Last Thursday brought us a unique 14-game slate that offered plenty of worthwhile streaming options. Unfortunately, we're back to the status quo this Thursday, as we get an abbreviated nine-game slate where quality streaming options are hard to come by.
Where your team sits in the standings or in your head-to-head matchup will help determine the level of risk you're willing to take on. As a general rule, though, if you're trying to make up ground, don't be afraid to make some bold decisions.
Here's a look at Thursday's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues.
Jordan Lyles (R), rostered in 29% of ESPN leagues, Milwaukee Brewers vs. San Diego Padres: The Brewers have been surging, winning 10 of their last 11 games, and Lyles has been a big contributor. The right-hander sports a 2.39 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over his last nine starts. In those nine outings, he's surrendered more than two earned runs on just one occasion. Pair that with a 9.0 K/9 rate on the season, and there's plenty to like here on a shortened slate. Lyles finds himself in another promising spot on Thursday, squaring off against a Padres team that has a .308 wOBA and bloated 25% K rate since the break.
Andrew Heaney (L), 50%, Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees: Full disclosure: I'm benching Heaney in a couple of roto leagues where I'm trying to protect my ratios and don't need the strikeouts. If, however, your situation is different and you're willing to trade some risk for some upside, then Heaney makes some sense. A matchup versus the Yankees at Yankee Stadium could obviously go poorly, but the Angels lefty sports a 10.9 K/9 this season and has racked up double-digit K's in 25% (4-for-16) of his starts in 2019.
Kyle Gibson (R), 45%, Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals: Gibson has had a rough go of it of late. He holds a 7.59 ERA over his last seven appearances (six starts), which includes a .350 batting average against. Needless to say, there's reason to be hesitant here. What you're investing in, though, are the skills and the matchup. Despite the rough patch, Gibson is still fanning nearly a batter per inning (8.8 K/9) with decent control (2.9 BB/9) and a strong ground ball rate (51.1%). The peripherals also suggest some bad luck has played a part in his 4.76 ERA. If you need the strikeouts and a chance at a win, bet on Gibson against a bottom-dwelling Royals offense that's been rubbing two sticks together in the second half (.304 wOBA, 85 wRC+).
Yusei Kikuchi (L), 48%, Seattle Mariners at Pittsburgh Pirates: Like Gibson's, Kikuchi's recent numbers don't leave much room for optimism. A 6.41 second-half ERA and a scary 2.1 HR/9 rate definitely present some blow-up potential. But again, we're here for the favorable matchup. The Pirates have been the worst team in baseball against left-handed pitching in 2019, ranking dead last with a 77 wRC+ and a 5.1% walk rate. While Kikuchi has hit some speed bumps, he's also flashed at times, like when he tossed a two-hit shutout against Toronto a few weeks ago. So he has shown the ability to exploit bad lineups, which is what we're hoping for on Thursday.
Bullpen: If you're in a saves battle in your head-to-head playoff matchup and need a boost, there are multiple closers still widely available. Ian Kennedy, Hansel Robles, and Emilio Pagan are all ripe for the picking in at least 50% of ESPN leagues. According to the Player Rater, both Robles and Pagan have been top-10 fantasy closers over the last month, and Kennedy has piled up eight saves over the last three weeks.
Catcher -- Roberto Perez (R), 8%, Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Daniel Norris): September has been kind to Perez, as he's slashed .385/.442/.564 this month. Perez entered the season with 21 homers in 963 plate appearances since debuting in 2014. He currently sits at 23 HR in 424 plate appearances -- with a chance to add to that total since Norris has seen 25 balls leave the yard in just 138 1/3 innings.
First Base -- Ryan O'Hearn (L), 1%, Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins (RHP Kyle Gibson): It's been a very disappointing season for O'Hearn after he created some draft season buzz with a hot finish to the 2018 campaign. He sports a dismal .186/.277/.352 slash line across 347 plate appearances. That said, he's still a power threat against right-handed pitching, and Gibson has had trouble with righty batters this season.
Second Base -- Jonathan Schoop (R), 47%, Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals (LHP Mike Montgomery): If you're looking to get some exposure to the Twins' homer-friendly lineup, Schoop is a good way to do it. He's riding a hot streak, batting .305/.369/.695 with six home runs over his last 19 games. He also gets the platoon edge against Montgomery, who has been a huge liability away from Kauffman Stadium (7.85 ERA).
Third Base -- Miguel Sano (R), 36%, Minnesota Twins vs. Kansas City Royals (LHP Mike Montgomery): Sano is another way to get some Twins exposure against Montgomery, who figures to be overmatched in this dangerous matchup. The 26-year-old slugger has bombed lefty pitchers for a .380 wOBA and a .309 ISO, putting him in a great spot to do some damage against the vulnerable southpaw.
Shortstop -- Kevin Newman (R), 38%, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Seattle Mariners (LHP Yusei Kikuchi): I highlighted Kikuchi's recent struggles in the pitcher section, but the fact that he's surrendering a .378 wOBA to right-handed batters this season is the real appeal here. Newman, who sports a .308/.357/.425 slash line since the All-Star break, should continue his hot hitting in this favorable spot.
Corner Infield -- Jose Osuna (R), 1%, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Seattle Mariners (LHP Yusei Kikuchi): Osuna has been playing regularly, mostly filling in at first base for the injured Josh Bell. Osuna has taken advantage of his opportunity, hitting safely in six of the last seven games, batting .345 (10-for-29) in that span with six runs scored.
Middle Infield -- Keston Hiura (R), 30%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. San Diego Padres (LHP Joey Lucchesi): Hiura immediately becomes a high-end streaming option now that he's returned from his hamstring injury. In 72 games this season, he's batting .302/.370/.571 with 16 homers and nine steals. This is a potential fantasy stud in the making, and on Thursday he gets the platoon advantage in the homer-friendly Miller Park.
Outfield --Kole Calhoun (L), 42%, Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees (RHP Masahiro Tanaka): Every home run Calhoun hits extends his career-high as his total of 31 marks the first time he's eclipsed the 30-HR level. For the fourth time in five years, Tanaka's home run rate is well above league-average, sitting at a generous 1.41 HR/9 this season.
Outfield -- Oscar Mercado (R), 22%, Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Daniel Norris): Fire up Mercado, a future 20/20 contributor who handles himself equally well against both righties and lefties. The Tigers will open with the southpaw Norris, who has thrown exactly three innings in each of his previous seven outings as opener. Righthander Drew VerHagen will follow.
Outfield -- Randal Grichuk (R), 24%, Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Gabriel Ynoa): I like to recommend a pure power play on each slate, and Grichuk fills that role nicely. While he doesn't provide much across-the-board value, he's popped 14 homers in the second half and should finish 2019 with his first career 30-HR campaign. Grichuk will be in a good spot to muscle up against Ynoa, who has served up 25 dingers in just 101 1/3 innings this season.