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

Zac Gallen of the Arizona Diamondbacks starts against the New York Mets. G Fiume/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.

On the road again

Thursday's eight-game slate features only four starting pitchers rostered in more than 75% of ESPN standard formats, and Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Zac Gallen is the most noteworthy name. He was among the top-5 starting pitchers in ESPN average live drafts after winning 17 games with 220 strikeouts and a 3.47 ERA last season. However, Gallen is not among the top-30 starting pitchers on ESPN's Player Rater, mainly because of his struggles away from Arizona's Chase Field.

Gallen finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting last season, but his best work came in Phoenix (12-3, 2.47), as opposed to on the road (5-6, 4.42). This is not terribly unusual; most players perform better in home games. Perhaps fantasy managers did not notice or did not care, because who would bench a Cy Young-caliber starting pitcher, anyway? This season, however, the trend continues. Gallen's ERA is more than twice as high in his five road starts (4.33 ERA, versus 2.05 home).

This should not compel fantasy managers to sit Gallen as the Diamondbacks initiate their four-game series at New York's Citi Field against the beleaguered Mets, but at some point, even the most trusting, hands-off investors must take notice, right? Gallen's career splits are favorable for home games (27-17, 2.82 at home, 17-28, 3.60 road), but I have to admit I never noticed them. There is nothing wrong with his career road ERA. It has only become noteworthy since the start of the 2023 season.

After all, if we were truly worried about road ERA, check out the work of other top-20 caliber starters: Twins RHP Pablo Lopez (6.00), Mariners RHP George Kirby (5.63), Orioles RHP Grayson Rodriguez (5.48), Rays RHP Zach Eflin (5.08), Mariners RHP Bryce Miller (4.76) and Cardinals RHP Sonny Gray (4.70). Gallen against the Mets - below league average in runs - seems advantageous. Gallen has permitted more than three runs in only one of 10 overall outings. He should pitch well. He just pitches better at home.

What you may have missed on Wednesday

By Todd Zola

  • Toronto Blue Jays SP Alek Manoah left yesterday's game after 1 2/3 innings due to a sore elbow. The right-hander is scheduled for an MRI today. Prior to Wednesday's truncated appearance, Manoah sandwiched two seven-inning gems between a pair of clunkers. If Manoah is forced to miss time, it's unclear who would fill in. Bowden Francis and Yariel Rodriguez both had mixed results when they served as the Blue Jays fifth starter earlier in the season. They're both close to wrapping up injury rehab assignments.

  • New York Mets 1B Pete Alonso had to leave Wednesday's matinee in the first inning after taking a 93-mph fastball off his hand. He was replaced by 3B Brett Baty with 1B/3B Mark Vientos heading across the diamond to take over at first base. Initial X-rays were negative, but once the swelling subsides, a CT scan will get a cleaner look. Before the game, the Mets placed RP Edwin Diaz on the IL due to a shoulder impingement. Diaz hadn't pitched since May 25 when he failed to convert a save after seemingly being reinserted into the closer role. Reed Garrett and Adam Ottavino will likely return to share ninth-inning responsibilities.

  • The Boston Red Sox placed OF Tyler O'Neill on the 15-day IL thanks to right knee inflammation. O'Neill last appeared on May 25, so the club was able to backdate the visit, rendering the outfielder eligible to return on June 5, although it's unclear if he'll be ready. Both OF Wilyer Abreu and OF Rob Refsnyder will continue to play regularly in O'Neill's absence while his roster spot will be filled by 2B Emmanuel Valdez, who was promoted from Triple-A Worcester.

  • It appears that Milwaukee Brewers RP Trevor Megill will be able to avoid an IL stint after having been hit in the elbow by a 99-mph line drive on Tuesday. However, the club indicated that Megill would probably be unavailable for a few days, with RP Joel Payamps serving as the interim closer.

  • San Diego Padres SP Yu Darvish was able to complete only three innings as he was experiencing left hamstring tightness. The right-hander is slated to undergo testing today.

  • Down on the farm, Tampa Bay Rays top prospect 3B Junior Caminero was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left quad strain, so he'll be out for at least a month. Even after a recent slump, Caminero was hitting .261/.333/.478 for Triple-A Durham. There is speculation the 20-year-old will be called up at some point this season, especially after he played a few games at second base, a position where the Rays could use an upgrade. With the injury, though, Caminero isn't likely to be promoted until after the All-Star break.

Everything else you need to know for Thursday

  • Mariners RHP Logan Gilbert, Yankees LHP Carlos Rodon and Royals RHP Brady Singer each enter their Thursday starts as top-30 starters on the Player Rater, just ahead of the aforementioned Gallen. Rodon ranks the highest over the past 30 days, as his past four outings have all been of the quality variety, with five earned runs over 24 1/3 innings (1.85 ERA). Rodon won each of those starts, looking like the excellent performer he was during the 2021-22 seasons. The Angels hit much better versus left-handed pitching (.774 OPS, only .692 OPS against RHP), but the way Rodon is thriving lately, he must be in lineups.

  • Nationals RHP Trevor Williams brings a 2.29 ERA and 1.08 WHIP into his road game at Atlanta, but fantasy managers appear to remain unimpressed, as Williams is rostered in fewer than 20% of standard leagues. What will it take to make Williams more popular? The journeyman is overcoming a typically low strikeout rate and pitching in line with his metrics, though it seems unlikely he will keep his home run rate so low. Williams permitted 34 home runs last season. This season, he has allowed two blasts in 51 innings, though each came over his past three starts. Streaming against the current Atlanta lineup, even missing Ronald Acuna Jr., still feels wrong.

  • Gallen faces responsible Mets rookie RHP Christian Scott, who has made four big-league starts, and three have been quality outings. Scott has hardly looked overwhelmed, and while left-handed hitters are batting .314 in a small sample size, it comes with a .407 BABIP, so do not assume Diamondbacks OFs Joc Pederson and Jake McCarthy necessarily thrive. Scott may have his innings closely monitored later this season, but this is a potential ace for dynasty formats, and even against an ace in Gallen, he is worth relying on Thursday.

  • Betting tip of the day: Rodon had struck out six or more hitters in five consecutive outings before his most recent one, so it seems worth taking the chance on over 6.5 whiffs (+130). Patrick Sandoval starts for the Angels and, while he has struggled in home games this season (including a .324 BAA at Angel Stadium), current Yankees are only 8-for-52 (.154) against him. Expect another low-scoring affair here (like on Tuesday, when the Yankees won 2-1). Go with under 8.5 runs (-110).

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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