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

Trusting Rockies pitchers isn't easy, but Cal Quantrill has fared well this season. Kiyoshi Mio/USA TODAY Sports

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.

Quantifying Rockies pitchers

Fantasy managers tend to intuitively dismiss Colorado Rockies pitchers simply because they pitch for the Rockies, and thus play half their games in the high altitude of Denver's Coors Field. This is often a wise strategy. In 31 seasons of existence, the Rockies have never finished with an ERA on the positive side of 4.00. The last time they posted a sub-4.50 ERA was 2010. Every so often, however, a Rockies pitcher performs well enough to warrant a look in ESPN fantasy leagues, perhaps even as more than a streamer.

RHP Cal Quantrill seems an odd choice to thrive with the Rockies, due to his dangerously low career strikeout rate and fly ball tendencies, but things are working out well this season, at least so far. Quantrill enters Thursday's outing in St. Louis with a 3.84 ERA and 1.29 WHIP and eight quality starts in 12 chances, the latter figure topped by only 11 pitchers. The former Padre/Guardian permitted four earned runs to the Dodgers last week, breaking a streak of five consecutive quality starts.

The Cardinals feature a below-average offense that entered Wednesday averaging 3.9 runs per game, the second-worst mark in the National League, and RHBs Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are a combined 3-for-14 (all singles) versus Quantrill, albeit a small sample to derive much meaning from. Quantrill looks like the former version of himself who won 15 games with a 3.38 ERA for the 2022 Guardians before shoulder trouble torpedoed performance last season, inducing soft contact, handling left-handed batters (.223 batting average against) and pitching deep into games.

No Rockies pitchers are rostered in as many as 10% of ESPN standard leagues, but perhaps Quantrill and LHP Austin Gomber, cruising along with his own 3.06 ERA and 1.18 WHIP but only one win in 11 chances, should no longer be ignored. This Cardinals matchup is on the road, but Quantrill has a slightly better ERA in home games (3.72 to 3.92). Gomber's home/road splits are nearly even as well.

Perhaps one or both of these fellows can sustain performance and aid fantasy managers, as LHP Kyle Freeland did with his franchise record 2.85 ERA in 2018 and Antonio Senzatella did with his 3.44 ERA in 2020. Gomber is scheduled to face the Cardinals on Friday night. Quantrill boasts more ESPN fantasy points over the past 30 days than his Thursday opponent, Sonny Gray, and many others. We still love Gray, especially in his matchup, but Quantrill is someone to consider, too.

What you may have missed on Wednesday

By Todd Zola

  • The Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Guardians will make up last night's postponement as part of a doubleheader on August 26 in Progressive Field. The clubs will play a matinee today, with the Guardians sticking with SP Tanner Bibee. They had planned on deploying RP Nick Sandlin and SP Logan Allen in tandem last night, but now Allen will start tomorrow. The Royals will give the ball to SP Brady Singer, last night's scheduled starter.

  • Minor injuries to position players dominate the news from last night. Let's start with San Diego Padres 3B Manny Machado who incurred a mild right hip flexor strain while running hard to first in the fourth inning. He was replaced by pinch-runner Donovan Solano who finished the game at the hot corner. Machado is questionable for tonight's series opener at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

  • Texas Rangers SS Corey Seager was lifted from last night's contest in the second inning after experiencing left hamstring tightness. Seager had an RBI single in the second but pulled up lame as he was rounding the bag. Seager was replaced by INF Ezequiel Duran. The club termed the move as precautionary, with the hope that Seager only needs today's off day to recover. If Seager misses any action, Duran would be the likely substitute.

  • Chicago Cubs 3B Christopher Morel fouled a ball off his left foot in the seventh inning. He was in obvious pain, but stayed in and coaxed out a walk. However, 3B Patrick Wisdom came in as a pinch-runner. Morel's status for tonight's road date with the Cincinnati Reds is unclear. If Morel can't play, Wisdom and 3B David Bote are the options to fill in.

