As part of a new daily feature at MLB.com, we’ll be breaking down every matchup on the schedule to help give fantasy players an edge, whether it’s in daily contests or season-long leagues. The “Fantasy Daily Dish” will break down every starting pitcher on the slate, as well as all of the notable hitters in that particular game. We’ll dive into all the specifics of a given matchup looking for everything from batters who thrive against certain pitch types to hot/cold streaks to platoon splits — and everything in between.
Jacob deGrom seems to do something remarkable every time he takes the mound — even if the Mets can’t always get him the all-important (for fantasy purposes, at least) win.
That always makes it tough to leave him out of any lineups, but who are the other hurlers on Thursday’s slate that could be in line for a big night? And what hitters are either locked in or in a prime spot for a big game?
Let’s take a closer look at every matchup on the schedule:
Phillies (Eflin) at Mets (deGrom), 12:10 p.m. ET
Phillies SP: Zach Eflin, RHP
Key stat(s): Opponents were 4-for-40 vs. curveball last season
2020 stats: 4-2, 3.97 ERA, 28.6 K%
Breakdown: After an excellent season debut against the Braves (7 IP, 1 ER, 8 K), Eflin wasn’t quite as sharp in his second start against Atlanta six days later (6 IP, 4 ER, 2 K). The right-hander has also had his struggles against the Mets, posting a 5.21 ERA in 11 career starts against the rival. Eflin will deploy a five-pitch mix, led by his sinker (51.6% of pitches last season; 40.8% so far this season). That sinker has been responsible for seven of his 10 strikeouts on the young season, while he’s already allowed three hits off his curveball (3-for-7, including a home run) after holding opponents to 4-for-40 with zero homers and 20 K’s on his curve last season.
Michael Conforto: .333 career hitter with 33 home runs and a .623 SLG vs. sinkers; three career homers vs. Eflin (tied for most by any hitter vs. Eflin).
Jeff McNeil: Hitting .400 (52-for-130) with six homers and only 11 K’s vs. sinkers since 2019.
Pete Alonso: 99.1 mph average exit velocity (second-best among players with at least 10 batted balls).
Mets SP: Jacob deGrom, RHP
Key stat(s): 39.4 K% since start of last season (second in MLB)
2020 stats: 4-2, 2.38 ERA, 38.8 K%
Breakdown: deGrom won back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and ’19, and finished third in balloting in ’20 — and it’s possible he might be getting even better. After averaging a career-best 98.6 mph with his fastball last season, the pitch is sitting at 99.1 mph this year — and he’s using it a whopping 73.8% of the time. deGrom, who entered the season having thrown just 35 pitches of at least 100 mph in his career, has already thrown 23 above the century mark this year — that’s 13.4% of his total pitches. By the way, deGrom is 8-1 with a 2.38 ERA in 17 career starts against the Phils.
J.T. Realmuto: 4-for-25 (.160) with nine strikeouts lifetime vs. deGrom.
Bryce Harper: After going 7-for-15 (.467) vs. deGrom in 2015, Harper is 4-for-21 with 11 strikeouts against deGrom since; Harper is 0-for-5 with four K’s against pitches of at least 100 mph since 2016.
Rhys Hoskins: Turned around a 100.4 mph pitch from deGrom for a double that had a 103.8 mph exit velocity in first meeting this season.
Marlins (Rogers) at Braves (Anderson), 12:20 p.m. ET
Marlins SP: Trevor Rogers, LHP
Key stat(s): 32.4% career strikeout rate
2020 stats: 1-2, 6.11 ERA, 30 K%
Breakdown: Despite posting a 6.11 ERA in seven starts as a rookie last season, Rogers still flashed plenty of potential, putting up a 30% strikeout rate and 46.1% ground-ball rate. That upside has been on full display through two starts this season, with the southpaw racking up 16 strikeouts over just 10 innings (not to mention, 1.80 ERA). His whiff rate ranks among the best in the league at 46.8%, and opposing hitters are just 2-for-23 (.087) with 12 K’s — and a 51.1% whiff rate — against his fastball, which he’s thrown 59.1% of the time.
