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

Reynaldo Lopez has a strong matchup against a struggling Miami team on Wednesday. Getty Images

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

Eleven months ago, Garrett Crochet and Reynaldo Lopez were members of the Chicago White Sox's bullpen, languishing in the middle innings. Crochet was 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery and serving in a left-handed specialist role. Lopez was working in a setup capacity after having pitched poorly as the team's closer to begin 2023, his ERA 8.16 while he had blown half (4) of his eight save chances in his first 16 appearances of last season.

Today, they're top-60 starting pitchers in terms of fantasy points scored, and Crochet, in fact, is tied for eighth in the league in strikeouts (34). All that thanks to their respective teams, still the White Sox for Crochet and the Atlanta Braves for Lopez, having taken the chance to stretch them out as starters during spring training. Crochet pitched to a 2.13 ERA in his five Cactus League outings to ultimately secure his rotation spot, while Lopez's 2.16 ERA in his five Grapefruit League appearances locked him into the Braves' starting five to begin the year.

For Wednesday, at least, the duo shares another link: They're among the day's most appealing streaming starter candidates thanks to favorable matchups, with Crochet pitching on the road against the struggling Minnesota Twins, and Lopez getting a home start against a Miami Marlins team in the midst of a massive funk.

Crochet, who dazzled in his first three regular-season starts, is coming off back-to-back disappointing outings. He surrendered a combined 12 runs in 7 2/3 innings against the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies, including surrendering three home runs to the latter last Friday. Both of those offenses, however, have performed noticeably better than the league's averages in terms of runs per game and home run rate. The Twins, by comparison, entered play on Tuesday averaging a fifth-worst 3.52 runs.

The Twins have been one of the game's more strikeout-prone offenses as well, their 26.1% K rate fifth-worst and their 28.8% whiff rate on all swings second-worst behind only the Oakland Athletics (32.2%). The Twins also whiff more often against sliders, Crochet's signature pitch, than any other team (42.6%).

Lopez, whom the Braves are trying not to excessively tax early, starting him only three times in the season's first 27 days, has rewarded their confidence in him with three straight quality starts. His average fastball velocity (95.2 mph) has been right in range with his prior stints as a big-league starter, though he's getting more whiffs with his slider (36.1% rate) and curveball (55.6%, but on only 11.5% usage). While Lopez's schedule has been relatively light -- White Sox, New York Mets and the slumping Houston Astros -- a Marlins matchup represents a plus for him again.

Both were available in roughly half of ESPN leagues at publishing time, so see if they're still out there in yours.

What you may have missed on Tuesday

By Todd Zola

  • There is a lot of Chicago Cubs news, beginning with Cody Bellinger colliding with the ivy in the fourth inning of last night's 7-2 win over the Houston Astros. Bellinger was shown holding his right side and stretching in the dugout. He was removed from the game in the seventh inning and subsequently diagnosed with a right rib contusion. More should be known about the extent of the injury today.

  • Meanwhile, Matt Mervis was called up and installed as the Cubs DH, batting eighth. Mervis earned the promotion with a .288/.402/.606 start for Triple-A Iowa. With Michael Busch meriting regular action at first base, Mervis will likely see most of his playing time on the busier side of a DH platoon, with Patrick Wisdom, Alexander Canario and Nick Madrigal being the options to play with a lefty on the hill.

  • Despite the five-run victory, Yency Almonte still recorded a save. (Over the weekend, manager Craig Counsell temporarily relieved Adbert Alzolay of closing duties.) Last night, Almonte entered the game with two runners on and two outs in the top of the eighth inning of a 6-2 game. Since the tying run was on deck, this qualifies as a save situation. Almonte recorded the last out and then the Cubs extended the lead to five in the bottom of the frame. Almonte recorded a clean ninth for his first save. It's noteworthy that Counsell turned to Almonte and not a well-rested Hector Neris in the eighth. That said, Almonte has now registered seven straight scoreless outings, fanning 10 while compiling a win, four holds and last night's save.

  • Washington Nationals OF Lane Thomas is slated for an MRI today after hurting his knee attempting a steal last night. Thomas was off to a slow start with a .184/.250/.253 line, but he has swiped 11 bases. More should be known about the possible injury today.

