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

Kyle Bradish is set to return for the Baltimore Orioles this season. EPA/SHAWN THEW

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.

Orioles welcome an ace back

The Baltimore Orioles may not have won 101 games and the American League East last season if not for the surprising exploits of RHP Kyle Bradish. Bradish debuted in 2022 and made 23 starts, but he won only four of them with a 4.90 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. The Orioles needed more, and they sure got it last year, as Bradish, an Angels fourth-round pick in 2018 acquired in the Dylan Bundy trade a year later, won 12 games with a 2.83 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. He finished fourth in the AL Cy Young award voting.

Bradish is set to make his season debut Thursday afternoon against the Yankees, after recovering from a partial UCL elbow tear announced early in spring training. Conventional wisdom had Bradish needing season-ending Tommy John surgery - and he may still need it - and fantasy managers mostly ignored him on this premise of missed time, but pitcher and team decided to go with the platelet-rich plasma injection route instead of surgery. Bradish made three minor league rehab starts. The team lacks rotation depth. He is back.

Fantasy managers who would have made a healthy Bradish a mid-round draft selection hedged their bets in March. Even now, Bradish is rostered in only 51.3% of ESPN standard leagues, up a bit each week since the season started, as investors fill IL spots, but drastically down based on 2023 performance. What can we expect for this season? Bradish was one of the top hurlers in the sport after last season's All-Star break, leaning on his slider and a faster curveball to post a 2.34 ERA and 0.90 WHIP over 14 starts, winning half. He had a fully intact UCL then, we presume.

Add and rely on Bradish in fantasy in case he can recreate his excellent 2023 season, when only 17 starting pitchers scored more ESPN fantasy points. Pitchers pitch through partially torn elbow ligaments more than we will ever know, themselves not even knowing they are doing so. Sometimes they do so for years before needing surgery. This seems like a risk worth taking.

Everything else you need to know for Thursday

  • As with most every Thursday, there is a smaller slate of games and most are featured in the afternoon, with Rockies-Marlins starting things off at 12:10 ET, available on ESPN+. RHPs Peter Lambert and Edward Cabrera are scheduled to start. Cabrera is the more interesting fantasy option, though it is hard to tell with his numbers, a 5.28 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. Cabrera offers strikeout potential, having whiffed 26.5% of hitters in his career, and his career ERA at home is a palatable 3.71. The Rockies annually feature among the worst offenses in road games.

  • Yankees LHP Carlos Rodon (at Baltimore) and Texas Rangers RHP Nathan Eovaldi (versus the Nationals) are the lone scheduled starters rostered in a high percentage of leagues, making for a potentially high-scoring day. Eovaldi continues to outperform expected metrics by the ESPN Forecaster system. He averages six innings per start, a strikeout per inning and gets a desired home matchup against a below-average offense. We are a bit concerned about the 11 walks over his past two outings, and he has not won a game in a month, but Eovaldi, bidding for his fifth consecutive season with a sub-4.00 ERA, may be in line for his first season with a sub-3.00 ERA.

  • The Forecaster metrics continue to recommend Houston Astros RHP Spencer Arrighetti, despite a 10.97 ERA and 2.34 WHIP through three short, troubling big-league starts. Arrighetti does face a below-average offense (Guardians) at home, and there remains enticing strikeout potential with the rookie and the likelihood of his luck changing. A .500 BABIP should not last much longer. Arrighetti boasts a 3.81 FIP, and 25.9% strikeout rate. The Astros want to be patient. Perhaps fantasy managers should be as well.

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 Thursday

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 Thursday

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 Thursday