Thursday slates are normally barren wastelands, but that's not the case this week. Not only is Clayton Kershaw expected to return from the DL, but rookie hurler Shane Bieber is set to make his major league debut. There are some interesting streaming options, too, which, of course, is why we're here.
Here's a look at the day's most intriguing streamers, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Daniel Mengden (R), rostered in 43 percent of ESPN leagues, Oakland Athletics vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Mengden is coming off a complete game shutout against Arizona his last time out, but the truth is that he's been cruising through opposing lineups the entire month of May. Over his last five outings, he's 3-1 with a 1.07 ERA and 0.68 WHIP. Even more impressive is the fact that he's allowed just four hits over his last 16 innings of work. The downside with Mengden, of course, is the lack of whiffs (5.8 K/9), but it's hard to complain about what the right-hander is doing right now. He draws a nice matchup on Thursday, squaring off against a Rays team that's been middle-of-the-road offensively in May (98 wRC+).
Andrew Heaney (L), 33 percent, Los Angeles Angels at Detroit Tigers: Heaney's rostered percentage makes it clear that most fantasy owners haven't been paying close enough attention to what the left-hander has been doing. Since April 27, Heaney has posted a 1.45 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 over six starts. This includes two matchups against the Yankees, one start against the Astros, and one outing against the Rockies in Coors Field. The 26-year-old is looking like the real deal. The Tigers have actually been productive against lefties this year (.331 wOBA), but Heaney should still be locked and loaded here.
Jordan Lyles (R), 8 percent, San Diego Padres vs. Miami Marlins: After spending multiple years pitching at Coors Field, it should come as no surprise that Lyles has taken a liking to Petco Park in San Diego. The right-hander owns a 1.85 ERA, 9.2 K/9, and .184 BAA in 24⅓ innings at home this season. He's obviously due for some negative regression, but we're unlikely to see it on Thursday against Miami. After all, the Marlins have one of the worst offenses in baseball, ranking 29th with a .281 wOBA and 77 wRC+ against right-handed pitching.
Shane Bieber (R), 0 percent, Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins: The Indians will recall Bieber to make his major league debut on Thursday against Minnesota. The 22-year-old's calling card is plus control. Over 262⅔ minor league innings, he's walked 15 batters. Fifteen. And two were intentional. That's a 0.51 BB/9. He also boasts a 1.10 ERA and 8.4 K/9 across 10 starts between Double- and Triple-A this year. So while he'll probably never be a huge strikeout guy, he likely won't be a negative in the category, either. It's always a little risky to trust a rookie in his debut, but the floor appears relatively high here. Bieber draws a Twins club that ranks 23rd in baseball with an 88 wRC+ versus righties.
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.
Mike Zunino (R), 46 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers (LHP Mike Minor): Minor has had trouble with the long ball this season, allowing 10 homers in 10 starts, including eight in his last five outings. This suits Zunino just fine. While the slugger has struggled this season, he produced a .549 SLG against lefties in 2017, and his 41.8 percent hard-contact rate suggests better times are ahead.
Greg Bird (L), 43 percent, New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Andrew Cashner): Bird made his season debut on May 26 after missing two months with a foot injury, and his rostered percentage hasn't quite caught up yet. The young slugger owns a .252 ISO versus right-handed pitching, and he hits in a stacked lineup that's playing in a hitter-friendly park. Bird finds himself in a terrific spot against Cashner, who owns a 5.47 ERA in May and is allowing a .275 ISO to lefty bats.
Ian Kinsler (R), 32 percent, Los Angeles Angels at Detroit Tigers (LHP Francisco Liriano): Kinsler has been a disappointment this season, but he showed signs of life on Tuesday, going 3-for-3 with three runs and a three-run homer. A career .300/.367/.501 hitter against left-handed pitching, the veteran second baseman gets the platoon advantage against Liriano, who sports a 5.47 ERA at Comerica Park this year.
J.D. Davis (R), 1 percent, Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox (LHP Drew Pomeranz): Davis has yet to do much at the big league level, but he's a good, young hitter who smashed at Triple-A (.415/.473/.654) and could carve out a regular role against lefties. I like his chances against Pomeranz, who's surrendering a .308/.403/.575 slash line to right-handed batters.
Amed Rosario (R), 7 percent, New York Mets vs. Chicago Cubs (LHP Jose Quintana): We already highlighted Quintana's struggles above. He's been particularly ineffective against righty bats, who have produced a .369 wOBA against him. Rosario has picked things up of late, batting .296 over his last eight games, and he gets the platoon advantage against a vulnerable hurler.
Mark Reynolds (R), 21 percent, Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves (LHP Sean Newcomb): The sample is admittedly small, but Reynolds has crushed in his limited playing time this season. He's batting .417/.462/.944 with six homers in 39 plate appearances. This includes going 8-for-16 against left-handed pitching. Newcomb has been sharp of late, but Reynolds remains an upside play.
Wilmer Difo (B), 5 percent, Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves (LHP Sean Newcomb): Since the start of May, Difo is batting .299/.373/.507. He'll continue to receive regular playing time until Daniel Murphy returns, which would be soon. For now, however, Difo remains a solid play, and he matches up well with Newcomb, who owns a 4.41 ERA at home this year.
Tyler O'Neill (R), 35 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Trevor Williams): O'Neill doesn't have the platoon advantage in this matchup. Fortunately, the rookie's big-time power doesn't discriminate. O'Neill is batting .300/.333/.633 against righties this year, with all three of his home runs. He's a high-upside play against Williams, the owner of a 4.88 ERA in May.
Hunter Renfroe (R), 3 percent, San Diego Padres vs. Miami Marlins (LHP Wei-Yin Chen): Renfroe has seemingly fallen behind in the Padres' outfield pecking order, but he's still a young slugger who has value in the right spots. He batted .316/.392/.684 against southpaws in 2017, matching him up well against Chen, who sports a 5.22 ERA and 52.8 percent fly ball rate.
Matt Joyce (L), 3 percent, Oakland A's at Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Ryne Stanek): Joyce remains a reliable option whenever there's a righty on the mound. The lefty slugger sports a career .349 wOBA and .205 ISO against right-handed pitching. Thirteen of his 14 extra-base hits this year, including all six of his homers, have come against righties. Joyce finds himself in a nice spot against Stanek, who has only one career start under his belt.
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.