Ronald Acuña Jr.: Hitting .583 with nine extra-base hits (including four homers) and a 1.954 OPS during six-game hitting streak.
Marcell Ozuna: .860 career OPS with a 5.2 HR% vs. LHP (.783 OPS, 3.7 HR% vs. RHP).
Ozzie Albies: Hitting .195 (24-for-123) with five homers and 30 strikeouts against pitches 95 mph or faster since 2018 (Rogers’ fastball averages 95.5 mph)
Freddie Freeman: 1-for-13 (.077) vs. four-seam fastballs this season after hitting .471 (32-for-68) with seven homers and a .941 OPS — and only four strikeouts against the pitch — last season.
Braves SP: Ian Anderson, RHP
Key stat(s): Three home runs allowed in 10 1/3 IP (allowed one in 32 1/3 IP as a rookie last season)
2020 stats: 3-2, 1.95 ERA, 29.7 K%
Breakdown: The key to Anderson’s success as a rookie (1.95 ERA in six starts last season) was his ability to avoid giving up loud contact. He allowed only one barrel — and one home run — on 81 balls in play, while holding opponents to a 32.1 hard-hit percentage. Yet through only two starts this season, he’s already conceded three barrels (and three homers) on just 26 balls in play, while serving up a hard-hit ball (95 mph exit velocity or higher) on a whopping 50% of those.
Jon Berti: Went 4-for-8 vs. Anderson last season (rest of current Marlins are 4-for-30 vs. Anderson).
Jazz Chisholm: One of three players this season with at least one triple, multiple homers and stolen bases (Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr.)
Padres (Paddack) at Pirates (Keller), 12:35 p.m. ET
Padres SP: Chris Paddack, RHP
Key stat(s): .311 opponents’ BA vs. four-seamer since start of last season
2020 stats: 4-5, 4.73 ERA, 23.7 K%
Breakdown: Paddack has always been a fastball-changeup pitcher, and that fastball helped him to a breakout rookie season in 2019 when he went 9-7 with a 3.33 ERA over 26 starts. Opponents hit just .204 with a .392 slugging percentage against his four-seamer, which averaged 93.9 mph. In the two years since, however, opposing hitters have been ready for it. Though Paddack’s velocity has actually gone up a tick (94.2 mph), opponents are hitting .311 with a .636 slugging percentage against the pitch since the start of last season. Through two starts, Paddack has thrown that fastball on 60.6% of his pitches, while tossing his changeup 36.9% of the time. His other four pitches have been curveballs.
Bryan Reynolds: Hitting .300 with five home runs and a .586 SLG vs. four-seamers since start of last season.
Gregory Polanco: Hit first home run of the season Wednesday — and it came off a four-seamer; even with the homer, however, he’s hitting just .149 with two home runs and 32 strikeouts vs. four-seamers since start of last season.
Pirates SP: Mitch Keller, RHP
Key stat(s): .180 opponents’ BA vs. four-seamer since start of last season
2020 stats: 1-1, 2.91 ERA, 18.4 K%
Breakdown: In the exact opposite of Paddack, Keller’s four-seamer has become a go-to pitch over the last two years after being one of the most hittable pitches in the Majors in 2019. Opponents hit .461 (41-for-89) with a .719 slugging percentage against Keller’s four-seamer in ’19, but they’re just 9-for-50 (.180) with a .360 SLG over the last two seasons. Shockingly, Keller’s average velocity has actually dropped a tick and the average exit velocity against his fastball has gone up approximately 5 mph, but a lot of that ’19 disaster can be chalked up to bad luck, as the xSLG against the pitch was .460 — more than 250 points lower than the actual SLG.
Manny Machado: 97.0 mph average exit velocity (third-best in MLB behind Aaron Judge and Corey Seager).
Wil Myers: Missed Wednesday’s game due to patellar tendinitis in his right knee, but could return Thursday; he’s reached base safely in all 12 games he’s played this season.
Mariners (Dunn) at Orioles (Harvey), 12:35 p.m. ET
Mariners SP: Justin Dunn, RHP
Key stat(s): Eight walks in 2021 debut
2020 stats: 4-1, 4.34 ERA, 19.2 K%
Breakdown: Dunn allowed only one hit over 4 2/3 innings in his first start of the season — of course, he also walked eight batters en route to allowing three runs. Dunn’s four-seam fastball was averaging 94.0 mph, a sizable increase from his 91.2 mph average last season. That could be a great sign for a pitcher who throws that fastball more than 50% of the time while mixing in a slider and curveball, though he’ll obviously need to find a way to control it. The positive is he allowed an average exit velocity of just 84.5 mph on the 11 balls the White Sox put in play.
Cedric Mullins: Has at least one hit in every game this season (leads MLB with 19 hits).
Orioles SP: Matt Harvey, RHP
Key stat(s): 90.5 mph average exit velocity since 2018 (second-highest among active pitchers)
2020 stats: 0-3, 11.57 ERA, 15.4 K%
Breakdown: Harvey has allowed plenty of hard contact over the last few seasons, as evidenced by his 90.5 mph average exit velocity since 2018 (only Daniel Norris has a higher mark among active pitchers). The good news for Harvey is that he’s allowed just one home run and issued only two walks through two starts this season — as those two areas have been trouble spots for him in recent years. That said, opponents are still averaging a 91.7 mph exit velocity against the veteran right-hander, so the power numbers may not be far behind.
Kyle Seager: 10-for-21 (.476) with two homers and 10 RBIs over last six games.
Mitch Haniger: Has reached base safely in all 11 games this season.
Mariners (Gonzales) at Orioles (Zimmermann), Game 2
Mariners SP: Marco Gonzales, LHP
Key stat(s): Seven barrels allowed in 2021 (most by any pitcher)
2020 stats: 7-2, 3.10 ERA, 23.1 K%
Breakdown: No pitcher pounds the strike zone quite like Gonzales, who poured in strikes on an MLB-leading 69.2% of his pitches in 2020 — but he’s been paying the price in ’21. Hitters have had Gonzales’ number through two games, racking up 17 hits (including five home runs) in just 10 1/3 innings. He’s allowing an average exit velocity of 92.3 mph and he’s conceded an MLB-high seven barrels on 38 batted balls — a rate of 18.4%.
Orioles SP: Bruce Zimmermann, LHP
Key stat(s): Has thrown strikes on 73% of pitches
2020 stats: 0-0, 7.71 ERA, 22.6 K%
Breakdown: Zimmermann has attacked hitters early, throwing first-pitch strikes to 35 of the 47 (74.5%) batters he’s faced — and pumping in strikes on 73% of his pitches overall. That’s allowed him to complete six innings in each of his first two outings — both against the Red Sox — while averaging just 79 pitches per start. He relies largely on his fastball-changeup combo, though he’s worked in a curveball on 19% of his pitches this season — a pitch he threw just twice all of last year.
Red Sox (Richards) at Twins (Pineda), 1:10 p.m. ET
Red Sox SP: Garrett Richards, RHP
Key stat(s): 5.84 xERA this season (10.29 actual ERA)
2020 stats: 2-2, 4.03 ERA, 21.6 K%
Breakdown: Richards fared much better in his second start this season (two runs over five innings) than he did in his Red Sox debut, when he was tagged for six runs off seven hits and two walks over just two innings of work. That said, he hasn’t been quite as shaky as his 10.29 ERA might suggest. After all, he has an xERA of just 5.84 — still not great, but a significant improvement from 10.29. He’s turned to a three-pitch mix this season, essentially scrapping his sinker to work primarily with his four-seamer and slider, while working in the occasional curveball.
