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

Paul Skenes heads to the hill for his third MLB start. Justin Berl/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 overnight pitching changes and weather-related game postponements, along with the addition of the latest MLB game odds as of the indicated time of publication.

Good luck, batters!

Pittsburgh Pirates RHP Paul Skenes may not be the most rostered pitcher scheduled to start on Thursday, at least not yet. Phillies ace RHP Zack Wheeler, arguably the top pitcher in the sport, Mariners RHP Luis Castillo and struggling-but-unlucky Blue Jays RHP Kevin Gausman are among those expected to take the mound. However, Skenes is already must-watch TV as he approaches his third big-league start, this time at home versus the Giants, and you have to love his confidence.

Skenes dominated the Cubs at Wrigley Field in his most recent outing, striking out the first seven hitters and cruising through six dominant innings, permitting nary a base hit among 100 pitches. He struck out 11 with one walk and earned his first MLB win. Skenes averages 99 MPH with his fastball, already one of the most unhittable pitches in the game. He throws strikes and he throws them hard. Skenes is rostered in "only" 87% of ESPN standard leagues. It should be higher.

Then there is the bravado. Skenes knows he is good, and it only adds to the aura surrounding him. Skenes debuted against the Cubs on May 11, permitting three runs over four innings, before facing them again six days later. Prior to that second start, a reporter asked about the challenge of Cubs hitters adjusting to Skenes for the rematch.

"I mean, go ahead and adjust. Good luck. I'm ready for it," Skenes said with a smile/smirk. Then he faced 19 Cubs in the rematch, allowing only one to reach base, and it was via walk, not hit. Good luck, indeed, Giants.

What you may have missed on Wednesday

By Todd Zola

  • The San Diego Padres placed 2B Xander Bogaerts on the 10-day IL after it was revealed he has a fractured left shoulder. The injury won't require surgery and Bogaerts intends to return after the All-Star break. Luis Arraez will take over as the primary second baseman with newly acquired David Peralta added to the mix in the outfield and at DH.

  • Baltimore Orioles SP John Means experienced some left elbow discomfort and is slated for testing today. Means started yesterday's regularly scheduled game against the St. Louis Cardinals but only pitched three frames. There was a rain delay after the third inning, but Means would not have come out for the fourth inning regardless. Means velocity was down two ticks which is a concern, as is he recently was activated after a long rehab for Tommy John surgery.

  • Chicago White Sox DH Eloy Jimenez is back on the IL, this time due to a strained hamstring. Jimenez missed the first two weeks of April with an adductor strain. It's unclear how long Jimenez will be sidelined. The club will rotate several players through the DH spot, with Gavin Sheets as the primary option. Corey Julks, Zach DeLoach and Dominic Fletcher could also see more action either at DH or in the outfield.

  • Tampa Bay Rays OF Josh Lowe was lifted from yesterday's game thanks to right side strain. He's slated for an MRI today, which is an off day for the club. Lowe's 2024 debut was delayed until May 6 as he was on the IL due to right oblique strain incurred in spring training.

  • Los Angeles Angels SS Zach Neto had to leave yesterday's game after the bottom of the fifth inning due to soreness in his right elbow. He's scheduled for testing today. After a slow start to the season, Neto has been productive lately, sporting a .310/.394/.724 line over his previous nine games.

  • Considering that the minimum IL visit for a position player is 10 days, it's rare for any non-pitcher to be out of action for nine games, but such is the case for Atlanta Braves 3B Austin Riley. He was able to take swings on Tuesday, but still did not play yesterday. The club's reluctance to put Riley on the IL is a lingering inconvenience for his fantasy managers. The Braves meet the Chicago Cubs today at 2:20 p.m. ET for a Wrigley Field matinee.

Everything else you need to know for Thursday

  • Philadelphia's Wheeler enters his day outing (there are early afternoon games seemingly every Thursday) averaging 16.4 ESPN fantasy points per outing, among the top-10 figures in fantasy. Wheeler has won five of his past six starts, with four quality starts in that span. The Rangers are not the same offense from last season, with SS Corey Seager and 1B Nathaniel Lowe struggling and OFs Adolis Garcia and Evan Carter and 3B Josh Jung injured.

  • New York Yankees RHP Luis Gil struck out 14 White Sox in his most recent outing, and he has four consecutive starts of reaching six innings. That was enough to get fantasy managers interested, and Gil is more than a streamer against Castillo and the Mariners. He is becoming a pitcher to rely on. The Mariners continue to underachieve offensively, and they lead the major leagues in strikeouts. Gil should be good for at least six whiffs.

  • Detroit Tigers RHP Jack Flaherty finally won a game in his most recent outing, his first in nine starts even though seven have been quality starts and he leads the league in K/9. The rejuvenated Flaherty deserves more fantasy attention, though he remains available in more than 50% of ESPN standard leagues. The Toronto Blue Jays, Flaherty's Thursday foe, continue to struggle to score runs as myriad hitters in this lineup are underachieving.

  • Betting tip of the day: The Orioles struggled to score runs this week in St. Louis, and they are hitting only .218 for the month, but things should improve against the struggling Mike Clevinger of the White Sox. Clevinger hasn't gone five innings in any outing yet and right-handed batters are hitting .364 against him. Jordan Westburg is going to go over 1.5 total bases (+105) and so is Ryan Mountcastle (+125). Take under 4.5 strikeouts (-105) for Clevinger, too. This one will be all Orioles.

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.

Hitting report

Plan ahead in fantasy baseball with help from our Forecaster projections. Each day, we will provide an updated preview of the next 10 days for every team, projecting the matchup quality for hitters (overall and by handedness) as well as for base stealers.

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