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

Jon Gray hopes to last a little bit longer on Saturday than in his last few outings. Sam Hodde/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.

Gray matter

Initially, the Texas Rangers planned on having SP Max Scherzer make his long-awaited debut on Saturday. However, manager Bruce Bochy decided to give Scherzer more time and will instead send SP Jon Gray to the hill in Arlington for the middle game of a weekend set with the Kansas City Royals.

Gray (30.2% rostered in ESPN leagues) has been a fantasy enigma. He started slowly after experiencing a stiff neck late in spring training. Gray settled down and was sporting a 2.21 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP with 56 strikeouts over 57 IP when he was put on the 15-day IL due to a groin injury.

The Rangers opted not to send Gray on rehab, instead having him throw extended bullpen sessions. His first appearance after being activated was 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief with four strikeouts. He then made a road start against the Los Angeles Dodgers on three days of rest, yielding one run in three frames while fanning three.

Gray's last outing was a home start against the New York Mets on four days rest. The Mets have played much better on the road, but this still appeared to be a favorable matchup for Gray. Things did not go as expected with the visitors tallying nine times in just three innings, ballooning Gray's ERA from 2.17 to 3.31.

Today, Gray will face the pesky Royals lineup on four days rest. The Royals are averaging the ninth-highest runs per game in MLB, despite sporting a below-average HR rate. Their calling card is contact as they boast the third-lowest strikeout rate in the league.

If this start were coming back when Gray was in his pre-injury groove, it would have been risky, but the call still would have been to start him (unless his fantasy manager was up against an innings or starts limit). Today, the decision is more complicated. Since returning from the IL, Gray has made three appearances with pitch counts of 37, 65 and 55. Stamina could be a problem, and he's already not likely to rack up a bunch of punchouts Those playing in category-based leagues with tightly bunched ratios may want to look elsewhere.

What you may have missed on Friday

  • San Diego Padres OF Fernando Tatis Jr. was hit by a pitch on his elbow in the third inning against the Milwaukee Brewers. Tatis stayed in the game, but eventually left for a pinch-hitter in the fifth. It has been reported that Tatis is dealing with a left triceps contusion with his availability for today unclear. The club also lost OF Jurickson Profar in the seventh as he appeared to further hurt a lingering knee issue. The injuries didn't stop the Padres from posting a 9-5 win, with 2B Jake Cronenworth and 3B Manny Machado leading the way. Cronenworth followed up Thursday night's walk-off homer with a 5-for-5 effort including another long ball, helping him score four times and tally two RBI. Machado was 4-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI.

  • Arizona Diamondbacks C Gabriel Moreno hurt his left thumb, although post-game X-rays came back negative. Moreno suffered the injury in the first inning as he was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. Moreno stayed in the game, homering two innings later, but he was replaced behind the plate in the sixth inning. The club also lost Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the seventh due to a sore left elbow. Gurriel had also powered a homer earlier in the contest. In his post-game comments, manager Torey Lovullo reported that Gurriel would not require any testing, but both he and Moreno would be questionable for today. The Diamondbacks prevailed 5-4 in the first game of a weekend road set against the Philadelphia Phillies.

  • Washington Nationals SS CJ Abrams was back in the lineup for the opener of a weekend series in Coors Field. Abrams is dealing with a cyst in his left wrist, which kept him out both Wednesday and Thursday. Abrams returned to his usual leadoff spot, going 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI in the Nationals' 11-5 win over the Colorado Rockies.

  • Before the game, the Rockies placed both 2B Adael Amador and OF Charlie Blackmon on the IL. Amador was replaced by 2B Brendan Rodgers, who was activated from the IL after missing two weeks due to a sore hamstring. The Rockies called up OF Sam Hilliard to replace Blackmon. This is Hilliard's second stint with the club. He was with the Rockies from 2019-2023 before spending last season with the Atlanta Braves. Hilliard was batting .288/.374/.542 with 13 steals in 65 games for Triple-A Albuquerque.

  • The Oakland Athletics placed 3B Abraham Toro on the 10-day IL after last night's game. Toro was diagnosed with a strained hamstring. He had been hitting leadoff. Aledmys Diaz and Tyler Nevin will fill in at the hot corner, with SS Max Schuemann moving to the top of the order.

Everything else you need to know for Saturday

  • The Royals-Rangers tilt is one of the 11 day games on the Saturday schedule. Action begins at 1:10 p.m. ET in the Motor City with the Detroit Tigers hosting the Chicago White Sox.

  • Minnesota Twins SP Bailey Ober (62.1% rostered in ESPN leagues) is in the middle of a stretch where he's slated to face lesser offenses. He's shown he can pitch well for an extended period as he posted a 2.16 ERA and 0.67 WHIP with a 24.7% K-BB% over seven starts earlier in the season. Ober stifled the Oakland Athletics in his last outing, yielding just one run in 6⅓ frames, fanning eight while scattering six hits and a walk. On Saturday, the clubs run it back, this time in pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum.

  • Chicago Cubs SP Jameson Taillon's 3.08 ERA is a bit misleading, as indicated by a 4.50 xFIP and 4.57 SIERA. The main culprit is a low 16.4% strikeout rate, but he's helping himself with a stingy 6.1% walk rate. This adds up to Taillon (10.9% rostered) being a matchup play for fantasy purposes with Saturday's home date with the New York Mets putting him in play. The Mets are better on the road, but that's in part to Citi Field being the worst park for offense in MLB.

  • Recommending a pitch-to-contact starter like St. Louis Cardinals Miles Mikolas is usually a slippery slope since his lack of dominance leaves him vulnerable to bad luck on batted balls. However, with fly balls not traveling as far, Mikolas (16.6% rostered) is a lot more appealing, especially at home. After Friday's off day following their game in Rickwood Field on Thursday night, the Cardinals and San Francisco Giants resume their series in Busch Stadium. The Giants have hit the ball well this month, but Mikolas is amid a stellar stretch where he's posted a 2.76 ERA and 0.83 WHIP over seven starts, spanning 42⅓ innings. His success is driven by just eight walks and four homers allowed in this time.

  • Chicago White Sox rookie SP Drew Thorpe (3.8% rostered) followed up a solid debut with a rough outing last time out on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 23-year-old right-hander is in a great spot to get back on track on the road against the Tigers. Thorpe will face a lineup sporting the sixth highest strikeout rate and eighth lowest wOBA with a righty on the bump.

  • Betting tip of the day: Coors Field has been playing like its old self of late. Through eight games of the current homestand, the Rockies have scored 49 runs while the opposition has tallied 59 times. Last night, the Nationals took advantage of what will be their only visit to Denver, collecting 19 hits on route to an 11-5 victory. Only OF Jesse Winker (0-for-4, two walks) failed to record a hit. Saying that "he's due" is bad process, but calling for a left-handed batter with an average strikeout rate against righties to put the ball in play versus SP Cal Quantrill and his 16.8% K rate makes sense. I'm taking Winker for over 1.5 total bases (+130).

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Starting pitcher rankings for Saturday

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 Saturday

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 Saturday

THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Saturday