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Fantasy baseball daily notes: Pitcher and hitter rankings for Thursday

Reds righty Sonny Gray is coming off an impressive start against the Pirates. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Another Thursday, another short slate, with only 10 games on the schedule. Get used to it, folks. This is the rule, not the exception.

Only two hurlers -- Walker Buehler and Shane Bieber -- top the 60 Game Score threshold in our rankings on Thursday, which should leave us with plenty of stream-worthy arms to consider. However, some tough matchups against offenses we want to avoid (Michael Wacha vs. the Dodgers; Aaron Sanchez at the Red Sox) thins the pool a bit.

Here's a look at the day's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Pitching

Pitchers to stream

Sonny Gray (R), 22 percent, Cincinnati Reds vs. Miami Marlins: After lasting only 2 2/3 innings in his first start, Gray bounced back to toss 6 2/3 frames of one-run ball against Pittsburgh with seven K's and zero walks his last time out. Sure, it came against an underwhelming Pirates lineup, but Thursday's matchup comes against a Marlins lineup that's even more yawn-inducing. Small-sample caveats obviously apply, but the Marlins currently sport a 71 wRC+ against righties with an MLB-worst 30.3 percent strikeout rate. Gray still has a long way to go before he earns back the trust of the fantasy baseball community, but for now he's a quality streamer in highly favorable matchups like this one.

Spencer Turnbull (R), 2 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians: Turnbull found his name in this space over the weekend when he faced Kansas City, and he responded by hurling six innings of three-run ball (two earned) with 10 strikeouts. A former second-round pick, Turnbull has quality stuff, including a slider that looks like a true put-away pitch. It's true that he's faced weak competition so far (Blue Jays and Royals), but Cleveland's lineup looks to be on life support right now, scoring just 30 runs in its first nine games. Turnbull is one of the better streaming bets on Thursday.

Steven Matz (L), 36 percent, New York Mets at Atlanta Braves: Through his first two starts, Matz has allowed just one run across 10 1/3 innings with 11 strikeouts. This includes five shutout frames with eight K's against a deep and dangerous Nationals lineup his last time out. The Braves lineup is equally dangerous, and Matz can get himself into trouble when his control waivers. Still, when he's on, Matz is a guy who misses a decent number of bats, generates grounders, and is equally effective against both righties (.316 career wOBA allowed) and lefties (.313 career wOBA allowed). On a short slate like we have on Thursday, Matz is definitely in play.

Bullpen

Since returning from the injured list, Anthony Swarzak has closed out two games for the Mariners, solidifying himself as the team's ninth-inning man. The right-hander battled injuries in 2018 and struggled to the tune of a 6.15 ERA, but he was a dominant reliever as recently as 2017, when he held a 2.33 ERA and 10.6 K/9 in 70 innings. There's little competition in Seattle's bullpen right now, so Swarzak could very well stick in the closer role for some time. He's available in 88 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Projected game scores


Hitting

Catcher

Francisco Cervelli (R), 50 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs (LHP Jose Quintana): The early returns on Quintana have not been positive. Through seven innings, he's been pounded for 10 runs (eight earned) on 13 hits and six walks. He'll surely get things straightened out soon enough, but now is the time to pounce. Cervelli is a career .280 hitter with a .399 OPB versus southpaws and gets a park upgrade going to Wrigley Field.

First base

Dan Vogelbach (L), 11 percent, Seattle Mariners at Kansas City Royals (RHP Jorge Lopez): It's hard to glean much from 22 at-bats, but when those 22 at-bats produce four doubles and five homers, it's hard not to take notice. Vogelbach has made a strong case for increased playing time going forward, and he gets the platoon advantage on Thursday in a juicy matchup against Lopez, who has allowed a .309/.385/.435 triple slash to righty batters in his brief big-league career.

Second base

Starlin Castro (R), 39 percent, Miami Marlins at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Sonny Gray): Castro bats in the middle of what might be the least exciting lineup in the majors, but that doesn't mean he should be ignored. The 29-year-old second baseman owns a .326/.369/.472 career slash line in April and gets a massive park upgrade going from Marlins Park to Great American Ballpark.

Third base

Renato Nunez (R), 1 percent, Baltimore Orioles vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Aaron Brooks): There are plenty of holes in Nunez's game, but what he does have is raw power. He also happens to play in a park that's conducive to that raw power. Nunez is making lots of hard contact so far this year (42.9 percent), while Brooks is a hurler who pitches to contact.

Shortstop

Dansby Swanson (R), 38 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets (LHP Steven Matz): Could we finally be getting a Swanson breakout? Through 11 games, the former No. 1 overall pick is batting .324 with four homers and 15 RBIs. While Swanson has seemingly been around for a while, he's only 25. Either way, he's a premiere plug-and-play option while he's red-hot.

Corner infield

Brandon Belt (L), 12 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Colorado Rockies (RHP Jon Gray): If you're going to roster Belt, it's good to do it early in the season. He owns a .934 career OPS in April, and he's coming off a week in which he hit .375/.516/.708. On Thursday, he gets the platoon advantage against Gray, who owns a 4.83 road ERA over the past three seasons.

Middle infield

Nick Ahmed (R), 15 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres (RHP Pedro Avila): Ahmed, known for his slick glove, is translating his excellent hand-eye coordination to the dish. He's off to the best start of his career, improving his contact rate while hitting the ball with more authority. He'll level off, but with the 22-year old Avila making a spot start, Ahmed is in a good position to keep his roll going. Avila has only pitched six innings above High-A, fanning five with two walks in his 2019 debut for Double-A Amarillo. The Padres want to give Chris Paddack an extra day of rest, hence the summoning of Avila.

Outfield

Franmil Reyes (R), 10 percent, San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Zack Godley): Godley rebounded nicely in his second start after being battered by the Dodgers for eight runs in his season debut. Even so, after posting a 4.74 ERA in 2018, Godley still looks like a highly combustible pitcher who can get into big trouble when he's not hitting his spots. Meanwhile, Reyes has elite power and makes for an intriguing power play whenever he's in the lineup.

Alex Gordon (L), 26 percent, Kansas City Royals vs. Seattle Mariners (RHP Mike Leake): Are we experiencing an Alex Gordon resurgence? That might be a stretch, but through 10 games he's batting .313/.442/.531 with a pair of dingers and 10 RBIs. There's a good chance Gordon will keep rolling against Leake, who is volatile because he allows so much contact.

Ramon Laureano (R), 30 percent, Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Dylan Bundy): Laureano is becoming known for his highlight-reel throws from the outfield, but he's also a very interesting fantasy asset with an intriguing blend of power and speed. A matchup against Bundy in Camden Yards is a matchup that could lead to fireworks.

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).