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

Shota Imanaga has been quite the value for the Cubs -- and for fantasy managers. Photo by Alika Jenner/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.

It's Shota time!

Through nearly one-fifth of the 2024 MLB season, Chicago Cubs left-hander Shota Imanaga is shaping up as one of the winter's best free-agent bargains, not to mention one of fantasy baseball's biggest success stories to date.

Imanaga, whose four-year, $53 million deal paled in comparison to that of Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander and fellow Japanese import Yoshinobu Yamamoto's 12-year, $325 million contract, entered Tuesday as the No. 12 starting pitcher in terms of fantasy points scored (91) and No. 6 on the Player Rater. Yamamoto, as a point of comparison, was 40th in fantasy points (71) and 42nd on the Player Rater.

What has made the difference for Imanaga in his first season in the States is the performance of his fastball. Statcast grades it as being worth nine runs above average, the second most-valuable individual pitch behind only Corbin Burnes' cutter.

Imanaga's fastball is unusual in that it's both one of the higher-spin fastballs, and it has one of the lower release points around, giving the pitch the perception of being a "rising" fastball. At 19.3 inches of induced vertical break, it ranks fifth among the 77 pitchers who have thrown at least 150 (entering Tuesday). If you're familiar with the advantages of such a pitch -- Dylan Cease, Cristian Javier and Joe Ryan being three notable names who are heavily reliant upon it, for comparison's sake -- you know it typically generates higher swing-and-miss rates, lower hard-contact rates, but also higher fly-ball rates than an average fastball. Imanaga's statistical profile, through five starts, is closely following those patterns.

Another advantage Imanaga has in the season's early stages is opponents' unfamiliarity with the pitch, or his whiff-inducing (43% rate) splitter. On Wednesday, he'll be facing the New York Mets for the first time, meaning he has yet to face the same opponent for a second time. While it's an exceedingly small sample, that Imanaga has limited hitters to a .111 batting average with 15 Ks in 45 trips to the plate during his first trip through the lineup in his five starts fuels an "opponents' unfamiliarity" argument.

Imagana, unsurprisingly, winds up as Wednesday's best projected starting pitcher. He should be a mainstay in your lineup for so long as hitters haven't caught up to him.

What you may have missed on Tuesday

By Todd Zola

  • The Angels announced that Mike Trout requires surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee. The typical recovery time is two to three months, but it could be less, depending on the severity. Since Trout was placed on the 10-day IL, there is hope he'll be back in fewer than two months. However, he can still be shifted to the 60-day IL. Trout's batting average is a career low .220, but he has six steals, matching his combined total over the previous four seasons. Mickey Moniak's playing time should tick up, along with that of Cole Tucker and recently acquired Kevin Pillar.

  • Manny Machado's fantasy team managers have a managerial decision to thank for an extra RBI. In the fifth inning of last night's 6-4 Padres win over the Reds, Jake Cronenworth grounded out with runners on first and third. A run came in, but there was catcher's interference on the play. Padres skipper Mike Schildt had the option of letting the play stand with the run scoring and out recorded or take the catcher's interference to load the bases but also take the run (and out) off the board. Schildt opted for the latter and was rewarded for his decision with a bases-clearing double from Machado. The run-expectancy matrix favored bases loaded with one out over runners on first and second with two outs and a run in.

  • The Reds played their third straight game with Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Tyler Stephenson on the bench, as both are still nursing hand injuries. Although neither was used last night, they were available if needed. The pair remains day-to-day.

  • Garrett Cooper struck out in his first two at bats with the Red Sox. He took a pitch off his wrist in his third trip to the dish. Cooper had to leave the game in the fifth innings and was subsequently diagnosed with a wrist contusion. He's expected to be further evaluated today, and Bobby Dalbec will fill in at first base if Cooper is unable to play in today's middle game of a three-game set with the Giants. The Red Sox stole three bases in last night's 4-0 win in Fenway Park. The club is quietly running more, as they swiped the eighth-most bases in the league over the second half of April.

  • Vaughn Grissom was slated to be activated for last night's interleague affair and supplement the Red Sox newfound running game, but he has the flu, so his Boston debut was delayed.

