One week after Opening Day, the Thursday schedule is in midseason form, with 10 clubs taking a seat. An April getaway might present the perfect opportunity to pick up a few risky streamers, some of which might have value for at least long stretches of the season, if not for the entirety of the 2018 campaign.
Pitchers to stream
Kyle Gibson (R), rostered in 13.1 percent of ESPN leagues, Minnesota Twins vs. Seattle Mariners: With six no-hit innings (albeit with five walks) on Saturday, Gibson started off 2018 reminding us of his form from the second half of 2017, when changes to his pitch mix and delivery propelled him to a 3.76 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 after the All-Star break. Though his absence didn't affect Seattle's offense on Tuesday, Nelson Cruz (ankle) is currently on the disabled list, which gives Gibson a boost in a tough duel with James Paxton. Even if this start goes awry, Gibson deserves a waiver-wire add.
Homer Bailey (R), 3.2 percent, Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates: In the recent past, fantasy managers have chased the solid results Bailey delivered Friday (one run allowed in six innings) when he took a tough-luck loss against the dangerous Nationals. Injuries have held him back, but he flashed his peak form, which could help many pitching-chasers in deeper leagues. The Pirates are off a to a hot start but are hardly a juggernaut, and streamers should continue targeting those in action at PNC Park. If nothing else, this is a chance to pick up a potentially helpful arm before the hype increases.
Nicholas Pivetta (R), 1.4 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Miami Marlins: This one's for the bold. Pivetta's 6.02 ERA in 2017 hid some promising peripherals, including a 9.5 K/9, but his rough four-inning effort on Friday didn't exactly indicate a move towards sustained positive regression. Despite their early success, the Marlins have posted a .290 wOBA in their first few days of action and remain a useful streaming target.
Pitchers to avoid
Jon Lester (L), 95.3 percent, Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers: Milwaukee's already strong order became even more robust with the additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain at the top. Lester looked sluggish in his season debut, and the fact he'll stare down the Brew Crew at their hitter-friendly digs should force Lester's investors to wait another start before feeling comfortable in starting him.
For leagues in which it pays to employ relief aces who don't see save opportunities -- like those with innings caps or thin waiver wires for starters -- the Cardinals' Jordan Hicks and the Mets' Seth Lugo both deserve your attention. Hicks, who has churned out 3.1 scoreless innings with 3 K's, might become the most GIF-worthy pitcher of the 2018 season, considering the breakneck dancing on his triple-digit fastball and wipeout slider. Meanwhile, Lugo worked two scoreless innings and struck out four batters on Tuesday, prominently featuring his Statcast-busting curveball that fooled Carlos Santana along with a collection of fastballs that could play in a more suffocating manner in relief. Of course, their skills could help patch any future injuries in either rotation, which makes them smart stashes, if not active ratio and strikeout boosters.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. The "*" symbol means the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Alex Avila (L), 6.1 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks at St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Adam Wainwright): Wainwright is making his 2018 debut after recovering from a sore hamstring incurred late in spring training. The veteran aims to resurrect his career after a couple of down seasons. Avila is expected to earn most of the playing time behind the plate for the Diamondbacks, but at least early on, Jeff Mathis and John Ryan Murphy have been worked into the catching rotation. Today is Avila's turn and all 14 of Avila's home runs during his resurgent 2017 effort came against right-handers. If Avila doesn't end up starting, there's always the Rockies' Chris Iannetta (35.2 percent), who is facing green left-hander Joey Lucchesi.
Chase Headley (B), 4.4 percent, San Diego Padres vs. Colorado Rockies (LHP Tyler Anderson): Anderson is an anomaly in terms of Rockies pitchers, having proven to be more effective at Coors Field than on the road. Plus, his .350 wOBA allowed to righty sticks should benefit Headley, who'll be playing in his second game back at his longtime home of Petco Park which, for all its pitcher-friendly lore, eases up a bit for righty bats.
Neil Walker (L), 7.5 percent, New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Andrew Cashner): The short porch in the Bronx should be calling Walker's name against Cashner, whose 3.40 ERA in 2017 might've been one of the luckiest in recent memory. The contact-inclined righty was pegged with a 5.26 FIP against lefty batters last year, which will play to Walker's platoon strengths.
Derek Dietrich (L), 7.4 percent, Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Nicholas Pivetta): It's wiser to use Dietrich against right-handers, against whom he's rattled off a .339 wOBA and .784 OPS. The veteran's solid 8-for-28 start (.286) shows what he can do with almost full playing time, and Citizens Bank Park elevates left-handed pop potential.
Marcus Semien (R), 28.6 percent, Oakland Athletics vs. Texas Rangers (LHP Martin Perez): Semien proved at the end of last year that his formerly broken wrist was healthy and could put him on his way toward 20-plus homers again. Facing Perez, who is returning from injury and is easily hittable even when healthy, could allow Semien to remind us of his ceiling once again.
Colin Moran (L), 3.8 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Homer Bailey): He'll soon gain third-base eligibility in many leagues as the Pirates are giving him a long leash to develop into something other than the light-hitting, glove-first prospect many thought he was several years ago. He'll also have the platoon advantage here.
Tim Beckham (R), 20 percent, Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees (RHP Masahiro Tanaka): Beckham's breakout 2017 campaign featured some favorable reverse splits, like his elite 40.3 hard-contact percentage against righties, as opposed to 35.8 against lefties. Left-handed hitters typically pester Tanaka more often, but if his sinker is off in what could be raw New York weather, Beckham -- a lineup fixture in most fantasy games -- should take advantage.
Nicky Delmonico (L), 2.1 percent, Chicago White Sox vs. Detroit Tigers (RHP Jordan Zimmermann): Delmonico performed admirably as a "plug-in piece" against righty pitchers last year, launching seven of his nine homers off them. In 2017, Zimmerman tied for the fifth-highest wOBA surrendered to lefty bats (.376).
Leonys Martin (L), 1.9 percent, Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox (RHP James Shields): Martin's 3-for-17 start to the season halted any momentum gained from his .316/.400/.544 spring training. However, he'll likely hit at the top of the order against Shields, who allowed four runs in six innings during his 2018 opener and yielded a whopping .388 wOBA to lefty bats last year.
Drew Robinson (L), 0.7 percent, Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics (RHP Daniel Mengden): Robinson has earned extra playing time with Delino DeShields (hand) on the disabled list. Half of Robinson's extra-base knocks against right-handers last season went for extra bases, and Mengden has surrendered a career .332 BABIP in the spacious terrain of Oakland Coliseum.
Hitter matchup ratings
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth) as well as 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 to 10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. 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.