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What you need to know for Monday's MLB games
By Todd Zola
Monday marks the beginning of the last fantasy regular season week for those playing in standard ESPN head-to-head leagues. The best way to approach the week for those needing a win to secure a playoff berth is to be cautiously aggressive early, then let your stead toward the end of the week dictate your level of risk. By means of a heads up, there are only four games scheduled for Thursday, so it's wise to get off to a strong start since there is one fewer slate to make up ground. Fortunately, the week commences with a rare 14-game ledger, with only the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays on the sidelines. Action begins at 6:40 p.m. ET with a pair of games.
Bryan Woo (8.1% rostered in ESPN leagues) is the first of several hurler worthy of a spot start. The Seattle Mariners right-hander will be making his second start since coming off the IL from forearm inflammation. Woo was limited to 65 pitches in his return, good enough for four innings with just three hits and one earned run allowed to the Chicago White Sox. Woo should be able to add at least another frame in his Monday home start against the Oakland Athletics. It's a juicy matchup with the visitors toting the second-lowest wOBA and third-highest strikeout rate against righties into T-Mobile Park.
Grayson Rodriguez (23.3% rostered) has recorded three straight quality starts and was one out away from extending it to five. He has done it against formidable lineups, including the Toronto Blue Jays, Houston Astros and San Diego Padres. Rodriguez's strikeouts are still light, as he punched out just 15 over 19 innings in this span, but his minor league track record portends missing more bats as he continues to adapt to the major leagues. On Monday, Rodriguez is in a great spot to post another quality start when the Chicago White bring the league's lowest wOBA facing right-handers to Camden Yards.
A third rookie makes the streaming cut with Bobby Miller (35.9%) and the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting Zac Gallen and the Arizona Diamondbacks in what portends to be a low-scoring affair. Miller yielded four runs in 6 1/3 innings in his last outing, but he fanned five with just one walk. It was his third straight start lasting at least six frames. Facing the Diamondbacks will be a challenge, but Miller has earned the nod with a 3.11 ERA and 1.09 WHIP since the break. His 33 punch-outs in 37 2/3 innings is a couple short of what's desired, but Miller balanced it with a frugal eight walks and three homers allowed during that span.
Switching to a veteran, Kenta Maeda (19.5%) has also been productive since the midseason hiatus, as he has posted a 3.46 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with an impressive 53 strikeouts in 41 2/3 second-half innings. Something must give on Monday night with Maeda squaring off with the Cleveland Guardians, the team with the lowest strikeout rate facing right-handers in MLB. Even if Maeda doesn't pile up punch-outs, he's matched up against one of the least productive lineups in the league and his teammates draw Xzavion Curry at home, so Maeda's win potential is high.
There are a few other matchups which would have been one of the better options on other days, but here they're just honorable mentions. For those wanting to be aggressive early in the fantasy week, Taijuan Walker (31.6%) taking the hill at home for the Philadelphia Phillies as they host the Los Angeles Angels is in play. Two riskier plays are Johan Oviedo (12.8%) leading the Pittsburgh Pirates into Kauffman Stadium for a road date with the Kansas City Royals and Luis Severino (36.9%) taking the ball for the New York Yankees for a road tilt versus the Detroit Tigers.
Fantasy offenses usually deploying Rays and Marlins have a hole or two to fill. Marcell Ozuna (48.9%) is the best target for his Coors Field matchup with Austin Gomber, with Orlando Arcia (30.7%) another conduit to the Atlanta Braves' potent lineup to open their series with the Colorado Rockies. Matt McLain (49.3%) and Kerry Carpenter (35.7%) have favorable platoon edge matchups. A couple of deep-league targets are Royce Lewis (9.4%) and Liover Peguero (.6%).
Starting pitcher rankings for Monday
Bullpen usage watch for Monday
By Todd Zola
Jordan Romano usually comes in to begin an inning, but yesterday the Toronto Blue Jays brought him into the eighth inning after the Cleveland Guardians scored twice to take a 6-5 lead. Romano entered with a runner on second and no one out, but he got out of the inning unscathed. However, Romano wasn't able to finish the ninth inning as he left with two outs and two men on. Fortunately, Yimi Garcia collected the third out, so Romano ended up pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hot and two walks along with a pair of strikeouts. Romano was able to record an extended outing because he hadn't appeared since the previous Tuesday. Even so, he threw 36 pitches, so he's probably unavailable tonight when the Blue Jays host the Washington Nationals. Jordan Hicks filled in for Romano when the closer was on the IL earlier this month, so he's the best bet to step in tonight.
Emmanuel Clase was also asked to record more than three outs in yesterday's Guardians-Blue Jays affair. Clase came in with one out in the 10th and stranded the ghost runner. After Cleveland scored four times in the top of the 11th, Clase sealed the deal, though he did let the ghost runner cross the plate. Clase garnered the win in the Guardians' 10-7 victory, but he threw 27 pitches after tossing 15 on Friday. The combined 42 over the past three games jeopardizes Clase's availability for tonight's road date with the Minnesota Twins. There is precedent for Clase pitching on consecutive days coming off a similar workload, so reserving him is a risk. There isn't anyone on the Guardians deserving of a pickup as an insurance policy.
The Seattle Mariners are in a favorable spot to continue their playoff surge with an early week home series against the Oakland Athletics. Andres Munoz is the Mariners' primary closer, and he's available in just over half of all ESPN leagues. Munoz collected his 10th save yesterday and has tossed 40 pitches over the past three days, so Matt Brash could get the call for tonight's opener in T-Mobile Park.
Best Sub-50% rostered hitters for Monday
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.
Jorge Polanco (MIN, 2B -- 44%) vs. Curry
Ryan McMahon (COL, 3B -- 29%) vs. Elder
Ezequiel Tovar (COL, SS -- 12%) vs. Elder
Ke'Bryan Hayes (PIT, 3B -- 18%) at Greinke
Worst Over-50% rostered hitters for Monday
Eloy Jimenez (CHW, LF -- 62%) at Rodriguez
Luis Robert Jr. (CHW, CF -- 96%) at Rodriguez
Alec Bohm (PHI, 3B -- 78%) vs. Giolito
Spencer Steer (CIN, 3B -- 79%) at Harrison
The Bat X's Best Stacks for Monday
Atlanta Braves at Austin Gomber
Boston Red Sox vs. Cristian Javier
Prop of the Day
Christian Javier, Houston Astros: Over/Under 4.5 strikeouts (-162/+120)
THE BAT sees Javier putting up 4.1 strikeouts for this matchup on average, while projecting him to exceed his player prop total 37.8% of the time. THE BAT believes there is positive value on the UNDER, with an expected value of $36.75.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE OVER:
THE BAT forecasts Javier in the 81st percentile when it comes to his strikeout talent.
In terms of temperature and humidity, the forecast predicts the second-most favorable pitching conditions of all games on the slate.
FACTORS THAT FAVOR THE UNDER:
According to THE BAT X, the offense with the third-least strikeout-heavy lineup today is the Boston Red Sox, with a 20.7% underlying K%.
THE BAT ranks Fenway Park as the fifth-worst stadium in Major League Baseball for strikeouts.
With six batters who bat from the other side in the opposing team's projected batting order, Javier meets a tough challenge while lacking the platoon advantage in most plate appearances in today's game.
Javier's fastball velocity has fallen 1.1 mph this season (92.1 mph) from where it was last season (93.2 mph).