Byron Buxton: Sat both games of Wednesday’s doubleheader due to sore hamstring (check status before game); hitting .469 with a 1.622 OPS this season
Nelson Cruz: Hitting .433 with four home runs and a 1.386 OPS during eight-game hitting streak.
Josh Donaldson: Returned to lineup Wednesday after being sidelined with right hamstring injury sustained on Opening Day; including Spring Training, 11 of the 22 balls he’s put in play this year have been hard-hit balls (95 mph exit velocity or higher).
Twins SP: Michael Pineda, RHP
Key stat(s): .119 opponents’ BA vs. slider last season
2020 stats: 2-0, 3.38 ERA, 22.5 K%
Breakdown: Pineda’s slider was one of the most devastating pitches in the Majors last season, with opposing hitters going 5-for-42 (.119) with zero extra-base hits and 17 strikeouts against the offering. His slider also induced a 46.2% whiff rate. That was key, considering opponents hit .381 against his fastball. Pineda’s slider has been slightly more vulnerable in the early-going, as opponents already have three hits — including a homer and a double — against it, while whiffing just 24.1% of the time. While his fastball has fared better on the surface (.174 opponents’ BA), it’s actually down a tick velocity-wise and is being hit more than 2 mph harder on average — so getting that slider back up to an elite level will be pivotal to sustaining his early success.
J.D. Martinez: 0-for-9 with three walks and three strikeouts since three-homer game on Sunday.
Xander Bogaerts: Hitting .371 with 24 homers and a .703 slugging percentage vs. four-seamers since 2019.
Rafael Devers: Five homers and 12 RBIs in last six games (hitting .417 with a 1.583 OPS in that stretch).
Alex Verdugo: Has reached base in eight straight games (hitting .364 with six extra-base hits and eight RBIs during that span).
Indians (Civale) at White Sox (Lynn), 2:10 p.m. ET
Indians SP: Aaron Civale, RHP
Key stat(s): 28.7% four-seam fastball usage this season (2.5% in 2020)
2020 stats: 4-6, 4.74 ERA, 22.1 K%
Breakdown: Despite having plenty of success for his first two seasons in the big leagues, Civale overhauled nearly everything about his approach this offseason. Armed with a new delivery and a new pitch mix, he’s allowed only five hits over 14 2/3 innings while going 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA. The four-seam fastball — a pitch he used sparingly last year — has become his most-used pitch, while he’s turned his changeup into a split-changeup — a pitch that opponents are just 1-for-10 against. The four-seamer has been working also, with batters going just 2-for-14, though both hits were home runs.
Notable White Sox hitters
José Abreu: 2-for-12 (.167) in his career vs. Civale.
Yermín Mercedes: .500 (19-for-38) with three homers and a 1.363 OPS through 10 games.
White Sox SP: Lance Lynn, RHP
Key stat(s): 123 swings and misses with four-seam fastball since 2020 (second-most in MLB)
2020 stats: 6-3, 3.32 ERA, 25.9 K%
Breakdown: Though it sits “only” in the mid-90s, Lynn has one of the best four-seam fastballs in the Majors. Opponents hit just .211 against the pitch last season, and they’re 4-for-26 (.154) with 10 strikeouts and a 35.1% whiff rate vs. Lynn’s four-seamer this year. Only deGrom — and his 99 mph heater — has gotten more swings and misses against his four-seamer since the start of the 2020 campaign. Of course, Lynn also has a successful cutter and sinker, and that’s been pretty much all he’s thrown in ’21 (he’s mixed in just three curveballs and two changeups).
José Ramírez: 0-for-17 with five strikeouts over last four games (9-for-24 with two homers and two K’s in first six games).
Roberto Pérez: 0-for-8 with six strikeouts vs. Lynn.
