It's the largest Thursday slate of the season. There are 14 games on the schedule, with only the Indians and Angels getting the day off. With such a robust slate, there are more streaming options than normal, so it's a great time to take advantage. After all, there's only about two-and-a-half weeks left in the regular season, so the number of roster decisions remaining are winding down. Make them count.
Here's a look at Thursday's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues.
Jeff Samardzija (R), rostered in 43% of ESPN leagues, San Francisco Giants vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: Samardzija has been an incredible streaming asset over the past few months. Dating back to July 1, the veteran right-hander holds a 2.72 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in his past 13 starts. Samardzija has allowed more than three earned runs only twice during that stretch, showcasing a really strong floor for those looking to protect their ratios. In fact, his 0.95 WHIP since the All-Star break is seventh best in baseball. On Thursday, Shark gets an enticing matchup against a Pirates offense that ranks bottom 10 in wOBA (.312) and wRC+ (90).
Alex Young (L), 12%, Arizona Diamondbacks at New York Mets: Young is coming off an absolutely dominant performance, a gem against the Reds in which he allowed just one hit and fanned 12 across eight shutout frames. That marks the third straight start in which he's surrendered two or fewer earned runs. While Young is a soft-tosser without overpowering stuff (he averages 89.4 mph on his fastball), he still gets swings and misses with his cutter and curve. The Mets have been tough on lefties this season (111 wRC+), but Young remains in the streaming conversation given his recent track record.
Rich Hill (L), 44%, Los Angeles Dodgers at Baltimore Orioles: Hill is set to rejoin the Dodgers' rotation after being sidelined since mid-June with a left forearm strain. While the veteran's inability to stay healthy has become a punch line, the fact of the matter is that he's still a high-end fantasy hurler when he's on the mound. In 10 starts this season, he owns a 2.55 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 10.4 K/9. Hill is unlikely to go deep into this game, which lowers his ceiling as a streaming option, but it's tough to ignore him against a highly exploitable Orioles lineup. At the very least, he's a name to keep in mind over the season's final two weeks.
Brendan McKay (L), 9%, Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers: Like Hill, McKay may not pitch deep into Thursday's affair with Texas. However, the strikeout upside still exists. The two-way player is fanning 11 batters per nine innings and is coming off a brilliant effort against Toronto in which he spun 3 2/3 scoreless innings with seven K's. McKay matches up well with a Rangers team that's been brutal since the break, ranking dead last in baseball with a 78 wRC+ and a 25.2% strikeout rate.
Kolby Allard (L), 10%, Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays: After a few rough starts at the beginning of his tenure with the Rangers, Allard has settled down nicely. He holds a 1.47 ERA with 14 K's in 18 1/3 innings over his past three starts, and he's impressively allowed only one ball to leave the yard in six starts this season. There's still reason to be cautious here given Allard's limited track record, but a Rays squad that's been middle-of-the-road versus lefties isn't a terrible matchup.
Three clubs will be deploying a bullpen game, with a couple of familiar names as openers. First, the new name is Justin Dunn, who will make his debut for the Seattle Mariners against the Cincinnati Reds before giving way to Tommy Milone. Dunn isn't a highly regarded prospect, pitching mostly at Double-A Arkansas. The 23-year-old righty posted a 3.55 ERA in 131 2/3 innings with 158 strikeouts. Since he'll be limited to an inning or two, Dunn isn't worth consideration. Milone has had mixed success as the primary pitcher and is in play if you're desperately chasing wins.
The New York Yankees will pair up CC Sabathia and Domingo German, looking to keep both healthy and sharp down the stretch. The key here is keeping German active, as it may seem like he's not pitching this week after consulting the schedule. As the primary pitcher, German could be eligible for a win against the Detroit Tigers.
Projected game scores
Catcher -- Will Smith (R), 46%, Los Angeles Dodgers at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Dylan Bundy): Smith's ownership continues to sit under the 50% mark, so I'll continue to feature him here. The young slugger owns a dominant .436 wOBA versus right-handed pitching this season, while Bundy has been much more vulnerable to righty batters (.349 wOBA).
First Base -- Miguel Cabrera (R), 46%, Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees (LHP J.A. Happ): It's too little, too late for most fantasy managers, but Cabrera is showing signs of life as the season draws to a close. The future Hall of Famer is batting .429/.484/.571 over the past two weeks, and he gets a nice matchup against Happ, who sports a 5.24 second-half ERA.
Second Base -- Starlin Castro (R), 33%, Miami Marlins vs. Milwaukee Brewers (LHP Gio Gonzalez): Castro may not generate much excitement in fantasy circles, but he has been on a tear of late, batting .326 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs over his past 37 games. On Thursday, he gets the platoon edge against Gonzalez, who has had his struggles against righty batters this season, allowing a .346 wOBA.
Third Base -- Evan Longoria (R), 21%, San Francisco Giants vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Joe Musgrove): Like Castro, Longoria is fairly boring as a fantasy contributor. However, he's quietly putting together a very productive stretch, batting .318/.367/.571 over his past 41 games. Musgrove is slated to start after being scratched last Friday with a sore foot. In the event he can't go, Alex McRae is Plan B. Neither hurler is daunting enough to shy away from Longoria, despite the veteran righty swinger lacking the platoon edge
Shortstop -- Asdrubal Cabrera (S), 49%, Washington Nationals at Minnesota Twins (RHP Kyle Gibson): Cabrera has settled in as the Nationals' everyday second baseman against right-handed pitching, and he's making the most of the opportunity. Over his past 27 games, he's batting .358/.431/.579 with four homers and 31 RBIs. This is a good time to attack Gibson, who hasn't registered a quality start in any of his past five outings.
Corner Infield -- Kyle Seager (L), 49%, Seattle Mariners vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tyler Mahle): Mahle carries some nice strikeout upside, but he also sports a 6.62 ERA over his past seven starts. This creates a nice spot for the red-hot Seager. The lefty slugger owns a .393 wOBA in the second half and has slammed 10 homers in his past 25 games.
Middle Infield -- Kolten Wong (L), 39%, St. Louis Cardinals at Colorado Rockies (RHP Tim Melville): This Coors Field matchup should suit Wong quite nicely. He's quietly batting .358/.432/.512 since the All-Star break, and he gets the platoon edge against Melville. The righty has only four starts under his belt, but he's allowing a .369 wOBA to left-handed batters.
Outfield -- Brett Gardner (L), 34%, New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers (RHP Spencer Turnbull): After putting up a 3.31 ERA in the first half, Turnbull has stumbled to a 7.96 ERA since the break. This presents a prime opportunity for Gardner. The veteran outfielder isn't the fantasy asset he used to be, but he's still whacked 20-plus homers with double-digit steals this season. Gardner should build on those numbers in this spot.
Outfield -- Jackie Bradley Jr. (L), 36%, Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Clay Buchholz): Bradley's overall stat line might be rather ugly, but he's been on a heater of late. The past 15 games have seen him produce a 1.112 OPS with four homers. Buchholz, meanwhile, features a 5.31 ERA and a lowly 4.5 K/9 in eight starts this season.
Outfield -- Anthony Santander (S), 24%, Baltimore Orioles vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (LHP Rich Hill): Santander may not have much of a hit tool and he rarely draws walks, but what he does have is power. He's belted 14 bombs in the second half and sports a .250 ISO versus left-handed pitching. Santander makes for a nice power play against Hill, who might be rusty in his first start back off the IL.