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

Reid Detmers of the Los Angeles Angels takes the hill on Monday. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-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.

New skill sets to watch

We're at the point of the season when many pitchers have made four or five starts. Unto itself, that seems like a small sample, but when you consider each pitch to be an event, the sample ranges between 300 and 400. Batters playing every day have put 50 to 80 balls in play, which are far fewer events to evaluate. We know the velocity, spin rate, location and movement of every pitch, so each can be deemed an event.

The repercussion is there is more data available to help decide whether a pitcher is exhibiting a new skill level. It's not sufficient to make an unequivocal claim, but fantasy baseball is about playing probabilities, and this is better applied to pitchers at this point of the season.

A proper ranking system should not be influenced by recency bias, and it should take a lot of convincing for it to change its mind from initial expectations. That said, occasionally there are signs that a pitcher is different than the version generating past results. It's subjective, but most systems can be overridden to better account for the changes. It's a slippery slope because often there isn't a true cause and effect of what appears to be a tangible change; the early success was happenstance, and not stemming from the change.

There are two hurlers on Monday's docket for which this notion applies. Brady Singer and Reid Detmers are both off to solid starts but are ranked (rightfully so) in the bottom half of the day's starters. Their rostership indicates many believe they are for real but face tough lineups. Should they be active?

Detmers and the Los Angeles Angels have a home date with the Baltimore Orioles. Detmers strikeout rate has increased each season, but this year it has spiked to 34.9% while his walk rate is a career low 8.1%. The southpaw has tweaked his pitch distribution by throwing a few more four-seam fastballs and changeups while cutting back on sliders and curves. The swinging strike rate on both has improved, suggesting excellent tunneling, that is the batter has difficulty recognizing the pitch coming out of Detmer's hand. While this isn't definitive proof, it's reason for optimism, so Detmers will be in my Monday lineup.

The Kansas City Royals entertain the Toronto Blue Jays with Singer getting the nod for Monday's series opener. Like Detmer, Singer has altered his repertoire. The club tried to get Singer to adjust in 2023, but he didn't comply until late in the year and struggled most of the season. Early in the spring, Singer stated he would continue to throw more four-seam fastballs and sweepers. The early results are encouraging. The added pitches are at the expense of Singer's sinker, which was hit hard last season while generating scant strikeouts. Increasing four-seam usage adds another eye level to Singer's approach with almost everything being down last season. Again, it's only four starts, but there is reason for optimism, so I'm trusting Singer for this outing.

What you may have missed on Sunday

  • Merrill Kelly was scratched from yesterday's finale of a four-game set with the Arizona Diamondbacks visiting the San Francisco Giants. Slade Cecconi got the nod instead and delivered a quality start, helping the Diamondbacks split the series. The club is hopeful the injury isn't serious. More will be known after the results of an MRI are revealed. With Ryne Nelson on the IL, Cecconi was slated to be in the rotation this week regardless. If Kelly must miss his next start, it isn't clear who will fill in.

  • The Minnesota Twins lineup should get a boost today with Max Kepler coming off the IL after recovering from a bruised knee. Trevor Larnach has been filling in and has posted an .813 OPS over the past week. Over the same span, Carlos Santana has recorded a .397 mark. Alex Kirilloff offers the flexibility of moving Larnach to DH and Kirilloff to first, so Santana could be the odd man out.

  • The Cincinnati Reds had to turn to their bullpen early after starter Frankie Montas was hit in the hand by a comebacker with two outs in the first inning. A parade of five relievers combined to shut out the Los Angeles Angels in the Reds' 3-0 win. Nick Martinez, who was recently shifted to the bullpen, threw three innings on Saturday, so he wasn't available yesterday. However, Martinez is likely to fill in if Montas can't make his next start.

  • Philadelphia Phillies manager Rob Thomson indicated that Spencer Turnbull will move to the bullpen after he makes a start later this week. Yesterday, Taijuan Walker threw 102 pitches over 6 1/3 innings in what will be his last rehab outing, so he's ready to return to the rotation. Thomson is reluctant to go with a six-man rotation, so despite a 1.23 ERA over his first four starts, Turnbull will soon be out of a starting spot. The move will help the club manage Turnbull's innings as he threw only 57 frames between the majors and minors last season.

  • Chicago Cubs manager Craig Counsell never formally anointed Adbert Alzolay as his closer, but usage patterns indicated that Alzolay was the preferred ninth-inning option. However, before yesterday's contest with the Miami Marlins, Counsell said that Alzolay would not serve as the Cubs closer for now. Alzolay pitched a clean eighth inning on Sunday, as he was used with the Marlins holding a 6-3 lead. Hector Neris and Mark Leiter Jr. are most likely to garner save chances, although Counsell reported that he'd treat it as a day-to-day scenario and Alzolay vowed to get the job back.

Everything else you need to know for Monday

  • Monday presents an 11-game slate with action getting going at 1:05 PM ET in the Bronx with the New York Yankees hosting the Oakland Athletics. This is the only matinee on the schedule. The evening's last affair is in Oracle Park with the San Francisco Giants hosting the New York Mets.

  • The slate's top streaming option is Lance Lynn (44.1% rostered in ESPN leagues). Homers are Lynn's primary issue, so he's helped by a home date since Busch Stadium tends to suppress power. On Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks for the first game of a three-game set. The Diamondbacks' home run rate is league average, though they don't strike out much. In a league with an innings or starts limit, there are better options than Lynn, especially since it's the first day of the scoring period. In other formats, Lynn should be safe to deploy.

  • Immediately following Lynn in the rankings is Zack Littell (18.2%). Littell's early season 1.33 WHIP is high, but it's due to a .361 BABIP. His 5.6% walk rate is solid. The Tampa Bay Rays host the Detroit Tigers, with the visitors toting the fifth lowest wOBA in the league into Tropicana Field, along with an above average strikeout rate. Littell checks in as an excellent streaming candidate in all formats.

  • It's a little surprising that Jared Jones (53.9%) is still available in almost half of ESPN leagues, especially because fantasy enthusiasts often gravitate to the shiny new toy. Jones opened his MLB career with 32 strikeouts and only two walks in his first 23 frames. He and the Pittsburgh Pirates embark on a home set with the Milwaukee Brewers. There is risk since the Brewers have the top road wOBA in the league. The safe play is reserving Jones in head to head formats but letting him loose otherwise.

  • An argument can be tendered to stream Jose Quintana (5.9%), Reynaldo Lopez (36.0%), Keaton Winn (1.8%) and Yusei Kikuchi (43.1%), but let's focus on Kikuchi since he could have been included with Detmers and Singer in the opening. The lefty has always missed bats, but so far his strikeout rate has ballooned to a career-best 33.0% while his 9.1% walk rate is just a tick above his career mark. Kikuchi historically has yielded a lot of homers, but this season he's only yielded one long ball in 21 2/3 innings. The reason is two-fold as his ground ball rate is 51%, well above his career level while his HR/FB is 7.1%, well below half of his career average. He's throwing fewer sliders, and more curves while introducing a changeup. Home runs can be fluky, and they clearly won't remain at this rate, but Kikuchi is in play when the Blue Jays visit the Royals.

  • Betting tip of the day: The Cardinals host the Diamondbacks with Lance Lynn squaring off against Brandon Pfaadt. The risk here is Lynn's proclivity for allowing the longball, but if he can keep the Diamondbacks in the yard, this should be a low-scoring affair. Early on, Arizona's home run rate is the sixth lowest when on the road. Give me under 8.5 runs (-110).

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 Monday

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 Monday

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 Monday

THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Monday