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

Gerrit Cole likely will be on a pitch count in his season debut, but he's still worth using Wednesday. Photo by Sarah Stier/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.

Welcome back, ace!

In a season that has seen so many of the game's top talents lost to injuries, Wednesday brings us great news on the injury front, as New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is scheduled to make his season debut.

It has been a heck of a 100 days for the right-hander. Exactly that many days earlier, during the thick of spring training, it was announced that Cole was having an MRI on his pitching elbow because the joint was not recovering from throwing sessions and games the way he was hoping. While the MRI revealed no tear, ruling out the possibility of Tommy John surgery at the time, there had always been the chance that any setback could cost fantasy's No. 1 pitcher from last season (both on the Player Rater and in terms of points scored) the entirety of 2024.

Cole would resume playing catch in early April, progress to bullpen sessions at the beginning of May, face live hitters in mid-May and go on a three-start minor league rehabilitation stint that began on June 4. Throughout all that, the reports on his health were nothing but positive, and the numbers from his rehab stint concurred, as between his two starts for Double-A Somerset and one for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he posted a 0.73 ERA and a .136 BAA, striking out 19 of the 44 batters he faced and walking none.

About the only remote worries during Cole's rehab stint were that his average fastball velocity in his most recent start, last Friday, was 94.6 mph, a noticeable step down from the 96.7 he averaged last season. Still, there was little reason for him to dial up the velocity while in the minors, though that'll be something that bears watching as he rejoins the Yankees.

As Cole threw 45, 57 and 68 pitches in his three rehab starts, his pitch count for Wednesday will probably reside somewhere in the 80-85 range. That's plenty in which for him to make an immediate impact, even with the matchup one of the more challenging ones, a home start against the Baltimore Orioles.

Beyond that, Cole should need only 2-3 starts to get back to his usual, 100-plus pitch count, which brings with it a tops-at-his-position valuation. There'll be heightened risk of injury setback after the time he has missed and the specific ailment (see: Kyle Bradish as a setback example), but all looks good for Cole for now.

What you may have missed on Tuesday

By Todd Zola

  • Preliminary evaluation suggests that New York Yankees OF Aaron Judge has avoided a major injury after he was hit in the left hand by a 94-mph fastball. X-rays and CT scans were negative, but Judge reported swelling so more will be known today. The incident occurred in the bottom of the third inning. Judge stayed in the game and came around to score. He played center field in the top of the fourth, but he left in the bottom of the frame with OF Trent Grisham pinch-hitting and staying in the game. The Yankees prevailed 4-2 over the Baltimore Orioles in an important matchup between the top two teams in the AL East. The Yankees promoted C Ben Rice prior to the game. He's catcher-eligible for fantasy purposes but will play first base with 1B Anthony Rizzo sidelined. Rice batted sixth and collected his first major league hit in a 1-for-4 effort.

  • On the other side, Orioles 3B Jordan Westburg is listed as day-to-day with a bruised left hip. Westburg was fielding a soft ground ball in the first inning as Yankees OF Juan Soto was running to third base. Soto clipped Westburg's lower left leg as he tried to avoid the collision. Westburg completed the play but left the game in the following frame.

  • Colorado Rockies OF Charlie Blackmon left last night's contest with right hamstring tightness. More details regarding the extent of the injury should be revealed today. This is especially significant in weekly leagues since the club has a rare seven-day week at home. Last night, Blackmon was serving as the DH with Elehuris Montero taking over in the spot.

  • Houston Astros OF Yordan Alvarez missed last night's contest as he was away on personal, family business. Manager Joe Espada indicated that Alvarez could rejoin the team for tonight's road tilt with the Chicago White Sox. Earlier in the day, the Astros placed SP Justin Verlander on the 15-day IL with lingering neck discomfort. It's unclear who will replace Verlander in the rotation. He was slated to next pitch on Saturday.

  • The St. Louis Cardinals were without SS Masyn Winn as the rookie was a late scratch due to illness. His availability for today's matinee in South Beach is unclear. The Miami Marlins evened the series with a 9-8 win in 10 innings. Paul Goldschmidt homered in the losing effort. It was his ninth of the season, but first since May 27.

  • Boston Red Sox SS David Hamilton didn't start last night's encounter with the Toronto Blue Jays in Rogers Centre, but the speedster entered as a pinch runner in the eighth inning. He stole second then scored what turned out to be the winning run in the Red Sox 4-3 victory. Hamilton was dealing with discomfort in his side, so the fact he was able to run without any hindrance bodes well for tonight when the Red Sox attempt to sweep the three-game set. Hamilton is No. 5 overall for the last 15 days via the ESPN Player Rater.

Everything else you need to know for Wednesday

  • Cole isn't the only pitcher returning from the IL on Wednesday. The Los Angeles Dodgers will also welcome back Bobby Miller, sidelined since April 10 due to shoulder inflammation, into their rotation, easing some of the strain on their starting pitching depth after Yoshinobu Yamamoto landed on the IL on Sunday. Unfortunately, Miller draws the toughest assignment for a pitcher, a start at Colorado's Coors Field. Unlike Cole, Miller's recovery process wasn't quite as smooth, from the 6.75 ERA that he registered in his seven minor league rehabilitation appearances to the inconsistent fastball velocity he exhibited during that stretch. While he shouldn't have any limitations, after throwing 85 and 93 pitches in his final two outings for Triple-A Oklahoma City, Coors is anything but forgiving and it's best to leave Miller firmly on your bench. The Colorado Rockies' offense isn't especially threatening, but this is a perfect time to evaluate his stuff for his next turn -- a dream assignment, in comparison, on the road against the Chicago White Sox -- without taking the risk of his blowing up your ERA.

  • Seattle Mariners RHP Bryan Woo, who was scratched from his June 11 start due to forearm discomfort, is expected to rejoin the team's rotation Wednesday as well. Woo's MRI came back clean, though the shift in his routine could put a cap on his pitch count and might have an adverse impact upon his numbers. Nevertheless, he was in the midst of an exceptional hot streak since his return from the IL -- he missed the season's first six weeks due to right medial elbow inflammation -- riding a streak of four quality starts despite throwing an average of 74.5 pitches during that time. Woo's persistent arm troubles remain a concern as far as his full-season outlook is concerned, but he's too talented to bench for what's a middling-to-above-average matchup against the Cleveland Guardians.

  • Washington Nationals LHP Patrick Corbin has struggled mightily all season, as he did in the four that preceded it, especially against right-handed hitters, who have .313/.366/.554 rates and 11 home runs against him. That's a big deal in a matchup against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have baseball's widest platoon split favoring success against lefties (+33 points of wOBA, .339 team wOBA against lefties). Ketel Marte (.343/.409/.758 rates, 11 homers) remains one of baseball's best hitters against lefties, and Randal Grichuk (.309/.364/.456) and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.325/.350/.545) typically occupy the heart of the order against that side, with good success against left-handers. Make sure to get all three into your lineups, and also consider usual No. 8 hitter Blaze Alexander (.350/.418/.533) against lefties.

  • Betting tip of the day: Hunter Greene has historically had the Pittsburgh Pirates' number, with a 1.99 ERA and four career starts against them. Narrowing those to only the starts at homer-suppressing PNC Park, he's a perfect 3-for-3 in quality starts while striking out 25 of the 77 Pirates (32.5%) that he has faced there. Greene OVER 6 ½ strikeouts (+105) stands out when the Pirates are a top-four strikeout offense both for June and the season as a whole.

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Starting pitcher rankings for Wednesday

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 Wednesday

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 Wednesday