Another Thursday, another crummy slate.
There are only eight games on the schedule, and no pitcher crosses the "elite" threshold (Game Score of 60 or higher). Streaming starters on a slate like this is especially difficult. Because pickings are slim, you have to be willing to take on some additional risk if you're set on streaming a starting pitcher or two.
As always, we'll do our best to wade through the muck and find a few guys who will provide positive value, but fantasy managers who are actively trying to protect their ratios should exercise caution this Thursday.
Here are the day's most interesting streaming options, focusing on players rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Eduardo Rodriguez (L), rostered in 24 percent of ESPN leagues, Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Angels: Rodriguez is easily the most intriguing streaming option of the day. The southpaw has amassed 15 whiffs in just 9 2/3 innings this season, and it's supported by a 12.8 swinging strike rate that's been steadily climbing each year (7.8% in 2015, 10.6% in 2016, 11.6% in 2017). His 3.72 ERA this year is also backed up by a 2.57 FIP and 2.95 xFIP. While the Angels' right-handed heavy lineup would be a problem for many lefties, Rodriguez has held righty bats to a .238/.304/.400 slash line in his career.
Nick Tropeano (R), 3 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Boston Red Sox: A matchup against the Red Sox, who have produced a top-three wOBA (.347) this season, is not what you'd call an ideal matchup. Pretty much the exact opposite. But perhaps the 27-year-old righty is up to the task. In his first big league start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2016, Tropeano delivered 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball against the Royals last week. Yeah, yeah, the Royals aren't the Red Sox, but it was an encouraging outing nonetheless. Over 25 big league starts, Tropeano owns a 3.62 ERA and 8.4 K/9. This outing will help us get a better read on whether he should be on fantasy radars going forward. If there's any good news with this matchup, it's that the Red Sox will suffer a park downgrade going from Fenway Park to Angels Stadium.
CC Sabathia (L), 15 percent, New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Set to rejoin the Yankees rotation after landing on the DL with a right hip injury, Sabathia finds himself in a difficult spot upon his return. Even with a sidelined Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays are still hammering left-handed pitching this season to the tune of a 122 wRC+. On a short slate like this, however, Sabathia is still in play. The big left-hander no longer misses many bats, but his ability to keep his walks down and limit hard contact in recent years has helped him get by. That said, the 38 percent hard-contact rate he allowed in his first two starts might be enough to give risk-averse fantasy managers some pause here.
Blake Parker and Cam Bedrosian were both drafted in many leagues, but it's Kenyan Middleton who is taking the Angels' closer job and running with it. Over 9 2/3 frames, the right-hander owns a 0.93 ERA and 1.03 WHIP to go along with four saves. While his K/9 currently sits at just 6.5, his 9.7 K/9 from 2017 says there's more strikeout potential to come. Still available in 58 percent of leagues, Middleton deserves more attention than he's getting.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. The "*" symbol means the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Kurt Suzuki (R), 10 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets (RHP Matt Harvey): It's a surprise that Suzuki hasn't garnered more attention among fantasy managers. He's batting .281/.400/.500 over 11 games and currently ranks seventh among catcher on the ESPN Player Rater. The Braves backstop matches up well with Harvey, who is allowing a .297/.342/.417 slash line to righty batters this year.
Chris Davis (L), 36 percent, Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers (RHP Jordan Zimmermann): Left-handed batters have hit .291/.336/.477 against Zimmerman over the last three seasons, and they've wasted no time jumping on him in 2018 (.375/.400/.542). Not only that, but the right-hander allowed a 39.5 percent hard-contact rate last year, the fourth-highest mark in baseball (min. 100 innings). Combine that with the 48.6 percent fly ball rate he's allowing this year, and bad things are going to happen. You couldn't ask for a better matchup for Davis, who produced a .250 ISO versus right-handed pitching in 2017.
Jonathan Villar (B), 24 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Miami Marlins (LHP Dillon Peters): There are multiple starting pitchers worth attacking on Thursday, and Peters is one of them. The left-hander is surrendering a .318/.400/.545 slash line to right-handed bats (with as many walks as strikeouts) and a 38.5 percent hard-contact rate. This makes for a fine spot for the switch-hitting Villar, who is much more dangerous at the hitter-friendly Miller Park (.275/.345/.416) than on the road (.238/.304/.383).
Wilmer Flores (R), 2 percent, New York Mets at Atlanta Braves: The Braves are expected to start Lucas Sims in place of Anibal Sanchez, as Sanchez was placed on the disabled list after injuring his hamstring during pregame sprints on Wednesday. Flores' prowess facing southpaws has him hitting third when a lefty starts. He's off to a slow start this season, but history says he'll come around.
Aledmys Diaz (R), 10 percent, Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees (LHP CC Sabathia): Diaz has shown some nice pop in the early going, whacking four homers in his first 14 games. That power could translate well against Sabathia, who has allowed lots of hard contact this year and surrendered three homers in his last outing.
Yuli Gurriel (R), 47 percent, Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners (LHP Marco Gonzales): Gurriel showed reverse splits in 2017, but this is still an awfully enticing matchup. While Gonzales created some buzz with a strong spring, he hasn't translated that success to the regular season. He's allowing a .380 wOBA to right-handed batters in 2018, which likely has many Houston hitters licking their chops.
Nick Ahmed (R), 16 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Francisco Giants (LHP Ty Blach): Ahmed has cooled off after a torrid first week, but Thursday's matchup against Blach creates a nice opportunity for the shortstop to get back on track. The Giants lefty has been hit hard by righties this year (.362 wOBA), while Ahmed is coming off a 2017 season in which he hit .396/.453/.625 off southpaws.
Steve Pearce (R), 9 percent, Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees (LHP CC Sabathia): Pearce owns a .225 ISO versus right-handed pitching from 2015-2017. In fact, 10 of his 18 hits (55.6%) against righties last season went for extra bases. On Thursday, he gets a favorable matchup against Sabathia, who has allowed a .272/.332/.439 slash line to righty hitters over the last three seasons, including 87 percent of the homers he's allowed.
Leonys Martin (L), 5 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Alex Cobb): Cobb signed late, missing spring training, and it showed in his 2018 debut as he was shellacked by the Red Sox, allowing seven earned runs in just 3.2 innings, with 10 hits, a walk and no strikeouts. Martin has been holding his own as the Tigers lead off hitter, posting a .362 on base percentage, though he's only been successful once in three stolen base attempts, Martin is in a good spot to fix that, as the hitting rankings score this matchup as a 10, with an excellent chance to steal a base.
Preston Tucker (L), 47 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets (RHP Matt Harvey): Tucker may not occupy a starting spot in the Braves' outfield for much longer with Ronald Acuna looming in the minors. He's producing now, however, and that's what matters for streaming purposes. Tucker is batting .333/.359/.639 versus righties
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.