Thursdays always give us abbreviated slates, but they're usually more bountiful than this one. Eight games are all we have to pick from, which makes streaming players somewhat difficult. Then again, with 14 teams taking a vacation day, there are plenty of roster holes to fill, so let's get to it.
Pitchers to stream
Carlos Rodon (L), 43 percent rostered in ESPN leagues, Chicago White Sox vs. Cleveland Indians: Rodon has, very quietly, been putting together a strong second half. The lefty has allowed two or fewer earned runs in six of his last seven starts, culminating in a 3.00 ERA and 9.0 K/9 over 45 innings. More impressively, those seven outings include starts against the Dodgers, Astros, Red Sox and Indians. The Indians, of course, aren't easy customers, but when he last faced Cleveland on July 30, he tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball with nine whiffs. On a day with only eight games, Rodon is by far the most appealing streaming option.
Kyle Gibson (R), 9 percent, Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals: It's hard to get excited about a guy like Gibson, but with a road tilt against the Royals, the matchup is certainly right. The Royals were the worst offensive team in the AL in August (86 wRC+) and own a bottom-five ISO (.154) since the All-Star break. Gibson, meanwhile, has been serviceable of late, posting a 3.29 ERA over his last seven starts. In fact, he faced these same Royals his last time out and delivered six innings of shutout ball. He's not flashy, but he's worth a look on Thursday.
Tyler Mahle (R), 4 percent, Cincinnati Reds at New York Mets: There's risk in streaming a guy like Mahle, who has only two big league starts under his belt. Then again, you can't be picky on a slate like this. The 22-year-old posted a 2.06 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 8.6 K/9 over 144 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, and he tossed five shutout innings against Pittsburgh his last time out. Mahle could have similar success against Thursday's opponent, a Mets team that ranks bottom-10 in wRC+ since the break with a 23 percent strikeout rate.
Nationals closer Sean Doolittle has been a top-five fantasy closer over the past 30 days, yet he's still available in roughly 30 percent of leagues. He's a good bet for a save opportunity against the Phillies, who sport the worst record in baseball.
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.
Tucker Barnhart (B), 9 percent, Cincinnati Reds at New York Mets (RHP Matt Harvey): Barnhart has quietly been a top-10 fantasy catcher over the past month, batting .281/.390/.438 over his last 20 games. He matches up well with Harvey, who is working with diminished velocity and still doesn't look quite right. The right-hander was blasted for seven runs in just two innings of work in his first start back from the DL on Saturday.
Jose Martinez (R), 2 percent, St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres (LHP Clayton Richard): Sure, it's been only 47 at-bats, but Martinez has hammered lefties to the tune of a .362/.455/.766 slash line this year. He gets a favorable matchup against Richard, who has allowed five homers in his past three starts and has had trouble getting right-handed hitters out (.309/.367/.531).
Chase Utley (L), 1 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Colorado Rockies (RHP Jon Gray): You'd think not pitching at Coors Field would be a good thing, but that hasn't been the case for Gray this year. He owns a 3.34 ERA at Coors and a 4.96 ERA on the road. He has also struggled against left-handed batters, allowing a .292/.355/.433 slash. Utley, meanwhile, boasts a 37 percent hard-hit rate and has done most of his damage this year at Dodger Stadium.
David Freese (R), 4 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs (LHP Jon Lester): We don't normally target hitters against pitchers of Lester's caliber, but he hasn't looked like the same guy of late. He has a 4.96 ERA since the break and is allowing an .802 OPS to right-handed batters. Freese, who has had three multihit games to begin September, is hitting .309/.414/.433 versus southpaws this season.
Ozzie Albies (B), 16 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins (RHP Dan Straily): This is a good time to attack Straily, who has produced a 5.06 second-half ERA and often struggles away from Marlins Park (4.62 ERA). Albies has moved up to the No. 2 spot in Atlanta's order and is batting .383/.456/.550 over his last 16 games.
Joe Mauer (L), 20 percent, Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals (RHP Sam Gaviglio): If you can get past the lack of homers, Mauer has been an underrated fantasy option in the second half. He's batting .355/.413/.484 since Aug. 1. Gaviglio, who has managed just a 4.62 ERA as a starter this year, doesn't figure to slow him down.
Howie Kendrick (R), 32 percent, Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Aaron Nola): Nola has hit a rough patch, allowing five or more runs in three of his last four outings. Meanwhile, Kendrick continues to rake. He batted .357/.396/.619 in August and is hitting .322/.368/.460 versus same-sided pitching in 2017.
Curtis Granderson (L), 33 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Colorado Rockies (RHP Jon Gray): We've already highlighted Gray's struggles on the road (4.96 ERA) and difficulty against lefty batters (.292/.355/.443). This creates an appealing spot for Granderson, who owns a .262 ISO versus right-handed pitching this season.
Nick Williams (L), 17 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals (RHP Tanner Roark): Roark has been sharp in the second half, but lefty batters have continued to give him trouble, producing a .283/.363/.478 slash against him. Williams has settled into the No. 3 spot in the Phillies' order and is batting .272/.333/.474 versus righties.
Max Kepler (L), 17 percent, Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals (RHP Sam Gaviglio): Kepler finds himself in a nice spot, squaring off against Gaviglio, one of the worst hurlers on the slate. The Minnesota outfielder does all of his damage against right-handed pitching, as evidenced by his .282/.351/.511 slash against them.
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.