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

Stat Stories: Wednesday's standout fantasy MLB performers (1:30)

Check out the top performers in fantasy MLB on Wednesday, including big performances from Aaron Judge, Marcell Ozuna and Shea Langeliers. (1:30)

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.

Optimism for struggling Detmers?

Through his first four starts of 2024, Reid Detmers (77% rostered in ESPN leagues) looked like an emerging ace. He surrendered just three earned runs across 22⅔ innings, registering a 1.19 ERA and 0.97 WHIP with 30 strikeouts and zero homers allowed. That stretch included a dominant effort against the Boston Red Sox in early April in which he fanned a career-high 12.

Of course, we know better than to put too much stock in such a small sample, and the left-hander has since fallen on hard times. Detmers has been tagged for a combined 16 earned runs over his past three outings (8.14 ERA), as his control has failed him (seven walks), and he's struggled to keep the ball in the yard (five homers). His velocity has held firm; it's just a matter of his pitches consistently finding too much of the plate.

Which version of Detmers will we see Thursday when the Los Angeles Angels take on the Kansas City Royals? Although the Royals strike out just 16% of the time versus southpaws (the second-lowest mark in baseball), they are actually a great matchup for left-handers, as Kansas City's 81 wRC+ versus left-handed pitching ranks 25th in MLB. I'm comfortable benching Detmers until he gets back on track, but this is a good spot for him to do it.

What you may have missed on Wednesday

By Todd Zola

  • Yesterday's washed out matinee between the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets has been rescheduled for August 5. The Cardinals open a series today in Milwaukee with Sonny Gray getting the nod since he didn't need to warm up yesterday. The Mets are off today.

  • Christian Encarnacion-Strand was placed on the 10-day IL after further tests revealed a fracture of his right ulnar styloid. Encarnacion-Strand was hit by a pitch in late April, then missed four games. He returned to play in four contests, before follow-up examinations unveiled the fracture. Encarnacion-Strand is expected to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks. Jeimer Candelario is expected to handle first base in the interim. Mike Ford was signed as insurance.

  • Jorge Soler was put on the 10-day IL due to right shoulder strain. He had missed the three prior games, so the visit is backdated to Sunday. It's unfortunate timing with the Giants in Coors Field for a three-game set to begin the week. Wilmer Flores served as the DH on Tuesday, with Heliot Ramos getting the nod last night. Ramos was recalled prior to last night's affair, replacing Soler on the 26-man roster.

  • Oakland Athletics rookie Darell Hernaiz landed on the 10-day IL courtesy of a severely sprained left ankle. Despite a weak .425 OPS, Hernaiz was seeing regular action at shortstop. Max Schuemann and Brett Harris are the likely replacements. Infield reinforcements are on the way with 2B Zack Gelof and utility man Aledmys Diaz both cleared to embark on rehab assignments this weekend. Gelof could return next week while Diaz isn't eligible to come off the 60-day IL until late May.

  • Dansby Swanson missed last night's game due to lingering knee soreness. He initially hurt his knee while sliding in late April. The Chicago Cubs are off today, so the hope is that Swanson returns for Friday's road date with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Swanson's numbers are down across the board, but the underlying metrics are in line with recent seasons, making him a good target to acquire.

  • The Texas Rangers placed SP Dane Dunning on the 15-day IL due to a rotator cuff strain. Dunning has made seven starts, pitching to a 4.10 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP while adding 43 punchouts over 37 1/3 innings. There is no timeline for Dunning's return, but manager Bruce Bochy expressed optimism that it wouldn't be a lengthy asence. Even so, the injury-riddled rotation will need Jose Urena and Jack Leiter to make a couple more starts until their teammates can return. Nathan Eovaldi is closest, with the possibility of returning on May 18. Max Scherzer is shut down for a few more days after his first rehab outing and Cody Bradford is not expected back until the end of the month.

  • Daniel Hudson sealed last night's 3-1 win for the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Miami Marlins to collect his second save. With regular closer Evan Phillips having been placed on the IL over the weekend, Alex Vesia garnered and converted the save chance on Monday night. As such, it appears that Dave Roberts will play the matchups until Phillips returns.

  • Jason Foley has delivered nine times on 10 save chances, but entering last night he had a rather pedestrian 13 strikeouts and seven walks over 13 2/3 innings. He last pitched on May 3 against the New York Yankees when he blew the save and was charged with the loss after yielding two earned runs on four hits without retiring anyone. Last night, Foley was brought into the bottom of the seventh inning with the Detroit Tigers leading the Cleveland Guardians, 4-2. Foley recorded two outs but was lifted after yielding Kyle Manzardo's first career hit. Foley was credited with a hold in the Tigers' extra-inning loss. Andrew Chafin failed to convert the save in the ninth, then Alex Lange surrendered a 10th-inning walk-off single to Brayan Rocchio. It's unclear if manager A.J. Hinch is shaking up the bullpen hierarchy, but for now Foley should still be considered the closer.

Everything else you need to know for Thursday

  • The Chicago White Sox lineup has been a streamer's dream, and on Thursday the privilege of facing baseball's worst offense goes to Ben Lively (7% rostered). The right-hander has made a strong impression for the Cleveland Guardians, posting a 2.08 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 10.0 K/9 across four starts. Armed with a fastball that averages just 90.2 mph, Lively doesn't have overpowering stuff, and the underlying numbers don't suggest that his early success has been fully warranted. However, there's no ignoring the matchup against the White Sox, who own the worst wRC+ (70) and wOBA (.267) in the majors. Fire up Lively as one of the day's top streamers.

  • Taking the mound against Lively is Erick Fedde (26%), another name who belongs in the streamer discussion. Despite getting roughed up by the St. Louis Cardinals in his last outing, the right-hander has a 3.46 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 over his first seven turns. The Guardians' offense has been solid overall (105 wRC+), but it has been below average against right-handed pitching (90 wRC+), with a bloated 97.1% strikeout rate, which puts Fedde in a favorable spot.

  • As expected, Thursday's Coors Field bout between the Colorado Rockies and the San Francisco Giants stands out as a matchup where you want to target bats. Keaton Winn and Cal Quantrill grade out as the two lowest-ranked hurlers on the slate, and the over/under of 10 runs is also the highest mark of the day. The Rockies' Ryan McMahon (51%) and Charlie Blackmon (6%) and the Giants' Jung Hoo Lee (56%), Michael Conforto (35%), and LaMonte Wade Jr. (5%) all carry the platoon edge in this game.

  • Betting tip of the day: Take Ronel Blanco to have over 4.5 strikeouts (-160) on Thursday. The Houston right-hander has eclipsed that mark in five out of six starts this season, and he should do so again versus the Yankees, who are striking out 24.8% of the time against righties (seventh-highest K% in MLB).

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

THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Thursday