D-backs (Kelly) at Nationals (Corbin), 7:05 p.m. ET
D-backs SP: Merrill Kelly, RHP
Key stat(s): .595 opponents’ slugging percentage
2020 stats: 3-2, 2.59 ERA, 23.2 K%
Breakdown: Kelly has allowed a .595 opponents’ slugging percentage this season — and he might be fortunate it’s not even higher. His xSLG is .681, with opposing batters connecting for a 44.7 hard-hit percentage and 10.5 barrel percentage against the right-hander.
Notable Nationals hitters
Juan Soto: 96.0 mph average exit velocity (seventh in MLB among players with at least 20 batted balls); has been caught stealing twice this season, matching his total from all of 2020 (he’s never been caught more than twice in a single season).
Trea Turner: .883 OPS at home since start of 2020 (1.022 OPS on road).
Nationals SP: Patrick Corbin, LHP
Key stat(s): Opponents went 4-for-5 vs. sinker in 2021 debut (hit .376 vs. pitch last season)
2020 stats: 2-7, 4.66 ERA, 20.3 K%
Breakdown: After receiving a share of National League Cy Young Award votes in 2018 and ’19, Corbin stumbled a bit in ’20, finishing with a 4.66 ERA after allowing a Major League-high 85 hits. A big reason for that was opponents jumping all over his fastballs. They hit .429 against his four-seamer and .376 against his sinker. He still had his slider working (.198 opponents’ BA, 38.1% whiff rate), but it wasn’t enough to offset the damage done against his hard stuff. It was more of the same in his ’21 debut, with four of the six hits he allowed coming against his sinker, with three going for extra bases (two doubles, one homer). Fixing his fastball will be key for Corbin moving forward.
David Peralta: .673 career OPS vs. left-handers (.864 OPS vs. RHP).
Rangers (Lyles) at Rays (Hill), 7:10 p.m. ET
Rangers SP: Jordan Lyles, RHP
Key stat(s): Allowing 94.0 mph average exit velocity (third-highest among pitchers with at least 30 batted balls)
2020 stats: 1-6, 7.02 ERA, 13.5 K%
Breakdown: Lyles struck out eight while allowing just two runs over 5 2/3 innings in his season debut before scuffling a bit his last time out (4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 K), but one thing has been consistent about both starts — he’s allowing some hard contact. Lyles’ 94.0 mph average exit velocity allowed is the third-highest in the Majors — and 16 of the 30 batted balls he’s allowed have qualified as hard-hit balls (exit velocity of at least 95 mph). Since the start of last season, opposing batters are hitting .347 with 11 homers and a .677 SLG against Lyles’ four-seamer.
Randy Arozarena: 19-for-48 (.396) with nine home runs and an 1.000 slugging percentage vs. four-seam fastballs since start of last season (including postseason).
Rays SP: Rich Hill, LHP
Key stat(s): 70% first-pitch strikes this season
2020 stats: 2-2, 3.03 ERA, 19.9 K%
Breakdown: The 41-year-old southpaw is still working with essentially a two-pitch mix, throwing his four-seamer 47.7% of the time and his curveball 40.5% this season. He’ll sprinkle in a cutter, slider or sinker here and there, but it’s mostly going to be those two offerings. Hill is also attacking hitters early and often this year, throwing first-pitch strikes to 70% of the batters he’s faced, and throwing 63% of his overall pitches in the strike zone. That’s well above the league average of 48.4%, and he hasn’t had a total higher than 55.5% in the last five years.
Joey Gallo: Has an identical .825 OPS against right-handed and left-handed pitchers; his home run rate is actually slightly higher against southpaws (7.2%) than it is against righties (6.4%).
Blue Jays (TBD) at Royals (Junis), 8:10 p.m. ET
Royals SP: Jakob Junis, RHP
Key stat(s): 36.0 K% and 57.1% ground-ball rate this season
2020 stats: 0-2, 6.39 ERA, 16.7 K%
Breakdown: After a pair of scoreless relief outings (one inning apiece), Junis moved into the rotation on April 7 and promptly tossed five innings of one-hit ball against Cleveland. Junis, who has a 4.71 career ERA and 20.9 K%, has racked up a 36% strikeout rate through seven innings this year. Given the career numbers, that seems unlikely to continue, and the contact he is allowing (92.9 mph average exit velocity) has actually been harder than his career average (89.4 mph).
