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What you need to know for Thursday’s MLB Games

By Mike Sheets

  • Nolan Gorman (rostered in 25% of ESPN leagues) tweaked his swing mechanics over the offseason, and the early results have been extremely positive, as the lefty slugger is currently hitting .321/.457/.714 through his first nine games with three homers and eight RBI. What’s most impressive is that the 22-year-old is making much better swing decisions. Small-sample caveats obviously apply, but his 32.9% strikeout rate from last year is down to 22.9%, his walk rate is up to 20% (8.9% last year), and his O-Swing% (the percentage of pitches he swings at outside the zone) has dropped to 16.4% after sitting at 30.6% in 2022. Against Vince Velasquez, who has surrendered a career .353 wOBA to lefty hitters, Gorman is a good bet to do some damage on Thursday.

  • Quality pitcher streamers are hard to come by on Thursday’s abbreviated seven-game slate, but Cole Irvin (4%) deserves a look based on his prime matchup against the Oakland A’s. While Irvin has struggled to start the season (9.35 ERA in two starts), he’s missing more bats than usual (9.4 K/9), and his .407 BABIP and 54.2% LOB% suggest he’s encountered some bad luck. Assuming he can regain the pinpoint control he’s shown over his big-league career (2.1 BB/9), Irvin should be able to fend off an Oakland lineup that currently ranks bottom-three in MLB with a 72 wRC+.

  • Despite winning their first 11 games, the Tampa Bay Rays had generated only one measly save opportunity. That save chance went to Pete Fairbanks (29%), who nailed down the team’s 1-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox with a 1-2-3 ninth on Monday. The Rays have used a closer-by-committee in the past, and that will likely be the case again in 2023, but Fairbanks (who did get his second save last night as the Rays improved to 12-0) has the best stuff in Tampa Bay’s bullpen and is a strong bet to lead the team in saves. Dating back to last season, the right-hander has been one of the best relievers in baseball when healthy, delivering a 1.00 ERA and 13.0 K/9 rate across his last 27 appearances prior to yesterday. Fairbanks needs to be rostered in more leagues.

  • Trevor Larnach (9%) has been one of 2023’s early-season surprises. Through 11 games, he’s batting .310/.420/.429 with a dinger and eight RBI. Not only is he playing every day (even against lefties) for the Minnesota Twins, but he’s consistently batting in the top third of the lineup versus right-handed pitching. Larnach, a former first-round pick, has long had intriguing power potential; he’s just had trouble staying on the field. The high strikeout rate (30.4%) remains a concern, but if he continues to hit and show a strong walk rate (16%), he should continue to play. On Thursday, he gets the platoon edge at Yankee Stadium, a venue that favors left-handed power.

  • Although the Philadelphia Phillies’ Bailey Falter holds a 2.61 ERA over his first two outings, he carries some risk in Thursday’s matchup against the Cincinnati Reds. The southpaw’s lack of velocity on his fastball (90.2 mph) leads to a lot of contact, and he’s had trouble keeping the ball in the yard the last two years, which is not a favorable combination at Great American Ballpark, the most homer-friendly park in baseball last season. The Reds figure to go with a righty-heavy lineup on Thursday with a left-hander on the hill, making Tyler Stephenson (63%), Jonathan India (60%), Wil Myers (10%), and Spencer Steer (3%) all viable streamers on a day when you likely have multiple lineup spots to fill.

Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday

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