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 Caesars Sportsbook, and fantasy advice is geared towards 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.
What you need to know for Friday's MLB Games
By Todd Zola
Friday's slate comes up one short, as the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics enjoy an off day before they meet for a pair over the weekend in Oakland. The action starts at 2:20 p.m. ET at Wrigley Field with the Chicago Cubs hosting the Miami Marlins. Both teams were rumored to have hitters on the block, but their lineups remained largely intact. Even so, Cubs southpaw Justin Steele (6% rostered in ESPN leagues) checks in as a streamer on a day where there aren't many enticing options. Steele fans about a batter an innings and has done a good job keeping the ball in the yard. Issuing walks has been his problem, but the Marlins are, by far, the least patient team in the league with a lefty on the hill.
Granted, stolen bases are more important to rotisserie scoring than points formats. However, they're crucial in some formats, so it's worth mentioning Luke Williams and his production since July 1. Williams qualifies at third as well as outfield and is available in almost every ESPN league. Since July 1, he has posted a solid .306/.375/.444 with six steals in seven attempts. His 10% walk rate helps make up for less power in points leagues. With Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia both sidelined, Williams should continue to play a lot and should continue to run.
Kyle Gibson (57% rostered) is likely rostered in deeper leagues, but he could be available in standard ESPN 10-team leagues for his matchup with the new-look Washington Nationals in Citizens Bank Park. The Baltimore Orioles' Dean Kremer has a favorable home matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates were also quiet at the deadline, but they did DFA Yoshi Tsutsugo so they can look at some of their younger players. The Boston Red Sox will probably hand the ball to Josh Winckowski for their road tilt in Kansas City against a Royals offense with the fourth-lowest wOBA in the league with a righty on the hill.
Tony Gonsolin's 2.41 ERA and 0.90 WHIP are clearly better than even the rosiest expectations. While it's true a 16.9% K-BB mark is pedestrian and he has benefited from a .208 BABIP and 83.5% left on base level, his xFIP is 3.78 while his SIERA is 3.75. These are well below average, meriting a roster spot in all formats. That said, Gonsolin has struggled over his last three outings, posting a 6.75 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, albeit with 16 strikeouts and only five walks in this 16 frames. Still, keeping Gonsolin on reserve for Friday's encounter with the revamped San Diego Padres lineup is the safe play, especially for those embattled in a tight race with ratios.
Friday night will feature a pair of teammates from the 2015 World Champion Royals squaring off when Eric Hosmer (48%) steps in the box against Zack Greinke. Boston pruned its roster with Jackie Bradley Jr.'s DFA and the sending of Franchy Cordero to Triple-A Worcester. More than anything, this indicates a commitment to Jarren Duran (5%), despite recent struggles, as well as assuring plenty of playing time for Hosmer and Tommy Pham (49%), another recent Red Sox addition. One final Red Sox note: Tanner Houck (38%) won't collect all the saves, but he garnered a pair earlier in the week and should compile the most of any Boston reliever over the final two months.
It's not too late to start another free fantasy baseball league. Leagues drafted this week will start scoring fresh the following Monday.
Starting pitcher rankings for Friday
Best Sub-50% Rostered Hitters for Friday
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.
Vinnie Pasquantino (KC, 1B -- 6%) vs. Winckowski
MJ Melendez (KC, C -- 13%) vs. Winckowski
Alek Thomas (ARI, CF -- 7%) vs. Marquez
Hunter Dozier (KC, RF -- 17%) vs. Winckowski
David Peralta (TB, LF -- 16%) at Garcia
Ji-Man Choi (TB, 1B -- 7%) at Garcia
Miguel Rojas (MIA, SS -- 5%) at Steele
Worst Over-50% Rostered Hitters for Friday
Nathaniel Lowe (TEX, 1B -- 52%) vs. Cease
Jonah Heim (TEX, C -- 54%) vs. Cease
THE BAT X's Best Stacks for Friday
Prop of the Day
Robbie Ray strikeouts: Over/Under 7.5 (+100/-145)
THE BAT X sees Ray putting up 8.6 strikeouts for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 65.1% of the time. THE BAT X believes there is positive value on the OVER with an expected value of $30.11.
Note: Expected Value is a measure of how good a bet is, factoring the probability that it will win versus the odds the book is providing. If you were to wager $1.00 100 times on a bet with an Expected Value of $25, you would win some and you would lose some, but in the end you would expect to come away with $25 in profit on your $100 investment.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE OVER
THE BAT X projects Ray to throw 107 pitches in this matchup (most of all pitchers on today's slate), considering both his underlying tendencies and the matchup.
T-Mobile Park projects as the No. 3 stadium in the league for strikeouts, per THE BAT X projection system.
The weatherman calls for the second-best pitching weather of all games on today's slate, as it relates to temperature and humidity.
Ray's fastball velocity over his last three starts (93.8 mph) has been a considerable increase over his seasonal rate (92.7 mph).
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER
The Angels have six hitters in their projected lineup that will have the handedness advantage over Ray in this game, which is especially troublesome given his large platoon split.
Ray's fastball velocity has fallen 1.8 mph this season (92.4 mph) below where it was last year (94.2 mph).