Notable Blue Jays hitters
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: 12-for-26 (.462) with seven RBIs and a 1.216 OPS during seven-game hitting streak; 99.5 mph average exit velocity on line drives/fly balls(10th-best in MLB).
Bo Bichette: 16.2 barrel percentage (ninth in AL).
Tigers (Skubal) at Athletics (Manaea), 9:40 p.m. ET
Tigers SP: Tarik Skubal, LHP
Key stat(s): Zero changeups in 2021
2020 stats: 1-4, 5.62 ERA, 27.6 K%
Breakdown: Looking for a new offspeed pitch to complement his four-seam fastball, which he threw 58.9% of the time last season, Skubal developed a splitter this offseason — and it’s completely replaced his changeup to this point. The changeup was his second-most-used pitch last year, accounting for a .231 opponents’ batting average and 32.1% whiff rate — but it also resulted in a pair of home runs and hitters had an 89.7 mph average exit velocity against it. Skubal is throwing his splitter only 9.3% of the time thus far — instead relying more on his slider (29.0% this season compared to 15.7% last season) — but the development of that pitch could dictate his success moving forward.
Matt Olson: .734 career OPS vs. LHP (.878 vs. RHP).
Matt Chapman: Has reverse splits in his career, posting a higher slugging percentage (.508) and OPS (.840) against right-handers than left-handers (.475 SLG, .813 OPS).
Ramón Laureano: Eight stolen bases this season (twice as many as any other player).
A’s SP: Sean Manaea, LHP
Key stat(s): Throwing sinker on 56.6% of pitches this season
2020 stats: 4-3, 4.5 ERA, 20.3 K%
Breakdown: Manaea has always relied heavily on his sinker, and this year has been no different. He’s throwing it 56.6% of the time, though he’s already allowed a pair of homers off the pitch this year (on just 22 balls in play) after serving up only three homers on the 96 sinkers that were put in play last season. The rest of the numbers are pretty similar to last year, however, with the average velocity (92.0 mph) actually up from last season (90.4 mph).
Akil Baddoo: Has homered in four of his eight starts this season; hitting .461 with a 1.342 OPS.
Wilson Ramos: 100.2 mph average exit velocity (best among players with at least 20 batted balls).
Rockies (Gomber) at Dodgers (Urías), 10:10 p.m. ET
Rockies SP: Austin Gomber, LHP
Key stat(s): 11 walks in 9 1/3 innings
2020 stats: 1-1, 1.86 ERA, 22.7 K%
Breakdown: Gomber has allowed only two hits through two starts — but he’s been done in by free passes. The left-hander, who had a 10.4 career walk percentage entering this season, has once again dealt with control problems, walking 11 of the 40 batters he’s faced — or a whopping 27.5%. He walked seven Dodgers over just three innings in his April 4 start, though he managed to limit the damage to three runs (one earned). He may not be as fortunate against Los Angeles’ potent lineup if he once again puts that many runners on base.
Dodgers SP: Julio Urías, LHP
Key stat(s): 26.3 hard-hit percentage since 2019 (second-best in MLB)
2020 stats: 3-0, 3.27 ERA, 20.1 K%
Breakdown: Urías allowed just one run over seven dominant innings in his April 4 season debut against this Rockies team, then followed it up with another solid, albeit less impressive, performance against the Nationals. Still, the southpaw has allowed a hard-hit percentage of just 25%, continuing his trend of limiting hard contact. He ranked among the league leaders in that category in both 2019 (24.9%) and ’20 (28.6%). The most encouraging sign, however, is that hitters are 0-for-17 with six strikeouts against his changeup — the one pitch that gave Urías problems (.316 opponents’ BA) last season.