  • Colorado Rockies OF Sean Bouchard had to leave last night's tilt in the eighth inning due to a high ankle sprain. Bouchard's right foot awkwardly slipped off first after he successfully bunted OF Jake Cave to third base. Bouchard was replaced by pinch runner Brenton Doyle. If Bouchard requires a stint on the IL, Doyle and Cave should both see more playing time, although OF Nolan Jones has restarted his rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque and could be back with the big club soon.

  • The Houston Astros were again missing both 3B Alex Bregman and OF Kyle Tucker yesterday. Bregman was in the original lineup but was scratched because of lingering hand soreness after being hit by a pitch on Tuesday night. Tucker continues to recover from a right shin contusion after fouling a ball off his leg on Monday night. The club is off today. Bregman is expected to return Friday, with Tucker's return date still unknown.

  • New York Mets OF Starling Marte was scratched from yesterday's lineup due to a sore right knee. The move was deemed as precautionary. The Mets have both today and tomorrow off as they travel overseas for the weekend's London Series. Marte is expected to accompany the team and play.

  • Pitching doesn't get off scot-free as Detroit Tigers SP Kenta Maeda threw only two pitches before heading to the dugout with the trainer. He was diagnosed with right abdominal discomfort. Maeda is questionable for his next start. Maeda and fellow SP Jack Flaherty are both considered to be day-to-day. Flaherty had exited Tuesday's game early due to back tightness.

Everything else you need to know for Thursday

  • Seattle Mariners RHP Bryan Woo brings a 1.30 ERA and 0.58 WHIP through five starts into his road matchup with the Athletics. Woo has gone six innings in three consecutive outings, issuing nary a walk in that span, and that included a road matchup with the powerful Yankees. Woo cannot continue this unsustainable pace, of course, not with a 18% strikeout rate, .171 BABIP, but 83% LOB, but he certainly appears competent enough to warrant rostering in more than 50% of ESPN standard leagues.

  • Toronto Blue Jays LHP Yusei Kikuchi was cruising along with a 2.64 ERA until his two most recent starts, when the Tigers and Pirates rattled him for 17 hits and 11 runs (10 earned) over 8 1/3 ugly innings. Kikuchi struck out only four of 42 hitters. Now he has to face the mighty Baltimore Orioles, against whom he has a 5.17 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in 54 career innings. Current Orioles have hit .280/.349/.553 off Kikuchi, led by 1B Ryan Mountcastle (4 HR in 17 AB, 1.807 OPS), C Adley Rutschman (1.250 OPS, 2 HR) and OF Anthony Santander (1.007 OPS). Consider adding other Orioles right-handed hitters in new 2B Connor Norby and rejuvenated OF Austin Hays for this one as well.

  • What more does Atlanta Braves RHP Reynaldo Lopez need to do to become more popular in ESPN leagues? Lopez is among the league leaders in ERA (1.73) and bWAR (2.0) but he remains available in more than 30% of leagues. The Nationals won three of four games from Atlanta (in Atlanta) last week, though Lopez did not pitch in that series. His Thursday foe, precocious rookie LHP Mitchell Parker, won Game 1 of that series. The Braves hit a bit better versus left-handed pitching, but they lack Ronald Acuna Jr. Lopez remains underrated, but perhaps Parker, with a 3.60 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, is worthy, even against Atlanta.

  • Betting tip of the day: Minnesota Twins RHP Pablo Lopez is not having his best season and, while he hasn't fared so poorly versus the New York Yankees in the past (2.95 ERA over three starts), current Yankees are hitting .323/.393/.583 against him. Juan Soto has three home runs and is slugging .733 against Lopez, so why not throw a few bucks on Soto to homer (+275)? Also, take under 5.5 strikeouts for Lopez (+120), since he has not whiffed more than six hitters for four consecutive starts. Yankees to win (-115) looks good, too.

It's never 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