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

Miles Mikolas is one of the top streaming options for Sunday's MLB slate. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

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.

Fly balls for Miles and Miles

Desirable fantasy spot starters generally come in two forms. There's the high strikeout guy who usually also exhibits spotty control. There's also the less dominant hurler who exhibits excellent control but is subject to the whims of batted balls in play. Pitchers checking the dominance and control boxes are typically rostered in more than half of ESPN leagues.

Both types have benefits and pitfalls, which are sometimes related to the scoring system. Both are equally risky in points leagues. In category leagues, deciding on a streamer could be driven by needs, especially in a head-to-head format.

The high strikeout version is often preferred since their upside is higher, and perhaps less risky than the pitch-to-contact variety. A more dominant starter is more likely to limit walks in a given start than a control specialist is to miss bats.

However, the perceived mooshy ball being used this season is flipping the script. Balls hit in the air aren't carrying as much as previous seasons. As such, not only are home runs down, but more deep fly balls are being caught, also reducing doubles and triples. Furthermore, more softly hit fly balls are being captured since outfielders can play in a step or two, and still chase down balls struck over their heads.

The main result is fewer runs are being scored via the home run. Lineups need to string together hits, and hits are down. Pitchers that limit walks benefit even more from the current landscape since more hits are required to keep the line moving. As such, pitchers with better control are less risky to be burned by balls in play compared to past seasons.

From a fantasy perspective, this helps explain the success of Tanner Houck, Jake Irvin, Nestor Cortes, Logan Webb and Seth Lugo. In prior years, the narrative would be to sell high since they wouldn't likely sustain their success with lower strikeout rates, but not in 2024.

It also reduces the risk of streaming less dominant hurlers like Miles Mikolas (8.5% rostered in ESPN leagues). Mikolas sports a high 4.85 ERA, but a 3.92 xFIP and 4.06 SIERA suggest he's pitched into some misfortune. The culprits are a high 13.5% home run per fly ball level and a low 68.2% left on base mark. This variance is a good reminder that the risk is just lessened, not eliminated.

On Sundays, lineup decisions are often fueled by needs and using Mikolas may be perceived as taking on too much risk. So long as the flight of the ball is tempered, the risk is less concerning. If you need pitching points, trusting Mikolas against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field is a viable option.

This NL Central affair kicks off the Sunday slate at 1:05 PM ET. Thirteen more matinees ensue, with the fantasy week concluding in Fenway Park where the Boston Red Sox host the New York Yankees in the ESPN Sunday night showcase.

Betting tip of the day: The Minnesota Twins host the Oakland Athletics for a pair today. Lefty JP Sears will take the hill for the Athletics in the opener. Twins 3B Royce Lewis will enjoy the platoon advantage and has been hitting the ball hard and frequently this week with a 47.4% hard-hit% and a 5.0% strikeout rate. I'm betting that Lewis stays productive in Game 1 and I'll take the over on 1.5 total bases (+105).

What you may have missed on Saturday

  • Los Angeles Dodgers SP Yoshinobu Yamamoto pitched just two innings last night and left the game with triceps tightness. Yamamoto's velocity was down a couple of ticks. He yielded one hit while fanning one and issuing one walk in the two scoreless stanzas. The Dodgers' bullpen subsequently allowed seven runs to the Kansas City Royals in their 7-2 loss. After the game, it was revealed that the injury was the reason last night's start was pushed back and that Yamamoto doesn't believe it to be serious. However, manager Dave Roberts indicated an IL visit is likely. The Dodgers expect to have SP Bobby Miller back for Wednesday's contest, but with Yamamoto's next few starts in jeopardy, it's unclear how the club's rotation will shake out over the next week.

  • Royals C Salvador Perez missed Saturday's victory with a knee injury. Imaging showed just a minor sprain and some inflammation. The club expressed optimism that Perez could return as early as today, though they called up backup C Austin Nola with Perez likely to serve as the DH for a couple of games with Freddy Fermin filling in behind the dish.

