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

Luis Gil faces a big test against a difficult Orioles lineup. Eric Canha-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.

Willie Mays Day at Rickwood Field

Thursday was always going to be a special day for major league baseball with the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals meeting at historic Rickwood Field in Alabama, the oldest ballpark in the U.S. This featured game is a tribute to the Negro Leagues and scheduled for the day after the Juneteenth holiday.

Mays, who passed away Tuesday, is from Alabama, and he is arguably the greatest baseball player ever. He performed at the venerable stadium as a teenager before embarking on a memorable career, mostly for the Giants organization. The emotional game will celebrate his immense impact and greatness.

For fantasy baseball purposes, the ESPN Fantasy Forecaster grades Rickwood Field as neutral for run scoring, but a bit above average for right-handed power, though the precise outfield dimensions remain unclarified following recent updates. The Giants are an average offensive club, while the Cardinals rank in the bottom five for run scoring.

RHPs Keaton Winn (Giants) and Andre Pallante (Cardinals) are scheduled to start, each available in more than 98% of ESPN standard leagues for a reason. Each struggling hurler specializes in inducing ground balls, and hardly overpowers with an average fastball and below-average strikeout rates. Winn has lost his past four decisions, though he delivered a quality start in his most recent outing against the Angels. Pallante lasted 3 1/3 innings in his most recent start.

What you may have missed on Wednesday

By Todd Zola

  • The New York Yankees were without OF Aaron Judge for last night's AL East showdown with the Baltimore Orioles. Judge's hand was still ailing after getting hit by a pitch the previous evening. The AL East leaders split the first two contests. Judge's availability for today's late afternoon rubber game is unclear.

  • Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced that SP Walker Buehler will be placed on the 15-day IL today due to hip discomfort. Buehler was reportedly dealing with the issue prior to last night's start, but it was exacerbated after being hit in the area by a comebacker during Wednesday's Coors Field outing. Buehler yielded seven hits and seven runs over four frames to the Colorado Rockies. The Dodgers' rotation is already thin with SP Yoshinobu Yamamoto sidelined due to rotator cuff strain. The club has not announced a starter for tomorrow, although Triple-A SP Landon Knack lines up to be on regular rest if he gets the call for Friday. However, Knack has struggled in June, posting a 4.38 ER with a high 1.70 WHIP, fueled by nine walks over 12 1/3 innings.

  • Since the Dodgers do have two off days coming up, after Friday, they could use just four starters through the end of the month. Down on the farm, SP Clayton Kershaw made his first rehab start last night. Pitching with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, Kershaw logged three innings, allowing one earned run on two hits, with five strikeouts and a walk. He tossed 36 pitches (26 strikes) while touching 90 mph in the first of several rehab efforts. The team hopes Kershaw can make his 2024 Dodgers debut in mid-July.

  • The Rockies played shorthanded in last night's 7-6 win over the Dodgers with OF Charlie Blackmon out due to a tight hamstring and OF Nolan Jones becoming a late scratch due to illness. The pair's availability for this afternoon's completion of a four-game set is unknown.

  • Washington Nationals SS CJ Abrams was scratched from Wednesday's lineup because of a wrist issue. He's slated for an MRI, putting his availability for today's home matinee with the Arizona Diamondbacks in jeopardy. Last night, Nasim Nunez played shortstop in the Nationals' 3-1 win.

  • St. Louis Cardinals 3B Nolan Arenado was removed from last night's contest in the eighth inning after being hit in the elbow by a 94-mph two-seam fastball. X-rays were negative, and he was diagnosed with a bruise. After the game, Arenado indicated he's likely to play on Friday, suggesting he won't be able to suit up for tonight's affair at Rickwood Field.

  • Tampa Bay Rays RP Pete Fairbanks was able to complete a long-toss session yesterday, just one day after being hit in the hand by a 103-mph comebacker. Fairbanks escaped a major injury as it was announced that he was dealing with a bruised thumb. Fairbanks expects to be available, if needed, for today's afternoon road affair. The Rays and Minnesota Twins have split the first two games of the three-game set.

Everything you need to know for Thursday

  • Only five of the 18 scheduled starters for Thursday are rostered in more than 15% of ESPN standard leagues, and only three in more than 45% of leagues. Two of them are surprises and unlikely AL Cy Young award contenders in Royals RHP Seth Lugo and Yankees RHP Luis Gil. Lugo enjoys the friendlier matchup at Oakland, while Gil, on track for the best opponent batting average in history (.142), hosts the Orioles. Mariners RHP Luis Castillo is the other highly rostered starter.

  • Daily fantasy managers must prepare for early Thursday starts, and today's slate begins at 1:05 p.m. ET with Nationals LHP MacKenzie Gore facing the Diamondbacks. Gore is among the league strikeout leaders and emerging as a reliable fantasy asset (though he is rostered in only 32% of leagues), but Arizona is one of the top offenses versus lefties, led by 2B Ketel Marte (11 HR, 1.167 OPS), OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.895 OPS) and surprising fill-in SS Blaze Alexander (.951 OPS). It is a challenging matchup for Gore. Corbin Carroll (.552 OPS vs. LHP) investors may want to sit this one out as well.

  • The Dodgers and Rockies conclude their series at Coors Field. Fantasy managers should know that even though RHP Gavin Stone has emerged this season, this is not the spot to rely on him. The Rockies counter with LHP Ty Blach, who has a fortunate 3.76 ERA in home games, and 7.50 mark on the road. Do not be fooled! Even sans Mookie Betts, the Dodgers are formidable, and Blach, with 27 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings, is not. Right-handed hitting role players Miguel Vargas, Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor started Tuesday against Rockies LHP Austin Gomber, as did new SS Miguel Rojas. Utilize these options in fantasy for Thursday.

  • Betting tip of the day: Padres rookie RHP Adam Mazur walked six Mets in his most recent outing, and has issued 13 walks in 12 2/3 innings over three outings. This may be his final start at this level for a while, with Yu Darvish nearing a return. Take over 2.5 walks (+140), at least. Milwaukee's Bryse Wilson isn't the best strike thrower himself, permitting 3.4 walks per nine innings. As such, you can also take over 8.5 total runs (-115).

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