For those in the streaming business, Thursday slates can sometimes get pretty ugly. Unfortunately, that's the case again this Thursday, with only eight games on the schedule. The fact of the matter is that there just aren't that many quality options available on the pitching side, especially if you're risk-averse. Alas, we must soldier on.
Here's a look at the day's top streaming options, focusing on players still available in over 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Chris Stratton (R), rostered in 3 percent of ESPN leagues, San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres: Stratton's first two outings this season have been far from noteworthy (4.35 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9). That said, he produced a 2.59 ERA with an 8.7 K/9 in 48 2/3 innings after the All-Star break last season, and Thursday's tilt against San Diego presents a promising matchup. The Padres have been middle-of-the-road against righties this year and are whiffing 26 percent of the time. While walks have been a problem for Stratton in the past, the issue is lessened against the Padres, who rank bottom-five in walk rate since the beginning of last season.
Ian Kennedy (R), 24 percent, Kansas City Royals vs. Los Angeles Angels: Kennedy is off to a splendid start, as he's surrendered just one run across 12 innings with 13 whiffs. This is following an impressive spring in which he posted a 2.50 ERA and 23 K's in 18 frames. Some regression is certainly coming, but he remains one of the day's better streaming options. Kauffman Stadium is a great venue for pitchers, and while the Angels have a strong offense, the fact that it's so right-handed heavy is a positive for Kennedy.
The trouble with short slates is that, if you're streaming starters, the pickings can be slim. On Thursday, the pickings are very slim. It's difficult to give a full recommendation to anyone aside from the two names mentioned above. Having said that, here are a few additional names that might be on your radar.
After a pair of uninspiring outings to open the season, I'd like to take a wait-and-see approach with Lucas Giolito. The former first-round pick still has intriguing long-term potential, but his velocity is down a tick from last year and the Twins own a top-five wOBA (.332) versus right-handed pitching this season.
Chad Bettis owns a 2.53 ERA over his first two starts, but his 4.90 FIP and 5.02 xFIP tell another story. The fact that his 5.1 BB/9 nearly matches his 5.9 K/9 isn't a good sign, either. I'm not taking a chance here against a strong Washington lineup.
You might see Trevor Williams' 1.59 ERA and be intrigued. However, like Bettis, the indicators suggest he hasn't earned it. Over 11 1/3 innings, Williams has walked more than he's struck out, and his 5.12 xFIP is a far cry from that 1.59 ERA. The Cubs offense has yet to really get going, but this is a matchup that's still riddled with risk.
Pitcher to avoid
Rick Porcello (R), 79 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees: Porcello is off to a nice start after a disappointing 2017 campaign. Of course, let's keep in mind that both of his outings this season have come against the Rays, who feature one of the least dangerous lineups in baseball. The Yankees, on the other hand, feature a lineup that could very well be the most dangerous. The Bronx Bombers ranked second in baseball last season with a .339 wOBA versus right-handed pitching, and that was without Giancarlo Stanton. I wouldn't say Porcello is a complete "stay away" here, but there's certainly a decent amount of risk.
The Brewers' bullpen remains a work in progress following Corey Knebel's hamstring injury. Since Knebel went down, Jacob Barnes, Matt Albers and J.J. Hoover have all blown saves. It's tough to know who Brewers manager Craig Counsell will look to next in the ninth inning. It's possible that Barnes or Albers get another crack at it, but Jeremy Jeffress is another name to keep in mind. His strikeout rate has dwindled in recent seasons, but he owns a 1.29 ERA in seven appearances this year and notched 27 saves back in 2016.
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.
Chris Iannetta (R), 49 percent, Colorado Rockies at Washington Nationals (LHP Gio Gonzalez): Iannetta's ownership is skyrocketing, so this is likely the last time he'll be eligible to be featured here. He figures to go out on a high note, though. He batted .300/.404/.511 against left-handed pitching in 2017, and 53 of the 58 homers Gonzalez has allowed since 2014 have come against right-handed bats. While Gonzalez owns a 1.59 ERA through two starts this season, the fact that he's given up so much hard contact (35.5 percent) could be a sign of things to come.
Brandon Belt (L), 18 percent, San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres (RHP Bryan Mitchell): Belt draws the platoon advantage against Mitchell, who has allowed a .353 wOBA to left-handed batters in his career. Seventy-three percent of Belt's career home run have come against righties. Petco Park isn't favorable for power, but it's actually an improvement over AT&T Park.
Tyler Wade (L), 1 percent, New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox (RHP Rick Porcello): Porcello is off to a nice start this year, but if there's a way to attack him, it's with left-handed batters. He's allowed a career .340 wOBA to left-handed batters, including a .360 wOBA in 2017. Wade has done little at the plate this season, but this looks like a good spot for him to get going. He produced a .310/.382/.460 slash line at Triple-A last season.
Eduardo Escobar (B), 12 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Lucas Giolito): Escobar has been a pleasant surprise for the Twins while filling in for the suspended Jorge Polanco, batting .375/.360/.708 in the early going. On Thursday, the switch-hitter finds himself in a nice spot against Giolito, who has allowed a .313/.476/.438 slash line to lefty batters so far this season.
Brandon Crawford (L), 18 percent, San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres (RHP Bryan Mitchell): Like Belt, Crawford gets the platoon advantage against Mitchell, one of the day's weaker starters. The sample size is small, but the right-hander has struck out just one batter this season while walking nine. This is a hurler you want some exposure against right now.
Joe Mauer (L), 17 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Lucas Giolito): Despite his low ownership, Mauer is batting .375/.500/.542 this season, with twice as many walks as strikeouts. His lack of power hampers his value in roto formats, but those in points leagues who benefit from the doubles and walks should take a look at Mauer, who gets a favorable matchup against Giolito.
Kolten Wong (L), 5 percent, St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Sal Romano): Wong is off to a slow start, but he finds himself in an enticing spot on Thursday against Romano. The right-hander has surrendered a .342 wOBA to left-handed batters in his young career, and Wong is coming off a 2017 season in which he slashed .288/.380/.431 versus right-handed pitching. The Cardinals second baseman also gets a nice park boost going to Great American Ballpark.
Nicky Delmonico (L), 2 percent, Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins (RHP Jose Berrios): Berrios may be one of the more talented pitchers on the slate, but this still has the makings of a potentially nice spot for Delmonico. Not only does Delmonico sport a .218 ISO versus righties in the early going, but he's shown a more aggressive approach, which matches him up well against Berrios, who allowed a .402/.412/.610 slash line on the first pitch last season.
Howie Kendrick (R), 5 percent, Washington Nationals vs. Colorado Rockies (RHP Chad Bettis): This game isn't at Coors Field, but it doesn't matter. Bettis is still one of the hurlers you want to attack. He's actually pitched worse on the road the last three years (4.82 road ERA vs. 4.46 home ERA). He's also shown reverse splits (.295/.342/.497), which suits Kendrick just fine, as the veteran is a career .290 hitter versus right-handed pitching.
Adam Frazier (L), 3 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs (RHP Kyle Hendricks): The lefty-swinging Frazier makes for an intriguing play when a righty is on the mound. Of his 43 career extra-base hits, 42 have come against righties. He also frequently finds himself batting at the top of the order when he's in the lineup. Hendricks is a quality hurler, but he allowed a 34.1 percent hard-contact rate to lefty hitters last season and has been hit hard by lefties so far in 2018 (.521 wOBA).
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.