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

Streaming a guy like Jose Caballero can lead to your team stealing a few points. 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.

Streaming for steals

Thursday features a typically light slate, with just 11 games. Action begins at 1:05 p.m. ET, with the first of four matinees. Setting lineups with a shorter schedule is usually challenging since there are no doubt some fantasy stalwarts with the day off, but they're too productive to simply drop.

Going back to draft day, a viable strategy in category-based leagues was to focus resources mostly on power and run production, then to stream steals on Mondays and Thursdays. The key to success with this plan is to identify the most promising matchups to take full advantage.

There are two general keys to streaming for steals. First, it's no longer necessary to avoid left-handed pitchers, as the stolen base frequency and success rate are now nearly the same against pitchers of all types. In addition, the inability of a given team to control stolen bases is far more important than the other team's propensity to run. In general, the better stolen base contributors run regardless of the opposition. This doesn't mean you should avoid secondary options on a team that runs a lot, only that the data suggests that the quality of opposition is what truly drives the numbers.

To that end, a great way to fortify your steals is to stack up against the poorest teams at preventing steals. Six of the bottom seven sides are in action Thursday. They are, in order of futility, the New York Mets, Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels. (The San Francisco Giants, who are the second worst, are off.)

Let's see which players from the teams facing these weak SB defenses you should target for Thursday:

What you may have missed on Wednesday

  • The Texas Rangers welcomed back SS Corey Seager, who returned after having missed four games due to a sore left hamstring. He served as the DH and delivered a three-run homer, providing the club with all their runs in a 3-2 win over the Dodgers. Rangers SP Jon Gray pitched only three innings, but that was planned as he only returned from the IL last weekend and was working on just three days of rest after a relief outing in his first game back. Gray yielded one of the Dodgers runs, then relievers Jacob Latz, Jose Leclerc and David Robertson combined for five scoreless innings. Kirby Yates collected his ninth save, despite a shaky inning where he allowed a run on two hits and a walk. The Rangers caught a break when Dodgers OF Andy Pages ran through a stop sign and was thrown out at the plate to end the game.

  • The Seattle Mariners received some good news with the MRI on SP Bryan Woo's arm exhibiting no new damage. He was scratched from Tuesday's start due to a right forearm issue. Even so, it isn't clear when Woo will next take the hill. The club also provided an update on closer Andres Munoz who has been dealing with a lingering back issue. Munoz has made only two appearances in June, the most recent being last Sunday. An MRI and bone scan revealed nothing wrong, but he received an injection on Tuesday to help alleviate any soreness. Munoz presumably wasn't available in last night's win over the Chicago White Sox, and likely will miss today's finale when the Mariners will go for a sweep of the four-game set.

  • The Los Angeles Angels played shorthanded, but they still defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-3. Missing were OF Taylor Ward and C Logan O'Hoppe. Ward left Tuesday's game early due to lower back tightness. O'Hoppe was forced out of Tuesday's contest after taking a foul tip in his groin. They are both day-to-day. The Angels and Diamondbacks play the final game of their three-game set tonight.

  • Edwin Diaz is slated to come off the IL prior to tonight's finale of a three-game series between the New York Mets and Miami Marlins. Mets skipper Carlos Mendoza reported that Diaz would be reinstated as the club's closer. Diaz had been removed from closing duties, although he was used in a save situation in the final game he pitched before being placed on the 15-day IL. Mendoza also stated that SP Kodai Senga would complete two more bullpen sessions and then face live hitters, hopefully in advance of a July rehab assignment.

  • Tampa Bay Rays OF Randy Arozarena didn't start for the second straight game, although he did appear as a pinch-hitter both yesterday and Tuesday. With a disappointing .174/.282/.317 line, there is a good chance Arozarena was already on the bench of many fantasy teams. On Thursday, the Rays host the Chicago Cubs in the final game of their series.

  • Boston Red Sox OF Tyler O'Neill returned from a three-game absence to rest a sore knee. O'Neill was the DH in the club's 8-6 home win over the Philadelphia Phillies, evening their three-game series. He contributed a hit and a sacrifice fly, but SS David Hamilton was again the spark with a 2-for-4 effort, including his fourth homer of the season. Since becoming Boston's regular shortstop, Hamilton is batting .355/.395/.592 with nine steals over 24 games. He has cemented his starting status, but is somehow still only rostered in 3.7% of ESPN leagues.

Everything else you need to know for Thursday

  • Mets SP Luis Severino (23.5%) is the top choice when he takes the hill in Citi Field against the Marlins. He has been solid, authoring a 3.25 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP over his 12 starts, spanning 72 innings. He has fanned only 58 batters but has kept the ball in the yard with just five homers allowed. The Marlins have scored the third-fewest runs per game, fueled by the second worst wOBA in the league.

  • Ignore the 5.17 ERA posted by Rays SP Taj Bradley (11.3%). Yielding nine runs over 3⅓ innings to the Baltimore Orioles can't be stricken from the record, but the 2.89 ERA and 0.89 WHIP (with 36 punchouts over 28 frames) in his other five outings is more representative of what to expect from Bradley when he faces the Cubs at Tropicana Field.

  • It's best to deploy St. Louis Cardinals SP Lance Lynn (34.1%) at home against a team without much power. Both boxes are checked on Thursday with the Pittsburgh Pirates visiting Busch Stadium. The guests sport the seventh-lowest HR% in the league.

  • Diamondbacks SP Brandon Pfaadt (21.4%) enjoys a favorable home date against the Angels. Pfaadt is in a rut, with a 6.38 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP over his past three outings, spanning 18⅓ innings. However, he has rung up 18 with only four walks over this stretch.

  • Nationals SP MacKenzie Gore is showing signs he can be the dependable starter the club hoped they had acquired in the Juan Soto deal. His .363 BABIP is artificially inflating his 1.37 WHIP, but 27.6% strikeout and 7.5% walk rates are better than league average. On Thursday, The Nationals are in Motown where Gore will face a Tigers lineup with a below-average wOBA and an above-average K%.

  • Betting tip of the day: Thursday features a matchup between the second-most dominant starter in the game squaring off with the lineup that strikes out the most. White Sox SP Garrett Crochet and his 34.3% strikeout rate will take the hill at T-Mobile Park against the Mariners and their 26.1% strikeout rate facing southpaws. My model calls for 9.3 K's from Crochet, so I'm taking over 8.5 strikeouts (+125).

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