As usual, Thursday brings us another abbreviated slate. Eleven games are on the docket, with four afternoon games and seven evening tilts. Although Madison Bumgarner and Yu Darvish provide some ace power for the day, the schedule also features plenty of mid- and low-level hurlers that can be exploited, so scoring runs shouldn't be a problem for most squads on Thursday.
Looking for a spot starter on Thursday? Here's a list of potential options still available in more than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Robert Gsellman (New York Mets at Miami Marlins, 23 percent owned): Gsellman continues to be underowned. Although he allowed too much hard contact in his first start against the Marlins, he still fanned seven in five innings. In start No. 2, the right-hander draws those same Marlins, a team that's striking out at a 24 percent clip versus righties. Better yet, this tilt is taking place at Marlins Park, which greatly suppresses offense.
Eduardo Rodriguez (Boston Red Sox vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 33 percent owned): Rodriguez's first start of the season against Detroit didn't go that smoothly, but he finds himself in a more favorable spot on Thursday, facing a Pirates team that has struggled to get anything going offensively so far. The left-hander's control issues make him a ratio risk, but his strikeout upside helps offset that, particularly for those who play in points leagues. The Bucs currently sport a 33 percent whiff rate versus southpaws.
Wei-Yin Chen (Miami Marlins vs. New York Mets, 4 percent owned): Chen tossed six innings of one-run ball against the Mets his last time out, and he draws the same matchup in his second start, only this time he's at Marlins Park, an even more pitcher-friendly venue than Citi Field. Through the first week or so of games, the Mets have the worst offense in baseball (65 wRC+), so now is the time to take advantage.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs, 11 percent owned): A matchup against the Cubs is no picnic. Then again, Ryu handled himself well in Coors Field his last time out and holds the platoon advantage over some of the Cubs' most dangerous sluggers. After a strong spring, Ryu is looking healthy for the first time in years. It wouldn't be a surprise to see his ownership percentage shoot up in the coming weeks.
It's probably unrealistic to expect Bronson Arroyo to go deep in Thursday's affair with Milwaukee, meaning the Reds' bullpen should be heavily involved. Closer Raisel Iglesias is still available in nearly 20 percent of ESPN leagues, and Michael Lorenzen, who leads the team in holds, could factor in against a Brewers team that's striking out 32 percent of the time in the early going.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Here's a position-by-position look at hitters in favorable spots with less than 50 percent ownership.
Geovany Soto, Chicago White Sox (44 percent): Soto has been on a tear to start the year, clubbing three homers in his first five games, and he squares off against Josh Tomlin, who has displayed drastic reserve splits over the last few seasons. From 2014-16, right-handed batters have posted a .293/.322/.523 slash line against the Cleveland righty (left-handed hitters have posted a .222/.2239/.412 slash line).
Mitch Moreland, Boston Red Sox (14 percent): Moreland gets a favorable matchup against Chad Kuhl, who struggled against left-handed hitters in 2016 and couldn't find the plate in this first start of the year (six walks in five innings). Meanwhile, 85 percent of Moreland's career homers have come off righties.
Neil Walker, New York Mets (50 percent): Although we like Wei-Yin Chen as a potential streaming option, Walker is still one of the best bets among second basemen that are still widely available in ESPN leagues. He may be off to a slow start, but he has great power from the keystone and smashed lefties last year to the tune of a .330/.391/.476 slash line.
Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers (44 percent): Locked in as the Brewers' cleanup hitter, Shaw trades in one great park for left-handed power (Miller Park) for another (Great American Ballpark). The Milwaukee third baseman gets one of the tastiest draws of the day with a matchup against Bronson Arroyo, who struggles against lefty hitters and was hammered in his first outing, his first since 2014.
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox (28 percent): We noted Josh Tomlin's reverse splits above, and Anderson is another beneficiary of that. Batting second in the Chicago lineup, the 23-year-old is a nice plug-and-play option who owns a nice power/speed combination.
Corey Dickerson, Tampa Bay Rays (33 percent): Dickerson finds himself in a highly appealing spot against inconsistent right-hander Luis Severino. In addition to batting leadoff for the Rays against righties, Dickerson gets a huge park boost going to Yankee Stadium, one of the best parks in baseball for lefty power.
Keon Broxton, Milwaukee Brewers (46 percent): We're doubling up on Brewers hitters today. Broxton is off to a slow start, but a matchup against Arroyo may be just what the younger outfielder needs to get going. Great American Ballpark is very generous to right-handed sluggers, and Broxton can add value on the basepaths, too.
Scott Schebler, Cincinnati Reds (2 percent): Schebler gets a favorable matchup against Jimmy Nelson, who has seen his HR/FB increase each of the last three seasons and struggles against left-handed bats. Not only that, but Schebler really thrives at Great American Ballpark, where he posted a .326/.386/.504 slash line last year (compared to .208/.275/.362 on the road).
Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth, as well as past 21 days) and ballpark factors. "LH" and "RH" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent.