Most Thursdays, we have to spend a lot of time scrounging for enough quality streamers to recommend in this column but, this week, an 11-game slate offers plenty of possibilities. The downside is that we're short on aces, especially with Stephen Strasburg headed to the disabled list. Something tells me, though, that those who are streaming starters on a daily basis will find a way to manage.
Here's a look at the day's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Trevor Cahill (R), rostered in 17 percent of ESPN leagues, Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers: It's easy to be impressed by what Cahill has done this season, even if his wide availability on the waiver wire doesn't reflect it. In addition to posting a 2.95 ERA and 1.02 WHIP across 10 starts, the veteran right-hander is missing bats (8.5 K/9), displaying good control (2.6 BB/9), and inducing grounders at an elite rate (58.5 percent). Digging deeper, we find a career-best 30.4 O-Swing% (percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone) and a 13.2 swinging-strike rate. Cahill should have little trouble holding down a Rangers team that sports a 90 wRC+ and 25.3 percent strikeout rate against right-handed pitching.
Sonny Gray (R), 49 percent, New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals: Gray has been an untrustworthy fantasy starter this season, to which his 5.34 ERA certainly attests. He has, however, proven that he can take advantage of weak matchups, and Thursday's tilt against Kansas City certainly qualifies. After all, the Royals rank 28th in MLB in wOBA (.293), 29th in ISO (.129) and 29th in wRC+ (82). In five matchups against teams that rank in the bottom 10 of wRC+ this season, Gray has a 2.30 ERA with 29 K in 31.1 frames.
Steven Matz (L), 22 percent, New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates: Matz is another name that fantasy managers need to utilize in favorable matchups. If you remove his starts at Yankee Stadium and Coors Field (where you would have benched him, anyway), the Mets southpaw has allowed three-or-fewer runs in nine straight outings. On Thursday, Matz draws a Pirates squad that's "middle of the road" against left-handed pitching (96 wRC+). Matz has also been more effective on the road, where he boasts a 3.00 ERA this season (4.18 at home).
Nick Kingham (R), 20 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Mets: Opposing Matz is Kingham, who has flashed some nice potential in his 10 big league starts, whiffing nearly a batter per inning (8.5 K/9) and showing terrific control (2.1 BB/9). He's also registered quality starts in four of his last five outings, including each of the last three. The 26-year-old finds himself in a very appealing spot on Thursday, squaring off with a Mets team that ranks 24th with a 93 wRC+ and .305 wOBA against right-handed pitching.
Projected game scores
Nick Hundley (R), 1 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Milwaukee Brewers (LHP Wade Miley): Hundley has been a sneaky-good streaming option against lefties this season, as he possesses a .950 OPS versus southpaws with six dingers in 67 at-bats. The San Francisco backstop matches up well with Miley, who has allowed a .290/.356/.467 slash line to right-handed batters over the last three seasons.
Greg Bird (L), 36 percent, New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Jakob Junis): There's no denying that Bird has failed to meet expectations this season, due in part to injury. Still, the fact remains that few streaming options offer his kind of power potential. The lefty slugger has clubbed 28 homers in 456 at-bats and gets to play in a ballpark that's ideal for left-handed power. Expect Bird's bat to soar when he squares off against Junis, whose 24 homers allowed are the most in baseball.
Joey Wendle (L), 13 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Alex Cobb): Wendle has been swinging a hot stick of late, sporting a .351/.422/.614 slash line in July. He also gets a nice park boost going to Camden Yards. Of course, there's also the fact that he gets to face Cobb, one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season (6.17 ERA, 1.57 WHIP).
Ian Happ (B), 46 percent, Chicago Cubs vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Zack Godley): Happ sports a 42.7 percent hard-contact rate this season (up from 32.8 percent in 2017) and is batting .329/.453/.529 over the last 30 days. It's no surprise that his rostered percentage is up nearly nine percent over the last week. Happ gets a nice draw against Godley, who hasn't fared well away from Chase Field (5.37 ERA).
Ehire Adrianza (B), under 1 percent, Minnesota Twins at Boston Red Sox (LHP Brian Johnson): The switch-hitting Adrianza isn't a certainty to be in the lineup on Thursday, but he is batting .316.371/.439 versus left-handed pitching this season -- including a .309/.371/.506 slash line since June 6. Johnson, meanwhile, has had trouble keeping righty batters in check (.293/.337/.445).
Maikel Franco (R), 32 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tyler Mahle): Franco has been red-hot in July, batting .333/.387/.614 with five dingers. He won't have the platoon advantage against Mahle, but the Philadelphia third baseman has thrived against same-sided pitching this season, producing at a .296/.335/.502 clip.
Marcus Semien (R), 35 percent, Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers (RHP Bartolo Colon): Remember when Colon was defying Father Time with a 2.82 ERA back in mid-May? Well, since then, he's limped into July with a 6.56 ERA in his last 11 starts. For the season, Colon has also been less effective against righty bats (.839 OPS, compared to .750 versus LHB). This makes for a fine time to roll with Semien, who is batting .289 with a .372 OBP and four steals over the last 20 games.
Daniel Palka (L), 1 percent, Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Angels (RHP Nick Tropeano): With a 7.07 ERA and 1.64 WHIP over his last three starts, Tropeano looks like a pitcher to attack right now. He's been particularly vulnerable to lefty batters (.296/.356/.472), which puts Palka in a very nice position. For his part, the White Sox outfielder owns a .235 ISO versus right-handed pitching this season, with 22-of-25 extra-base hits coming against RHP.
Kole Calhoun (L), 14 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Dylan Covey): Calhoun has altered his stance at the plate, and it seems to be working. Since the start of July, he's batting .293/.333/.603 with seven bombs. Look for him to tee off against Covey, who sports an 8.26 ERA over his last six outings.
Nick Williams (L), 4 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tyler Mahle): Mahle's last two starts have seen him surrender 11 earned runs with more walks (5) than strikeouts (4). He's also allowing a .961 OPS to left-handed bats, which includes a 44.9 percent hard-contact rate and a 46.8 fly-ball rate. Those numbers don't play well at Great American Ballpark, one of the most homer-friendly venues in the game. This is a prime opportunity for Williams. He gets the platoon advantage and is swinging a hot stick this month, slashing .300/.391/.450.
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.