Thursday's slate presents us with some interesting circumstances. On one hand, there are some intriguing starting pitchers available for streaming purposes. On the other hand, some of those intriguing names find themselves in matchups that aren't too favorable. If you're playing the streaming game, though, you're used to occasionally incurring some risk with the hopes of boosting your win and strikeout totals. Here's a look at what Thursday's abbreviated slate has to offer...
Pitchers to stream
Mike Foltynewicz (R), 25 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals: After flirting with a no-hitter against Oakland his last time out, Foltynewicz gets a tougher test on Thursday when he faces a Nationals squad that does plenty of damage against right-handed pitching (111 wRC+). The worry here is that Folty was hammered for eight runs in just 3 1/3 innings when he last faced the Nats in June. However, he's allowed two or fewer runs in five of his last six starts, so I'm willing to forgive the disastrous outing. I wish the matchup was better, but Folty is still one of the better arms on Thursday that's widely available.
Mike Montgomery (L), 22 percent, Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers: Montgomery has been solid since stepping into the Cubs' rotation, holding a 3.58 ERA over five starts with nearly a strikeout per inning. The Brewers may rank top-five in the National League in runs scored, but they've actually been below average against lefties, sporting a 94 wRC+ to go along with an inflated 26 percent whiff rate. Montgomery is a good name to target on Thursday, especially if you're looking for strikeouts.
Rich Hill (L), 65 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks: Hill's ownership is above the 50 percent threshold we normally abide by, but we'll make an exception for a shortened slate. Hill has had an up-and-down season, but perhaps he has turned a corner. His last three starts have seen him post a 1.79 ERA with 26 whiffs in 19 frames. Most notably, he has reached the seventh inning on two occasions after failing to get past the fifth in his first nine starts. The Diamondbacks' lineup may be dangerous against righties, but it's the opposite against lefties. Arizona's 74 wRC+ versus southpaws is second-worst in baseball, and their 25 percent strikeout rate gives Hill plenty of upside.
Michael Wacha (R), 40 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Miami Marlins: Wacha has battled inconsistency this season, but he has been reliable when pitching at home, where he holds a 2.91 ERA over 55 2/3 innings. He's also coming off two strong starts in which he's allowed just 11 baserunners, and one run over 12 innings with 14 K's. It's also encouraging to note that the righty's 22.7 percent K rate is up from last year (18.8%) and his 29 percent hard-hit rate is a career best. Against a Marlins team that's 19th in wOBA and 23rd in ISO versus right-handed pitching this season, Wacha is in a nice spot on Thursday.
Pitcher to Avoid
Dylan Bundy (R), 74 percent, Baltimore Orioles at Minnesota Twins: Bundy's season is trending in the wrong direction. April: 1.65 ERA; May: 3.92 ERA; June: 5.93 ERA. And his first July start (5 ER in 4 IP) didn't provide any hope that he's reversing course. The Twins are an average offense versus righties, but I'm still not comfortable starting Bundy outside of deep mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
David Robertson is currently on paternity leave for the White Sox, which has presented Tommy Kahnle with the opportunity to step into the closer role. It will last only a few days, but Kahnle should be a name on fantasy owners' radars given Robertson could very well be dealt over the next few weeks as we approach the July 31 trade deadline. The right-handed Kahnle has been terrific this season, holding a 2.45 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 15.2 K/9 over 32 2/3 innings. He's available in 92 percent of ESPN leagues, but that number will skyrocket if Robertson is traded.
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.
Mike Zunino (R), 34 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Paul Blackburn): Zunino doesn't have the platoon advantage here, but he's still in a favorable matchup against Blackburn, a soft-tossing righty who has only one big league start under his belt. Since June 1, Zunino is hitting .284/.347/.659 with 10 dingers and 31 RBIs in 24 games.
Joe Mauer (L), 9 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Dylan Bundy): As noted above, Bundy's season is on a downward trajectory. He has allowed at least one homer in 11 straight starts, thanks in part to a 47 percent fly ball rate that's second-highest in baseball among pitchers with at least 100 innings. On top of that, left-handed hitters have consistently gotten the better of him (.825 OPS). For his part, Mauer is batting .305/.381/.448 versus right-handed pitching this season. He's also sporting his best hard-hit rate since 2012 and his best contact rate since 2010.
Greg Garcia (L), 1 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Miami Marlins (RHP Tom Koehler): Left-handed batters have owned Koehler this season. He has allowed a .362/.488/.681 slash, including a bloated .479 wOBA. Needless to say, it's a favorable spot for Garcia, whose career OPS is 275 points higher versus righties than lefties.
Alex Bregman (R), 55 percent, Houston Astros at Toronto Blue Jays (LHP Francisco Liriano): Bregman hasn't met expectations this season, but this is a good spot for him to do some good things. He's hitting much better versus southpaws this season (.286/.392/.460), and Liriano has not done a good job with right-handed batters (.273/.383/.487).
Freddy Galvis (L), 11 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Chad Kuhl): Kuhl is another hurler we're targeting on Thursday, specifically with left-handed hitters. The right-hander has surrendered a .329/.404/.614 slash line to lefty bats this season, including a hard-contact rate of 37 percent. The switch-hitting Galvis prefers facing righties, and is hitting .283/.326/.520 at Citizens Bank Park this season.
Yonder Alonso (L), 51 percent, Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners (RHP Sam Gaviglio): Alonso continues to be a quality streaming option when an underwhelming righty is on the mound. That's the case again on Thursday. Alonso is hitting .293/.395/.555 against righties this season, and Safeco Field is much more favorable to left-handed power than the Oakland Coliseum.
Kiki Hernandez (R), 2 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (LHP Robbie Ray): Ray is one of the better pitchers on the slate, and he misses plenty of bats. When he allows contact, however, it's often hard contact. He's allowing 42 percent hard contact this season, the second-highest mark in baseball. Hernandez, meanwhile, owns a .419 wOBA versus southpaws this year, ahead of names like Jose Altuve and Edwin Encarnacion.
Odubel Herrera (L), 36 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Chad Kuhl): We're doubling up on left-handed Phillies against Kuhl and his 5.26 ERA. After a slow start, Herrera is hitting .307/.336/.500 since the beginning of June.
Max Kepler (L), 16 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Dylan Bundy): Kepler continues to hit right-handed pitchers hard, as his .298/.364/.529 line against attests. He's in a great spot against Bundy, who has had trouble keeping the ball in the park.
Jose Osuna (R), 4 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Jeremy Hellickson): Hellickson has shown reverse splits in his career, and has also had a problem keeping balls in the yard in 2017. This combination puts Osuna in an appealing spot on Thursday. The right-hander has clubbed all five of his homers this year off of righties, and he has been particularly hot of late, hitting .324 with a .588 slugging percentage in June.
Hitter matchup ratings
Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth, as well as the 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, whereas 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.