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Daily notes: Pitcher and hitter rankings for Thursday

Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ finds himself in an optimal situation against the Royals on Thursday. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

As far as the regular season goes, we have this week and next week. That's it. Time may be running short, but there's still enough time to make a move if you're within clawing distance of being in the money. We have precious few decisions left this season, so let's make the most of them. Here's a look at the day's top streaming options.

Pitching

Pitchers to Stream

J.A. Happ (L), 50 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals: Happ finds himself with one of the day's better matchups, squaring off against a Royals team that ranks bottom-three in the AL with a 86 wRC+ versus left-handed pitching. The Royals' offense has also been stuck in neutral over the past month (91 wRC+). For his part, Happ has allowed one earned run in three of his last four starts and sports a 9.5 K/9 over his last nine outings. The Royals make a ton of contact, so this isn't necessarily a high-upside matchup. That said, Happ provides a relatively safe floor and offers a good chance for a win against Jason Vargas, who sports a 7.11 second-half ERA.

Tyler Anderson (L), 4 percent, Colorado Rockies at San Diego Padres: The truth is that Anderson hasn't pitched well at home (4.98 ERA) or on the road (5.54 ERA) this year. It's also true that the Padres present arguably the most favorable matchup in baseball. In fact, Anderson faced San Diego on Saturday and tossed six shutout innings of two-hit ball. Now he gets them in Petco Park instead of at Coors Field. Despite his struggles this year, Anderson sports a decent profile, whiffing 8.6 batters per nine and inducing a 25 percent soft-contact rate, which ranks sixth-best among starters. All told, the Padres sport the 28th-ranked wRC+ and 29th-ranked wOBA against lefty pitching this season, with the third-highest whiff rate. If there's a spot where Anderson can succeed, this is it.

Mark Leiter Jr. (R), 4 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: Leiter is an upside play on Saturday. Unfortunately, with upside also comes risk. The right-hander has allowed multiple homers in three straight starts, and his second-half ERA sits at an ugly 5.60. The good news is that the Dodgers offense has sputtered out over the past month, evidenced by the team's 76 wRC+ and 25 percent strikeout rate. So if there's a time to attack the Dodgers offense, it's now. Leiter sports a 9.8 K/9 over his last eight appearances (six starts), giving him some nice appeal if you have some ground to make up in the strikeout category.

Carson Fulmer (R), 6 percent, Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros: It should go without saying that the Astros aren't an ideal matchup. Then again, Houston's offense has been below average over the past month (94 wRC+), so the matchup for the 23-year-old righty isn't as intimidating as it appears. Since stepping into the White Sox's rotation earlier this month, Fulmer has allowed just two runs in 12 innings over two starts, striking out 14 batters. His minor league track record suggests his transition to the big leagues will have some pretty large speed bumps, but so far so good. Fulmer is a name to consider in deeper leagues.

Bullpen

You wouldn't know it from his ownership percentage (30 percent), but Blake Parker has the look of a high-end closer. He misses plenty of bats, limits free passes and gets nearly 50 percent of ground balls. Among relievers, his 5.1 K/BB ratio ranks eighth-best in the AL, and his 34 K% ranks top 10. If you have ground to make up in saves, take a shot here.

Pitcher to Avoid

James Paxton (L), 85 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers: It's hard to sit pitchers at this point in the season if you have ground to make up, but I'm still treading cautiously with Paxton. He was limited to 50 pitches in his first start off the DL, and he wasn't sharp, allowing three runs in just 1 1/3 innings. Paxton will surely be allowed to pitch deeper in Thursday's game against Texas, but I'd like to take a wait-and-see approach here, if possible.


Projected game scores

GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.

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Hitting

Catcher

Jason Castro (L), 2 percent, Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers (RHP Jordan Zimmermann): Zimmermann has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this year. Needless to say, this is one of the matchups we'll be attacking today. Zimmermann is allowing a .328/.366/.561 slash line to lefties with a career-high 42 percent fly ball rate. That suits Castro just fine, as the lefty-swinging catcher owns a .152 ISO versus righty pitching this season.

First Base

Joe Mauer (L), 23 percent, Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers (RHP Jordan Zimmermann): Mauer is raking right now. He's batting .332 with a .415 OBP since the All-Star break, and he's hitting .375/.423/.531 so far in September. Sure, he's not providing much power, but that's never been a big part of his game. Like Castro, Mauer finds himself in a prime spot on Thursday against Zimmermann, who's allowing a .384 wOBA to lefty batters.

Second Base

Neil Walker (B), 15 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs (RHP Jake Arrieta): Arrieta is one of the better pitchers on the slate, but he's coming off one of his worst outings of the season in which he lasted only 2 1/3 innings. He's also had trouble with left-handed hitters, allowing a .349 wOBA against them. Walker, meanwhile, does most of his damage against righties, and Miller Park is one of the game's best venues for left-handed power.

Third Base

Jeimer Candelario (B), 9 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Minnesota Twins (LHP Adalberto Mejia): Since his September call-up, all Candelario has done is hit. In 16 games, he's batting .351/.456/.544. Better yet, he's batting .333/.412/.533 against lefties, which puts him in a very appealing matchup against the left-handed Mejia, the owner of a 5.11 second-half ERA.

Shortstop

Ozzie Albies (B), 25 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals (RHP Tanner Roark): I've been seemingly highlighting Albies in this space every week, but it's for good reason. Over his last 28 games, the switch-hitting rookie is batting .336/.419/.533. On Saturday, he'll match up against Roark, who has been vulnerable to lefty hitters this season (.354 wOBA).

Corner Infield

Chris Davis (L), 49 percent, Baltimore Orioles vs. Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Matt Andriese): If you're in need of home runs, Davis makes for a nice power plate against Andriese. The Orioles slugger has belted 20 of his 24 homers against righties this season, and Andriese has been a mess since slotting into Tampa's rotation earlier this month. The right-hander has surrendered 13 earned runs over his past 11 innings (10.64 ERA), including four homers allowed.

Middle Infield

Howie Kendrick (R), 24 percent, Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves (RHP R.A. Dickey): Since the All-Star break, Dickey owns a 4.69 ERA and is allowing a .294/.361/.480 triple slash line. This looks like a good time to fire up Kendrick, who is batting .310/.362/.512 since Aug. 1 and has hit righties just as hard as lefties this season.

Outfield

Mitch Haniger (R), 44 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers (LHP Cole Hamels): Haniger has been on a tear, batting .382/.400/.647 in September. He'll get the platoon advantage against Hamels, who is a great pitcher but looks vulnerable right now. Over his last seven starts, the left-hander holds a 5.40 ERA. Hamels is also sporting a career-low swinging strike rate (9.3 percent) and a career-worst 35 percent hard-hit rate.

Kevin Pillar (R), 25 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals (LHP Jason Vargas): Pillar is a great streamer whenever he has the platoon advantage. He's batting .328/.377/.552 against southpaws this season, and the lefty-throwing Vargas has been a disaster of late, holding a 7.11 ERA since the All-Star break.

Kole Calhoun (L), 33 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Cleveland Indians (RHP Danny Salazar): Salazar is a hurler with a lot of upside, but he's also highly volatile. In his last two starts, he allowed 10 runs in just 5 1/3 innings. Much of that damage came from left-handed batters, who have produced a .355 wOBA against him this season. This makes for an intriguing spot for Calhoun, who gets the platoon advantage in this favorable matchup.


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.