With only eight games Thursday, there just aren't that many directions you can go when you're streaming starting pitchers. Of the 16 hurlers slated to start, only five come in with a rostered percentage lower than 50 percent -- and three of those arms are facing the Phillies, Red Sox and Yankees. Needless to say, if you're looking for a "sure thing," you're gonna have a hard time finding it here.
That said, let's take a closer look at what we're working with on Thursday.
Pitchers to stream
Caleb Smith (L), rostered in 41 percent of ESPN leagues, Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies: A road matchup against the Phillies isn't exactly how we want to start things out, but Smith deserves some attention even with a tough opponent. Through four starts, the left-hander sports a 2.35 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9. With a 14.5 swinging strike percentage that ranks eighth-best in baseball and a 10.2 K/9 in 2018, we know his "swing and miss" stuff is legit. If he can keep the walks down, there could be something special here. Again, the matchup isn't ideal, but Smith faced these same Phillies two starts ago and spun six scoreless innings while allowing only one hit. If the 27-year-old pitches well again in this spot, this will likely be the last time his rostered percentage is low enough for him to be featured in this space.
Julio Teheran (R), 43 percent, Atlanta Braves at Cincinnati Reds: It's been an uneven start to the season for Teheran, who has allowed just one run in two of his past four starts, but at least five runs in the other two. The good news is that he draws a close-to-ideal matchup on Thursday, as he's set to square off against a Reds team that's striking out 24.9 percent of the time and ranks dead last in baseball with a 57 wRC+. Despite Teheran's struggles this season, he's boasting a career-best 24.8 percent strikeout rate.
Trevor Cahill (R), 9 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. New York Yankees: The Yankees are usually another team to avoid, but with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar and Gary Sanchez all sidelined, the current so-called Bronx Bombers are not what we're used to seeing. Getting to face this watered-down lineup in pitcher-friendly Angels Stadium isn't such a bad spot. Cahill has struggled his last two times out, but this is still a relatively stable, albeit unexciting, skill set that gets ground balls, limits walks, and tallies enough strikeouts to not hurt you. There's still risk here, but if you want to stream on an eight-game slate, you're going to have to take on some risk in the process.
Many fantasy managers groaned when the Diamondbacks named Greg Holland as their closer, but those who invested in the veteran right-hander appear to be getting the last laugh. All Holland has done this season is throw eight scoreless innings with two hits allowed, 13 strikeouts and five saves. With Zack Greinke toeing the rubber for Arizona on Thursday, there's a good chance Holland will get an opportunity to pick up another save.
Projected game scores
Robinson Chirinos (R), 9 percent, Houston Astros vs. Cleveland Indians (RHP Corey Kluber): Kluber has been roughed up in the early going with a 5.88 ERA across four starts -- including 10 earned runs allowed in his last 9⅔ innings. Unfortunately for Kluber's fantasy managers, a matchup against the Astros on Thursday is not going to be a soft landing spot for the veteran. Chirinos is batting .300/.375/.533 over the last two weeks and offers nice power upside at a weak position.
Mitch Moreland (L), 22 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers (RHP Jordan Zimmermann): After a pair of fine starts to open the season, Zimmermann has fallen back to earth, allowing 15 runs (14 earned) over his last 13⅔ innings. Try to act surprised. Moreland has already smashed seven homers -- all against righties -- and he makes for an easy "plug-and-play option" whenever a vulnerable right-hander is on the mound.
Tommy La Stella (L), 8 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. New York Yankees (RHP Masahiro Tanaka): Over the last two weeks, all La Stella has done is bat .323/.432/.903 with six homers and 11 RBI. It's probably nothing more than a hot streak that won't last much longer, but we might as well ride the hot hand. Tanaka has been sharp, but he's allowing more hard contact than ever (39.5 percent) and has had homer trouble in the past.
David Freese (R), under 1 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs (LHP Jon Lester): Freese has established himself as a legit "lefty masher." Over the last three seasons, he's produced a .321/.406/.482 line against southpaws. There's a good chance Freese draws the start here against Lester, who is set to return from the IL after having missed time with a strained left hamstring.
Cole Tucker (B), 7 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Zack Greinke): Tucker, 22, is getting a chance at regular playing time. He has an intriguing skill set built around a high walk rate, 30-SB speed, and developing power. The rookie makes for an interesting play against Greinke, who's been serving up lots of hard contact in the early going.
Christian Walker (R), 39 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Jameson Taillon): Speaking of hard contact, Walker currently boasts an absurd 73.5 percent hard-contact rate, according to FanGraphs. He's batting .347/.413/.722 with seven homers, six doubles, and three steals in 72 at-bats. Taillon is a tough customer, but Walker is batting .408/.442/.857 against righties.
Niko Goodrum (S), 16 percent, Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox (RHP Rick Porcello): Porcello is coming off his best start of the season, a 5 2/3-inning, two-run effort against Tampa Bay. Even so, the right-hander is saddled with an 8.47 ERA with a baffling 6.9 BB/9 (his career BB/9 sits at 2.1). Meanwhile, the switch-hitting Goodrum is batting .291/.371/.527 against right-handed pitching in 2019.
Delino DeShields (R), 7 percent, Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners (LHP Marco Gonzales): Speed can be hard to find in today's game, but DeShields is an elite stolen base threat despite being available in 93 percent of ESPN leagues. While he's basically a one-trick pony, he's more effective against left-handed pitching, which puts him in a favorable spot against Gonzales on Thursday.
Brett Gardner (L), 27 percent, New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels (RHP Trevor Cahill): As we've noted, the Yankees lineup appears to be on life support with so many of the big boppers on the injured list. Still, Gardner remains an underrated fantasy option. He bats near the top of the order now and continues to provide a valuable power/speed combination. He already has five dingers and three steals on the season. Gardner matches up well with Cahill, who has been destroyed by lefties in 2019 (.400/.460/.778).
Jesse Winker (L), 48 percent, Cincinnati Reds vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Julio Teheran): Winker has long had an enticing hit tool, but this season, he's showing surprising pop with six homers in 66 at-bats. On Thursday, he goes up against Teheran, who has had trouble keeping the ball in the park of late, in a matchup that takes place at Great American Ballpark, one of the game's most homer-friendly venues.