Fantasy baseball daily notes: Pitcher and hitter rankings for Thursday

Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith has no business being available in nearly two-thirds of ESPN's fantasy baseball leagues. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while, a short slate can surprise us with an abundance of streaming options. Luckily, that's the case this Thursday. Despite there being only 10 games on the schedule, there are plenty of interesting pitchers to consider. We usually highlight three to four hurlers in this space, but today we're recommending five arms who should be part of the streaming conversation.

Here's a look at Thursday's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.


Jeff Samardzija (R), rostered in 38% of ESPN leagues, San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks: Samardzija has been a frequenter of this space of late, and it's easy to see why. The right-hander owns a 1.95 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over his past eight starts. During that stretch, he's surrendered more than two runs only once, including just three runs allowed over his last 24 frames. The truth is that Samardzija is pitching a bit over his head right now. His .191 second-half BABIP doesn't match up with his 43.3% hard-hit rate, and his 4.20 FIP and 4.24 xFIP don't match his 2.27 second-half ERA. That said, fantasy managers might as well ride the hot streak. Thursday's matchup against a hot-hitting Arizona team isn't ideal, but it helps that the Diamondbacks have been below average against right-handed pitching this season (90 wRC+).

Reynaldo Lopez (R), 21%, Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Angels: Lopez is on a similarly impressive stretch. Since the All-Star break, the right-hander holds a 2.13 ERA across six starts with nearly a strikeout per inning. There remains some risk here because Reynaldo continues to allow too many free passes, but it's important to note that Lopez's recent dominance has been at least partly fueled by an uptick in velocity. In his most recent start against Oakland, when he tossed 6 1/3 shutout innings, the 25-year-old averaged 97 mph on his fastball for just the second time all season. Lopez's matchup on Thursday against the Angels, who sport a .307 wOBA since the break, is not intimidating.

Aaron Sanchez (R), 33%, Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics: Sanchez's resurgence with the Astros appears to be in full effect. Since Houston acquired him at the trade deadline, the 27-year-old righty has surrendered just one run over two starts and 11 innings. It's fair to note that Sanchez's first two matchups with the Astros were favorable (vs. SEA, @ BAL), but his Thursday matchup is nothing to steer away from. The A's have been mediocre against righties in 2019 (97 wRC+), and the Oakland Coliseum is an extreme pitchers' park.

Andrew Heaney (L), 33%, Los Angeles Angels vs. Chicago White Sox: Heaney lasted just 3 2/3 innings in his first start back from the injured list last week, but the results were mostly positive. He allowed just one run against the Red Sox at Fenway Park while striking out four and walking one. Most importantly, his average fastball velocity (92.9 mph) was right in line with where he was prior to the shoulder injury. Heaney gets a soft landing spot on Thursday, as he draws a White Sox team that sports an MLB-worst .277 wOBA and 71 wRC+ since the All-Star break.

Alex Young (L), 21%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Francisco Giants: The peripherals suggest that Young's 3.32 ERA and 1.00 WHIP are due for some negative regression, but Thursday's matchup against San Francisco is too enticing to ignore. The Giants have been useless against left-handed pitching this season, ranking 29th in baseball with a .291 wOBA and 80 wRC+. Young carries less upside than the others on this list, but the Giants are a team to attack.


The Yankees and Mariners are both going with bullpen games. Chad Green and Matt Wisler will open for their respective clubs. It's unclear who the Yankees will bring in after Green, though facing a revamped Cleveland lineup is a risk, regardless. However, the Mariners have Tommy Milone lined up as their "primary pitcher." With the Tigers on the docket, the southpaw is in play, especially for those with separate starter and reliever designations.

Projected game scores


Catcher -- Will Smith (R), 32%, Los Angeles Dodgers at Miami Marlins (LHP Caleb Smith): How exactly is Smith still available in nearly 70 percent of leagues? After swatting two more homers on Tuesday night, the rookie backstop is now batting .324/.375/.817 with nine homers and 26 RBIs in 23 games. Don't overthink this one. There's a very good chance that Smith is better than whatever catcher you're rolling out there.

First base -- C.J. Cron (R), 43%, Minnesota Twins at Texas Rangers (RHP Pedro Payano): Payano may sport a sub 4.00 ERA, but it won't stay there for long. He's walking nearly as many as he's striking out, and his FIP and xFIP sit at 5.20 and 5.72, respectively. Cron makes for a quality power play in a homer-friendly park on Thursday.

Second base -- Josh VanMeter (L), 32%, Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Michael Wacha): VanMeter has been seeing regular playing time versus right-handed pitching, and he's making the most of it, batting .301/.381/.505 against them. Meanwhile, Wacha has bounced in and out of the rotation all season. Carrying a 5.54 ERA and 1.65 WHIP for the year, there's nothing in Wacha's recent performances portending a turnaround.

Third base -- Kyle Seager (L), 21%, Seattle Mariners at Detroit Tigers (RHP Spencer Turnbull): Seager got off to a slow start after returning from the IL, but he's finally coming around. He slammed three homers against Detroit on Tuesday night and has now hit safely in seven straight games. Seager draws the platoon edge against Turnbull, who is much more susceptible to lefty batters.

Shortstop -- Nick Ahmed (R), 14%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Francisco Giants (RHP Dereck Rodriguez): Ahmed is known much more for his defense than his offense, but that doesn't mean he can't still provide some value with the bat. He's batting .313/.405/.656 in August and has now homered in three straight games.

Corner infield -- Miguel Sano (R), 35%, Minnesota Twins at Texas Rangers (RHP Pedro Payano): Sano is a super streaky hitter, but he's also high-upside play in a great offense. His .310 ISO would rank top-10 in baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. If you are playing catch-up in the power categories in your head-to-head matchup, Sano should be a streaming target.

Middle infield - Josh Rojas (L), under 1%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Francisco Giants (RHP Dereck Rodriguez): Acquired from Houston in the Zack Greinke trade, Rojas was called up to the big leagues after batting a combined .332/.418/.606 between Double- and Triple-A with 23 homers and 33 steals in 105 games. This is a skill set that deserves your attention, and he's available everywhere.

Outfield -- Franmil Reyes (R), 32%, Cleveland Indians at New York Yankees (Bullpen game): Reyes is on pace for 44 dingers, bashing righties and lefties with equal aplomb. A good 10 of his 29 homers have been of the opposite-field variety, which plays well in Yankee Stadium.

Outfield -- Ian Happ (S), 10%, Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies (LHP Drew Smyly): Is Happ fantasy-relevant again? It certainly appears that way. He's playing nearly every day for the Cubs, and he's batting .300/.391/.650 across 16 games. The switch-hitting Happ matches up well with Smyly, who has allowed a whopping 23 homers in just 75 innings this season.

Outfield -- Mike Tauchman (L), 45%, New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians (RHP Adam Plutko): The Yankees' lineup just keeps on humming no matter how many injuries it suffers. Tauchman is a perfect example of that. Since the break, all he's done is bat .388/.456/.800 with eight homers and 22 RBIs in 24 games. On Thursday, Tauchman gets the platoon advantage against Plutko at Yankee Stadium, where he sports a .937 OPS this season.

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).