeups since the beginning of 2021) and Chapman (.846 against sinkers and .966 changeups, but only .528 against curves) are about their only ones with much success.

Expect around 80-85 pitches from Montgomery, which typically buys him five innings and change against a league-average offense. It might not be enough to meet the "start him" cut in ESPN standard leagues, but in anything larger, he's a go. It's also a start to watch, as any struggles by the left-hander will cast doubt upon him for the foreseeable future (@STL, LAD, @CIN, @BAL project as his next four assignments).

As for Snell, his inconsistent command fuels concerns heading into a matchup with a Diamondbacks offense that has been the majors' second best against left-handers in terms of both team wOBA (.356) and whiff rate (18% of swings).

Ketel Marte remains one of baseball's best hitters against lefties (.320/.382/.559 since the beginning of 2021), but two key nuggets for fantasy managers to tuck away are that Randal Grichuk, available in more than 99% of ESPN leagues, has been even better against them during that time span (.292/.332/.542), while Blaze Alexander, available in more than 97%, has batted .346/.414/.577 against them so far in 2024. The Diamondbacks have faced 10 left-handed starters thus far, and Alexander has started every one of them, while Grichuk has started all six of them since his activation from the injured list on April 5.

What you may have missed on Thursday

By Todd Zola

  • Arizona Diamondbacks SP Ryne Nelson was lifted after two innings after he was hit on the wrist by a Mike Yastrzemski line drive when recording the last out of the frame. Logan Allen then made his Diamondbacks debut and pitched well, allowing just one earned run and three hits over 4 2/3 innings. One run is all the San Francisco Giants needed, but they tacked on four more in the eighth, eliminating a save chance for Camilo Doval. Logan Webb posted seven scoreless innings, yielding just two hits with five strikeouts and a walk. Webb's strikeout rate is always lower than other elite pitchers, but this season it's a career low 17.9%, fueled by a career low 6.5% swinging strike rate. It's too early to be concerned, especially since Webb has faced the San Diego Padres twice (fourth-lowest K% in MLB) and the Diamondbacks (second-lowest K% in MLB).

  • Tyler O'Neill was placed on the seven-day concussion IL. After initially clearing protocol, O'Neill was subsequently diagnosed with a mild concussion. O'Neill aims to return when first eligible next Tuesday, but he'll have to again clear protocol.

  • The opener of a four-game series in Wrigley Field between the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins was postponed and rescheduled as part of a doubleheader tomorrow. Yesterday's scheduled starters will take the hill in today's matinee with Jameson Taillon making his 2024 debut for the Chicago Cubs and A.J. Puk getting the ball for the Miami Marlins. Taillon suffered a lower back injury in spring training. He made two rehab starts, throwing 68 pitches over 3 2/3 IP last Friday, punching out four with one free pass. Taillon is a risky start today, even facing a subpar Marlins lineup. Something to watch is that Taillon worked on a sweeper over the offseason, so it will be intriguing to see how often he incorporates it into his repertoire.

  • Colin Poche collected his second save of the season, preserving a 2-1 lead in the Tampa Bay Rays' win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pete Fairbanks struggled on Tuesday, allowing the Angels to come from behind in the ninth inning. Fairbanks threw 28 pitches, so he was unavailable last night, opening the door for Poche to handle the ninth inning. Fairbanks remains the primary closer and should be available tonight.

  • With only three games played yesterday, let's check in on Paul Skenes, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft. Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Pirates' top prospect hurled 3 1/3 scoreless innings for Triple-A Indianapolis, fanning eight with two walks. He ramped up to 65 pitches. The 22-year-old right-hander has yet to allow a run this season, recording 12 2/3 shutout frames with 27 strikeouts. It's unclear when Skenes will make his MLB debut, but many expect it to be later this summer.

Everything else you need to know for Friday

  • Seattle Mariners at Colorado Rockies has been postponed and will be made up Sunday as a doubleheader.

  • Justin Verlander makes his season debut for the Houston Astros, after missing the first three weeks due to a shoulder injury. He struggled even more mightily than Montgomery during his minor league rehabilitation stint, posting a 14.14 ERA in two starts, but a matchup against the rebuilding Washington Nationals can go a long way toward curing what ails a pitcher. Verlander shouldn't have much trouble handling a pitch count in the mid-80s, which is plenty to make him worth slotting immediately back into your lineup.

  • Spencer Turnbull's time in the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation is apparently short, with Taijuan Walker only days from activation and the team reportedly set to shift Turnbull into a long relief role as a way to keep his innings in check. If this is truly it for Turnbull in the rotation, however, a home game against a 3-15 Chicago White Sox team that has scored two or fewer runs in 12 of 18 contests represents quite a sendoff. Turnbull remains available in roughly 75% of ESPN leagues.

  • Yariel Rodriguez makes his second big league start, and it's one to watch after his promising April 13 debut against the aforementioned Rockies. After 68 pitches in that one, he might be in the 75 range for start No. 2, but the Forecaster projections grade the opposing San Diego Padres an above-average matchup for a pitcher (they are merely light on strikeout potential). My concern is that, while he has a high-velocity fastball (95.5 mph average) and whiff-generating slider (44% rate), plus toys with his delivery as a way to throw off hitters' timing, I don't see a pitch from him yet that can effectively counter left-handers. There's probably enough here to warrant streaming Rodriguez in larger-than-standard leagues, but this is a "watch list" kind of outing in the ESPN game.

  • Betting tip of the day: Sticking with the Montgomery-Snell theme, Snell's first two starts each resulted in greater than a combined 7 1/2 runs, in what were equally (if not more) pitching-centric matchups than this one is. OVER 7 1/2 RUNS (-105) is the play here, accounting for both pitchers still working up to a regular, in-season routine, the Diamondbacks' historic success against lefties, and the fact that these two teams combined have averaged greater than that per game both during the past week (9.0) and the season as a whole (9.5).

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 Friday

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 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 Friday