  • Colorado Rockies OF Brenton Doyle was scratched from last night's lineup with left patella tendinitis. Fortunately, OF Jake Cave was cleared to play after he was hit in the head by a line drive during batting practice on Friday night. Cave covered for Doyle in center field and delivered a 3-for-5 effort, scoring three with three RBIs in the Rockies' 16-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. With C Elias Diaz on the IL, Hunter Goodman served as the backstop and responded with a 4-for-5 evening, including a pair of long balls. Goodman knocked in five while crossing the plate three times. This is the time to load up on Rockies since Sunday will be Game 3 of a 10-day homestand.

  • The Pirates were without C Henry Davis, who was placed on the 7-day concussion IL before yesterday's loss. Yasmani Grandal will handle the bulk of the receiving duties with C Jason Delay recalled to serve in a backup capacity.

  • The Atlanta Braves reported that an MRI demonstrated OF Michael Harris II suffered a Grade 2 left hamstring strain. No timetable was announced, but the typical recovery time is four to eight weeks, so Harris will likely be out until at least the All-Star break. The club called up OF Ramon Laureano, who will share the center field playing time with J.P. Martinez. On the field, the Braves offense broke out of a rut with a five-run fifth inning, fueling their 9-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at sweltering Truist Park where the temperature was in the mid-90s. The Braves took advantage with four homers. Jarred Kelenic, Marcell Ozuna and Matt Olson all took Rays SP Ryan Pepiot deep in the fifth, then Austin Riley cleared the fence for the second straight game. Before this series, Riley's last homer was on May 3.

  • Washington Nationals OF Jesse Winker left yesterday's matinee in the third inning with a sore knee. He was scheduled for an MRI after the game. Earlier in the day, it was announced that the club signed DH Harold Ramirez to a minor-league deal. The Nationals will be without 1B/OF Joey Gallo for at least a month, so if Winker is also out, Ramirez could be summoned, with Joey Meneses continuing to handle first base.

  • leveland Guardians 3B Jose Ramirez was placed on the paternity leave list yesterday. He can miss up to three games, so the club will need someone to man the hot corner today in the rubber game of a weekend series in Rogers Center. The Toronto Blue Jays blanked the Guardians 5-0 yesterday. They were without SS Bo Bichette, who has been playing through a sore right calf. His availability for today is questionable.

  • Texas Rangers C Jonah Heim was also put on the paternity leave list yesterday. Backup C Andrew Knizner did the squatting in the club's 7-5 road loss to the Seattle Mariners. Sam Huff was called up to add depth behind the plate.

Everything else you need to know for Sunday

• Typically, starting pitchers rostered in over half of ESPN leagues are excluded from a streaming recommendation, but we'll make an exception for Arizona Diamondbacks SP Jordan Montgomery (52.5% rostered). Montgomery has yet to find a groove after signing late, but a home date with the Chicago White Sox could be the panacea to get back on track. The White Sox are the lowest scoring team for road tilts.

Minnesota Twins SP Chris Paddack is like Mikolas in that he's been stingy with the free passes, but he's sporting a bloated ERA. In Paddack's case, his 4.79 ERA is deemed over a run too high by a 3.74 xFIP and 3.74 SIERA. The culprit has been a high .338 BABIP, which is odder because Paddack is a fly ball pitcher, hence on paper should benefit from the current landscape. Paddack doesn't need his luck to change on Sunday; he's in a great spot regardless facing the Oakland Athletics in Target Field. Only the White Sox are averaging fewer runs per road game.

• Continuing the theme, the Miami Marlins are averaging the third fewest runs per game when away from home. On Sunday, the Marlins wrap up a series in the nation's capital against the Washington Nationals. Rookie SP Mitchell Parker gets the nod for the home team. Parker is another example of a less dominant arm who has been frugal with bases on balls, fueling a surprising 3.21 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. To be fair, his ERA estimators peg Parker around 4.00, but that's still below league average and he's facing a less dangerous lineup.

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 Sunday

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 Sunday

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 Sunday

THE BAT X's best stacks for Sunday