While the Thursday slate can sometimes be frustrating because of the shortened schedule, it's also arguably the most important slate of the week. With so many teams enjoying an off day, most fantasy lineups will have multiple openings that can be used for streamers. So while the pickings may be slim, don't bypass the opportunity to maximize your lineup's potential. Sure, it can take a lot of work. Then again, nobody said this streaming thing was going to be easy.
Here's a look at the day's most interesting streaming options, focusing on players rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Mike Foltynewicz (R), rostered in 47 percent of ESPN leagues, Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins: It probably goes without saying, but Thursday's matchup against Miami sets up very nicely for Foltynewicz. Not only do the Marlins rank dead last in baseball with a .265 wOBA versus right-handed pitching, but they also rank 29th in hard-hit rate and sport a 24 percent strikeout rate against righties. This is a high-upside matchup for Folty, who sports a 10.5 K/9 over seven starts and has allowed more than two earned runs just once this season.
Caleb Smith (L), 29 percent, Miami Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves: Opposing Foltynewicz is Smith, who's been nothing short of brilliant over his last few starts. The left-hander's last three outings have seen him surrender just two runs over 18 2/3 innings with 26 strikeouts, while allowing just seven hits. While the 4.5 BB/9 rate is higher than you'd like, he's showing improvement, as he's maxed out at one free pass in four of his last five starts. The Braves present a dangerous matchup, but it's not enough to scare me away. Smith is a guy I'd be looking to invest in right now.
Vince Velasquez (R), 7 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Francisco Giants: Velasquez has been "boom or bust" this season, but Thursday's matchup against San Francisco looks like a "boom" spot. After all, the Giants rank in MLB's bottom 10 in both runs and slugging percentage, while sporting a 24 percent whiff rate that ranks 10th-highest in the game. This creates some nice strikeout upside for Velasquez and his 9.8 K/9 rate. The right-hander has also held righty batters in check this season (.196 BA and .268 SLG), which gives him a leg up on the core of the Giants lineup that features righty swingers Buster Posey, Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen.
Ian Kennedy (R), 17 percent, Kansas City Royals at Baltimore Orioles: Kennedy has seemingly rebounded nicely from his disastrous 2017 (5.38 ERA). Through seven starts, he sports a 2.92 ERA and a solid 3.2 K/BB. He's not pitching quite as well as those numbers suggest, but he's making it work for the time being. While I'd still be hesitant to invest too heavily in Kennedy for the long term, the matchup here is close to ideal. The Orioles have been the worst team in the American League against right-handed pitching this season, with a 69 wRC+ and a bloated 25.9 percent strikeout rate.
Milwaukee closer Corey Knebel is nearing his return. After missing more than a month with a hamstring injury, the hard-throwing right-hander is set to rejoin the Brewers on Wednesday. It remains to be seen whether he'll immediately jump back into the closer role, but he should reclaim the job soon enough, with Josh Hader shifting back into a multi-inning relief role. Available in nearly 30 percent of ESPN leagues, Knebel was drafted as a top-five closer this season after saving 39 games with a 14.9 K/9 in 2017. He should be rostered in all leagues.
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.
Tony Wolters (L), under 1 percent, Colorado Rockies vs. Milwaukee Brewers (RHP Jhoulys Chacin): Like many hitters, Wolters becomes much more interesting at Coors Field, where he's a .304/.379/.432 career hitter. He's also more effective against righties, as 28 of his 30 career extra-base hits have come against right-handed pitching. The Rockies backstop matches up well with Chacin, who has allowed a .333/.446/.522 slash line to lefty batters this season -- with 12 walks, compared to only three strikeouts.
Pedro Alvarez (L), 3 percent, Baltimore Orioles vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Ian Kennedy): Say what you will about Alvarez and the holes in his game, but the guy brings plenty of power against right-handed pitching. The lefty-swinging slugger produced a .243 ISO against righties from 2015-2017. This year, that mark has jumped to .270. Kennedy, meanwhile, is a fly ball pitcher who has surrendered a .231 ISO to lefties over the last three years.
Kolten Wong (L), 3 percent, St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres (RHP Jordan Lyles): Lyles has pitched reasonably well out of the bullpen this season, but let's not forget this is a guy with a career 5.32 ERA in 588 innings as a starter. He's been particularly vulnerable against lefties, who have produced a .366 wOBA against him. Wong should get his licks in here.
Ryon Healy (R), 25 percent, Seattle Mariners at Toronto Blue Jays (LHP J.A. Happ): Healy is starting to get on a roll. Over the last week, he's batting .370 (10-for-27) with four homers and nine RBI. More importantly, he's a career .304/.332/.525 hitter against left-handed pitching and will get a nice park boost going to the Rogers Centre. While Happ has hushed lefty batters this season (.140 wOBA), right-handed hitters have had much more success (.341 wOBA) against him.
Scott Kingery (R), 37 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Francisco Giants (LHP Ty Blach): After opening the season as one of the game's most-hyped prospects, Kingery hasn't quite met expectations. That said, this is still a young and exciting player who brings a nice power/speed combo to the table against a soft-tossing lefty with mediocre stuff. Don't lose patience here.
Jesus Aguilar (R), 3 percent, Milwaukee Brewers at Colorado Rockies (RHP German Marquez): This is a great spot for Aguilar if he's in the lineup. He's batting .326/.353/.478 against right-handed pitching this season with a .250 ISO. Then, of course, there's the Coors Field factor. Marquez, meanwhile, has shown reverse splits in his career, allowing a .362 wOBA to righty batters, compare to "just" a .325 wOBA when facing lefties.
Lourdes Gurriel (R), 3 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Seattle Mariners (RHP Mike Leake): Gurriel is in line for everyday playing time with Aledmys Diaz on the disabled list. While the rookie has yet to get going at the big league level, there's a lot of talent here to go along with a strong pedigree. A matchup against Leake and his 6.28 ERA could help jumpstart the 24-year-old.
Jorge Soler (R), 40 percent, Kansas City Royals at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Chris Tillman): Trust me. You're going to want some exposure against Tillman. The right-hander sports a 9.24 ERA over six starts this year with more walks than strikeouts, and both righties (.384 wOBA) and lefties (.517 wOBA) have knocked him around. For his part, Soler has been on a tear of late, batting .320/.393/.680 so far in May.
Curtis Granderson (L), 11 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Seattle Mariners (RHP Mike Leake): Granderson continues to be a great streaming option when there's a below-average righty on the mound. The veteran outfielder sports a .303/.452/.530 slash line against righties this year, including ISOs of .256 and .258 in the last two seasons, respectively. He's in a prime spot against Leake, who is surrendering a .305/.363/.500 slash line to lefty batters in 2018.
Joc Pederson (L), 4 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tyler Mahle): Mahle has shown some flashes this year, but left-handed batters have still done him in (.382 wOBA). This creates an enticing opportunity for Pederson, who's batting .306/.434/.484 versus right-handed pitching this season.
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.