  • Gary Sanchez was lifted from last night's game with right hamstring tightness. Sanchez has been backing up catcher William Contreras and has also been seeing time as the Brewers' designated hitter. Sanchez was replaced at DH by Tyler Black. The Brewers called up Black on Tuesday, but he began the game on the bench. Black earned his first MLB promotion with a .303/.393/.525 line over 25 games with Triple-A Nashville. He came up as a third baseman, but this season Black played 17 games at first base as opposed to just one at the hot corner. With Joey Ortiz settling in at third base, the left-handed hitting Black will likely share first base and designated hitter with Rhys Hoskins. Jake Bauers is likely the odd man out, though Black could platoon with Sanchez once Sanchez is ready to return.

  • A cramp forced Cole Ragans to leave last night's pitching duel with two outs in the seventh. At the time, the Royals led the Blue Jays 2-1, with Jose Berrios on the hill for the Toronto. The Royals added a pair of insurance tallies in the eighth inning, then James McArthur secured the Royals' 4-1 win with his seventh save. Ragans is expected to make his next start.

Everything else you need to know for Wednesday

  • While the projections continue to shun hot-starting Boston Red Sox righty Kutter Crawford, it's worth pointing out that he scored a mere four fantasy points his last time out, the first time in 2024 that he fell short of his projection. No, it's not the sign of catastrophic regression coming due, but rather a reminder that he isn't quite the natural strikeout artist that his surface numbers indicate. Ranked 33rd in K rate among 76 ERA qualifiers (entering Tuesday), Crawford's No. 46 ranking in whiff rate (percentage of hitters' swings where they flat-out miss) and No. 56 ranking in two-strike miss rate aren't totally in line. Crawford remains a solid every-turn fantasy option, including in this slightly above-average San Francisco Giants home matchup, albeit one with a tad too much helium.

  • With the return of shortstop and No. 2 hitter Carlos Correa on Monday and anticipated activation of closer Jhoan Duran on Tuesday, the Minnesota Twins are getting ever closer to full strength, right at a time where they're tearing through one of the softest portions of their 2024 schedule. Wednesday starter Bailey Ober, who was hammered in his season debut, has straightened things out in four starts since, the past three of which were all quality starts. He's a fantasy must-start against the reeling Chicago White Sox. Twins hitters are near-universal starts as well against Chris Flexen, one of the least strikeout-oriented current starters. Byron Buxton has one of the rare, relevant hitter-versus-pitcher career stat lines against Flexen: 6-for-8, three doubles, two home runs, one walk.

  • Corbin Burnes, 10th in fantasy scoring among starting pitching, gets his toughest test yet, a home game against the New York Yankees. You might remember his only other career start against them, in which he threw eight no-hit innings and he and the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen combined for 10⅓ no-hit frames before ultimately losing in 13 innings, last Sept. 10. Though Alex Verdugo's possible return from the paternity list would improve the Yankees' chances, Burnes should have the advantage in this matchup. Use only your most obvious Yankees bats.

  • Blame the bees for the shake-up to the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation, as following a near-two hour delay to the start of Tuesday's game due to a bee swarm atop the protective netting behind home plate, the team scratched Jordan Montgomery, instead using Brandon Hughes as an opener in what was ultimately a bullpen game. Montgomery now starts Wednesday's game against the Dodgers, with that game's original starter, Zac Gallen, granted an additional two days' rest for the hamstring issue that cut his previous start short. Montgomery has delivered back-to-back quality starts to begin his Diamondbacks career, but this matchup could represent a rude awakening, as the Dodgers are among the game's best offenses at both run production and contact. Temper your expectations.

  • Betting tip of the day: Expect an all-around messy game for the Colorado Rockies and Miami Marlins on the pitching side, making OVER 8 ½ runs (even) the play. The Rockies will start Dakota Hudson, whose 13.0% strikeout rate is worst and 4.84 ERA is 14th-worst among pitchers with at least 40 starts since the beginning of 2022. And bear in mind that their bullpen behind him has the game's second-worst ERA thus far (5.45). The Marlins will counter with Roddery Munoz, whose control has been a problem throughout his professional career (12.0 BB%), which means a probable early exit and further taxing of the team's heavily used bullpen. Since Friday, the Marlins have totaled the most relief innings (25 2/3) and second-most pitches thrown (413) by relievers (that over five games). The over/under is likely this low only because the game is in Miami rather than Colorado, but that's an opportunity.

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