A whopping 22 of the day's 32 scheduled starters check in with a projected Game Score of 50 or higher, with five more missing by one point. With so many talented pitchers on the ledger, it was a chore unearthing streaming options, as many candidates are rostered in just over half of ESPN leagues, the cutoff for inclusion.
Leagues with lineup locks at the first pitch of the first game, take heed. The Tigers and Royals have a day-night doubleheader on the docket, with the opener beginning at 1:10 p.m. ET.
Pitchers to stream
Drew Pomeranz (L), rostered in 44 percent of ESPN leagues, Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics: Pomeranz is set to make his 2018 debut after rehabbing from a left forearm flexor strain, diagnosed early in the spring. He's worth starting for the win potential but also lines up well against an Athletics squad with some swing-and-miss in their profile, albeit with some pop. Last season, while home run records were shattered, Pomeranz checked in with a stingy 0.98 HR/9.
Tyson Ross (R), 6 percent, San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks: The track record of those returning from thoracic outlet surgery is spotty, so be careful relying on Ross down the road. He's healthy now, exhibiting some of the skills displayed in his first stint with the Padres, namely good control and a significant ground ball lean. In part from the humidor, the Diamondbacks' offense is midpack. Ross will square off against Matt David Koch, summoned to take the rotation spot of Tommy John surgery-bound Taijuan Walker. Koch is probably just a placeholder until the Snakes decide what they want to do. In 45 innings with Triple-A Reno in 2017, Koch posted an unsightly 8.40 ERA and 1.70 WHIP. If Ross can get through five innings, he'll have a shot at a win.
Jhoulys Chacin (R), 4 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Miami Marlins: On more than one occasion, a pitcher has been recommended against the Marlins because it's the Marlins, implying they have a weak offense. While they do, it's curious to note they've scored at least six runs in six of their 16 contests. On the other hand, they've plated two or fewer in half their games. Chacin is still in play, just realize it's risky since he has done nothing on his own to warrant using, fanning just 11 with 10 walks in four outings, spanning 17 2/3 innings.
Andrew Heaney (L), rostered in 3 percent of ESPN leagues, Los Angeles Angels vs. San Francisco Giants: Entering Thursday's action, the Giants averaged the lowest runs per game in the league. However, most of their futility has come with a right-hander on the hill. Still, with a dearth of choices, Heaney is in play, coming off his 2018 debut, featuring seven punchouts with only one free pass in five stanzas on the road in Kansas City.
Pitchers to avoid
Noah Syndergaard (R), 99.4 percent, New York Mets at Atlanta Braves: Hold on, hear me out before trolling me in the comments. I'm not saying to bench Thor. All I want to do is warn this may not be a cakewalk. Granted, Freddie Freeman is a large part of the Braves success against right-handers, but they possess more weapons as well. Obviously, use Syndergaard, but don't be surprised if his performance isn't as dominant as usual.
Craig Counsel doesn't give a hoot about your fantasy team. It's one thing to let Josh Hader close out games with a two-inning save. However, trusting Jacob Barnes to do the same seems ... optimistic. Barnes came through with Matt Albers waiting in the event either sputtered. The fact Albers would have worked the ninth if needed suggests he's the closer, yet he didn't close either game. It's frustrating, but I'll handicap the pecking order as Hader, Barnes, Albers. Bottom line, I want Hader's arm, regardless of role.
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.
Christian Vazquez (R), 9 percent, Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics (RHP Kendall Graveman): Vazquez hits down in the order, but if there's any lineup where that's not a huge detriment, it's the Red Sox. Vazquez has great bat-to-ball skills and is facing a pitch-to-contact pitcher. Don't worry about lacking the platoon edge, as facing the lowest ranking arm trumps that.
Yuli Gurriel (R), 48 percent, Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox (RHP James Shields): Gurriel has been recommended often since his return. We're trying to spread the wealth, but it would be a disservice not to give him the nod in what lines up to be a high-scoring day for the Astros, regardless of who is on the mound. This start was originally ticketed for James Shields, but he was needed in relief Wednesday night, picking up the loss in the 14-inning affair. He may still get the call, or Lucas Giolito could be pushed up a day. For the season, Giolito has walked 12 with only 11 whiffs in 18 innings. This is an unsettling combo when facing one of the league's most prolific lineups. Gurriel's been hitting fourth or fifth, putting him right in the middle of things.
Adam Frazier (L), 3 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Ben Lively): Frazier's playing time will pick up with Josh Harrison on the disabled list. Not only is he taking over Harrison's position, he's hitting on top of one of the league's top offenses in the early going.
Jeimer Candelario (B), 6 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Jason Hammel): Using Candelario is chasing stats after Thursday afternoon's four-hit effort, including a homer. However, the Tigers and Royals play a pair, with Candelario a candidate to pull double-duty, first facing the hittable Hammel, then Jakob Junis.
J.P. Crawford (L), 6 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Ivan Nova): Crawford, along with teammate Nick Williams are in a good spot against Nova, who usually fares better at home in pitcher-friendly PNC Park.
Jedd Gyorko (R), 4 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds (LHP Brandon Finnegan): Gyorko is still shaking the rust off after a DL stint for a hamstring strain. With a lefty on the hill, Gyorko should man the hot corner. He's also a candidate to pick up some action at the keystone if Kolten Wong continues to struggle.
Carlos Asuaje (L), 1 percent, San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Matt David Koch): It's not often you actively search out a Padres hitter, but with Koch on the hill, it's worth the effort. Joining Asuaje is Franchy Cordero, Jose Pirela, Freddy Galvis and Cory Spangenberg. Yes, Koch is that bad.
Drew Robinson (L), 1 percent, Texas Rangers vs. Seattle Mariners (RHP Felix Hernandez): Robinson started strong then dipped a bit but has shown signs of life lately. Let's tag in Soppe to extol the virtues of Robinson, who Kyle points out will celebrate his 26th birthday on Friday. Soppe points out half of Robinson's hits last season were of the extra-base variety, while Hernandez hasn't been very kingly this season, with six of nine hits allowed to lefties this season going for extra bases.
Austin Jackson (R), 1 percent, San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Angels (LHP Andrew Heaney): The Giants may not be scoring runs, but hitting leadoff helps mitigate that a bit. For his career, Jackson has been productive with s southpaw toeing the rubber.
Juan Lagares (R), under 1 percent, New York Mets at Atlanta Braves (LHP Sean Newcomb): Hopefully, at some point, the Mets will let Michael Conforto play against left-handers, but at least for now, they're content rolling out Lagares to roam center against southpaws, perhaps because Lagares has opened the season hot, slashing .407/.452/.444 with a pair of steals.
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.