  • Nolan Jones snapped an 0-for-25 spell with a single in the second inning of the Colorado Rockies' 7-4 victory over the San Diego Padres. However, he was lifted from the contest in the seventh due to a stiff back. Be sure to check today's lineup when the Rockies face knuckleballer Matt Waldron.

  • Logan Webb continues to excel despite a well below-average strikeout rate. With last night's eight shutout innings, he's now thrown 19 straight scoreless frames. The San Francisco Giants righty has a 2.33 ERA over six starts, but he's fanned only 26 in 38 2/3 stanzas. Last season's 22.8% strikeout rate was in sync with his career level. This year's 17.0% mark is his career nadir. He's being rescued by a 79.8% LOB mark, fueled by just an 0.23 HR/9. Some of that is earned via his 59.7% GB rate, but a 5.0% HR/FB rate is due for a correction. Webb is clearly an automatic start, just be ready for a ratio correction, unless he ratchets up his strikeout clip.

  • Kevin Gausman's outing last night is encouraging, but there is still a lot of cause for concern. He didn't allow an earned run over 6 2/3 innings, though he was on the hill for three unearned tallies. The primary issue is strikeouts. Gausman's 13.2 PutAway% (measured as strikeouts per two strike pitches) is well below his 22.9% career level. His 12.6% swinging strike rate is below his 15.0% mark. Gausman's four-seam velocity is down a tick and his signature splitter hasn't been as effective. Other than a downtick in performance, there is no evidence that Gausman's shoulder is an issue. Like Webb, Gausman should be active whenever he's on the hill, but it would be comforting if he missed more bats, especially with two strikes.

Everything else you need to know for Wednesday

  • We'll be treated to a baseball rarity: A knuckleballer pitching at Coors Field! Between research across our pitch-tracking tool as well as Baseball-Reference.com's Stathead, the San Diego Padres' Matt Waldron will be the first knuckleballer to start a game at Coors since Tom Candiotti in 1998. Additionally, Tim Wakefield, Steve Sparks, Jared Fernandez, Kirt Ojala, Charlie Haeger and Josh Harrison (yes, the utility infielder) have thrown knuckleballs in games at Denver's high altitude, though the collective results have not been pretty: 10.74 ERA and eight home runs combined in 32 2/3 innings' work. Waldron should be in for a challenge, and the projections concur, aligning things strongly in favor of the hosting Colorado Rockies for once. This is the kind of game where top-four hitters like Charlie Blackmon, Ezequiel Tovar, Ryan McMahon and Elias Diaz are worth your while, as well as one in which slow-starting Nolan Jones could finally break through.

  • Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Landon Knack scored a respectable eight fantasy points in his big-league debut against the Washington Nationals last Wednesday, and now the teams will rematch at Washington's Nationals Park. Jake Irvin, Knack's opponent in that game, will again oppose the right-hander. Though research I had done awhile back suggested that pitchers reap the advantage in rematch outings, 2023 data did not concur. Starters averaged 10.9 fantasy points in the first game, but only 8.3 in the rematch, in 124 instances of a pitcher facing the same opponent in back-to-back starts within a 10-day span. Fortunately for Knack, the Nationals represent one of the more favorable pitching matchups out there, but fantasy managers should still lean more on the hitters for this contest.

  • Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Quinn Priester has yet to find a trustworthy pitch to use against left-handed batters, who have hit .336/.425/.701 while averaging one home run per 10.7 at-bats in his 11 career appearances. Leadoff man Sal Frelick and 6-7 hitters Blake Perkins and Brice Turang are worth adding for Wednesday, as the team's three left-handed regulars. All three also provide a stolen base punch, with Pirates catcher Henry Davis having surrendered 10 stolen bases on as many chances in his 17 games this season.

  • Betting tip of the day: Seattle Mariners SP Bryce Miller is off to a hot start and is riding an active streak of three quality starts, in large part thanks to his addition of a splitter. He gives the team a good chance at taking Wednesday's game against the Texas Rangers, making Mariners to win (+105) a good play, as well as under 8 1/2 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 Wednesday

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 Wednesday

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 Wednesday

THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Wednesday