Thursday brings us another abbreviated slate. Get used to it, folks. Shortened slates can often make finding streaming options difficult, and that's the case this Thursday. Although we like to stream starters with upside, that upside often brings a decent amount of risk. Your league size and scoring format will help you decide whether the potential reward offsets the risk brought to your ratios. Let's dive in.
Looking for a spot starter on Thursday? Here's a list of potential options still available in more than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
Patrick Corbin (Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres, 6 percent owned): The underlying numbers don't support Corbin's 2.81 ERA, so this isn't a risk-free matchup. Then again, going from Chase Field to Petco Park is a huge upgrade, and the Padres still own one of the weakest offenses in baseball. The whiffs haven't been there for the Arizona lefty in the early going (4.0 K/9), but they should rebound soon.
Daniel Norris (Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays, 12 percent): Like Corbin, Norris hasn't fully earned his 2.19 ERA. For one, his underwhelming 5.1 K/9 rate matches his 5.1 BB/9 rate. However, Norris is a talented strikeout pitcher and his matchup against the Rays is a favorable one. Although Tampa's offense has been slightly above average so far this year, the Rays' 29 percent strikeout rate is the worst in baseball and they own the highest whiff rate versus lefties since the start of 2016. Tropicana Field also heavily favors pitchers.
Wade Miley (Baltimore Orioles at Cincinnati Reds, 3 percent): Miley has fanned 13 batters in his first 11 frames and will get to face a pitcher instead of a DH as the Orioles travel to Cincinnati for interleague play. And although Great American Ballpark is bad for homers, it's good for strikeouts. Miley's 5.7 BB/9 rate may be ugly, but it's worth noting that all seven of his walks came in his first outing (he whiffed eight while walking zero his last time out).
Zach Davies is off to a rough start as he owns an 8.79 ERA in his first three outings and has yet to pitch past the fifth inning. That means the Brewers' bullpen could be featured heavily in Thursday's matchup against the Cardinals, who own the third-worst wRC+ (71) in baseball so far. Closer Neftali Feliz already has five saves this season and an 11.1 K/9 to go with it, yet he's owned in only 55 percent of ESPN leagues. Setup men Corey Knebel and Jacob Barnes, neither of whom has allowed a run this year, are a good bet to see some action, as well.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Here's a position-by-position look at hitters in favorable spots with less than 50 percent ownership.
Welington Castillo, Baltimore Orioles (34 percent): Castillo won't have the platoon advantage, but that might not matter against the soft-tossing Scott Feldman, who has struggled with his control this season and is allowing lots of fly balls. Great American Ballpark is even better for right-handed power than Camden Yards.
Brandon Moss, Kansas City Royals (7 percent): Left-handed Royals hitters find themselves with one of the best matchups of the day, facing Andrew Cashner, who has surrendered wOBAs of .380 or higher to lefties each of the last two seasons. Moss is off to a slow start, but he still has big-time power and Globe Life Park is much more friendly to left-handed sluggers than Kaufmann Stadium.
Raul Mondesi, Kansas City Royals (4 percent): Mondesi isn't a guy that points-league owners are going to have interest in, but he's a guy to consider if you're hurting in the steals department. The speedster already has five stolen bases this season and gets the platoon advantage against Cashner.
Greg Garcia, St Louis Cardinals (1 percent): Garcia's ability to play all around the infield has kept him in the lineup lately as he's started games at second, third and shortstop within the past week. With righty Zach Davies on the hill, there's a good chance Garcia is starting again and since it's Thursday, your active lineup likely has an opening somewhere in the middle. Garcia's multiple eligibility allows you to optimize your squad since he can be shuffled around to work in the best available hitter at another position.
Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds (35 percent): Cozart has been crushing to start the season (16 hits in first 10 games), and he gets a double-platoon bump against Wade Miley: From 2014-16, the Reds' shortstop sports an OPS that's 116 points higher vs left-handed pitching; meanwhile, Miley's OPS is 89 points higher versus righty bats in that same span. Miley also has the ninth-highest hard-hit rate against since 2013.
Danny Valencia, Seattle Mariners (8 percent): Valencia was given Wednesday off, as he's struggling, but should be back in there against Cesar Valdez and the Oakland Athletics. Valencia won't have the platoon bump, but that isn't always the deciding factor, sometimes the opposition is all that's needed to render the matchup as favorable. Valdez, filling in for Kendall Graveman, hasn't appeared in the majors since 2010. The 32-year-old righty didn't play affiliated baseball from 2011-15, returning last season, toiling in Fresno, the Astros' Triple-A club.
Taylor Motter, Seattle Mariners (7 percent): Motter and his flowing locks may not enjoy the platoon edge, but like Valencia, he really doesn't need it facing Valdez, then the likely parade of mediocre Athletics relievers.
Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (8 percent): Gordon is the third Royals hitter we're recommending today against Cashner, who struggles to get lefty swingers out. The Royals' leadoff hitter gets a park boost going to Globe Life Park, which inflates runs scored and left-handed power.
Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland Indians (8 percent): The Tribe entertains the Twins in an afternoon affair, so you'll have to hurry, but Chisenhall could be worth the add, enjoying the platoon advantage facing Ervin Santana. Santana has a sparkling 0.41 ERA so far on the young season, but he also checks in with an unsustainable .074 batting average on balls in play and 5 percent home run per fly ball mark. The Twins right-hander sports a pedestrian 6.2 K/9, so regression is going to rear its ugly head. Historically, Santana is vulnerable to power-hitting lefties. Since coming off the disabled list to start the season, Chisenhall is slugging .700.
Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres (30 percent): The aggressive-swinging Renfroe has a juicy matchup with Patrick Corbin, toting a scant 3.9 K/9 into Petco Park. In fact, the lefty's strikeout and walk rates are identical. Renfroe should put the ball in play and has the power to take Corbin out of the yard.
Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth, as well as past 21 days) and 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. So, 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.