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Fantasy baseball daily notes: Pitcher and hitter rankings for Thursday's games

With four hits and four walks in his first four games with the Orioles, Ryan Mountcastle has had a lot to smile about. Getty Images

Thursday's slate features 12 games, including a double-header between the Cardinals and Pirates. While Max Scherzer and Walker Buehler are the biggest names taking the ball, the most interesting battle might be the divisional contest between Kyle Freeland and Zac Gallen. Both hurlers have been the picture of consistency in 2020. Freeland hasn't surrendered more than three runs in any start this season, while Gallen hasn't allowed more than a pair. Of course, we're here for the lesser-known streaming targets, so let's get to it.

Here's a look at the day's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues.

Pitching

Kwang-Hyun Kim (L), rostered in 17% of ESPN leagues, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: After being limited to just 57 pitches in his first start of the season, Kim tossed 83 pitches in his most-recent outing, spinning six shutout frames of three-hit ball against the Reds. The left-hander should now be almost fully stretched out for Thursday's contest against Pittsburgh. While Kim has fanned only four batters in 10 2/3 frames this season, his 8.5 K/9 in his final season in Korea suggests there's more strikeout potential here. Either way, Thursday's matchup against the Pirates, who sport the worst offense in the National League with a .281 wOBA and 75 wRC+, is too good to pass up.

Garrett Richards (R), 35%, San Diego Padres vs. Seattle Mariners: Richards has posted a 3.52 ERA through six starts, which is fairly impressive when you consider that, within those six outings, he faced the Astros, the Rockies at Coors Field, and the Dodgers twice. The right-hander isn't racking up the strikeouts like we saw him do a couple of years ago, as his K/9 sits at just 7.3 However, his fastball velocity (95.1 mph) is in line with where it was last season, and he's getting more swings at balls outside the zone (31.3%) than he's managed since 2015. He could definitely see his K-rate tick back up in the coming weeks. Against a Seattle club that holds a .294 wOBA while whiffing at a 24.1% clip, Richards finds himself in an appealing spot on Thursday.

Sixto Sanchez (R), 25%, Miami Marlins at New York Mets: Sanchez may have allowed three runs (including a pair of homers) in just five innings in his major-league debut last week, but there's still plenty here to be excited about. Sanchez's stuff is electric. The 22-year-old averaged 98.5 mph with his fastball in his debut -- touching 100 mph multiple times -- to go along with a curve and slider that can both miss bats. Like any young hurler, Sixto could struggle with consistency this season. There's risk against a Mets lineup that has fared well against right-handed pitching (122 wRC+), but don't sleep on this youngster's potential.

Chad Kuhl (R), 5%, Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals: Kuhl carries some streamer appeal against a largely non-threatening Cardinals offense that possesses a bottom-five ISO (.140) and a bottom-six SLG (.380). While the right-hander's velocity is down a tick from last season, he's generating lots of swings-and-misses with his slider and curve, which has led to 19 strikeouts over 19 innings. The .182 BABIP and 97% LOB% suggest Kuhl hasn't fully earned his 2.84 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, but the stuff is still good enough to take advantage of favorable matchups like this one.

Bullpen

With the Cardinals playing a pair against the Pirates, the team with the worst record in baseball, it's a prime opportunity to scoop up a St. Louis reliever or two. Giovanny Gallegos and Andrew Miller have both registered saves this season and both are widely available. John Gant is also a name to consider in deeper leagues. He's allowed just one run in eight appearances with a 10.6 K/9 and three holds.

For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.

Hitting

Catcher -- Yan Gomes (R), 3%, Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Spencer Howard): Gomes has been quietly swinging a hot stick, batting .364/.382/.667 over his last eight games with five extra-base hits, including two homers, and seven RBI. He should stay hot against Howard, who has struggled in his acclimation to the big leagues, stumbling to a 6.17 ERA over his first three major-league starts.

First Base -- Jesus Aguilar (R), 35%, Miami Marlins at New York Mets (Undecided): Aguilar continues to be underappreciated after he burned fantasy managers in 2019, but it's time to forgive and forget. Through 22 games, the Miami first baseman is hitting .291/.326/.488 with four homers and 19 RBI. His 52.8% hard-hit rate tells us he's not getting cheated very often.

Second Base -- Jurickson Profar (S), 14%, San Diego Padres vs. Seattle Mariners (LHP Yusei Kikuchi): Kikuchi has pitched better than his 6.30 ERA suggests, but we should still go after him until he straightens things out. The switch-hitting Profar has hit better against lefties this season and is a good way to get exposure to the Padres lineup, which has scored the second-most runs in baseball.

Third Base -- Ryan Mountcastle (R), 9%, Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays (LHP Ryan Yarbrough): Mountcastle, who hit .312/.344/.527 with 25 homers at Triple-A in 2019, officially joined the Orioles late last week. Blessed with big-time power, the 23-year-old Mountcastle draws the platoon edge against Yarbrough, who has been tagged with at least four runs in three of his last four starts.

Shortstop -- Freddy Galvis (S), 14%, Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers (RHP Josh Lindblom): Lindblom is a hurler we want to pile on against right now. The right-hander sports a 6.65 ERA through five starts and is allowing a lot of fly balls in a homer-friendly park. After swatting a career-high 23 homers in 2019, Galvis has already clubbed five homers this season, with most of his damage coming against right-handed pitching.

Corner Infield -- Danny Santana (S), 38%, Texas Rangers vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Chris Bassitt): It's bizarre that you can find a guy who slugged 28 homers and swiped 21 bags (in 130 games) last season so readily available on the waiver wire. Santana's rostered percentage took a hit when he landed on the IL early in the season. Since his return, however, he has hit safely in 7-of-9 games with five extra-base hits and seven RBI.

Middle Infield -- Chris Taylor (R), 29%, Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants (RHP Logan Webb): Simply investing in high-powered offenses can be a sound strategy when streaming hitters, and Taylor is a perfect example. Not only does he get you exposure to the Dodgers lineup, but his eligibility at second base, shortstop, and outfield makes him easy to plug into your fantasy lineup. The fact that Taylor has reached base in six straight games doesn't hurt, either.

Outfield -- Harrison Bader (R), 3%, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Chad Kuhl): Bader certainly has his limitations as a hitter, but he has hit two homers and three doubles over the past week and is one of the fastest players in the majors. There's some streaming appeal here with the possibility that Bader gets two starts in Thursday's doubleheader.

Outfield -- Stephen Piscotty (R), 27%, Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers (RHP Jordan Lyles): Speaking of hot sticks, Piscotty's bat has been on fire. The Oakland outfielder is batting .311/.354/.622 with four dingers and 15 RBI over his last 12 games. Don't count on Lyles, he of the 9.25 ERA over 24 1/3 innings this season, slowing Piscotty down.

Outfield -- Ryan Braun (R), 28%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds (LHP Wade Miley): It's been downright ugly for Miley this season. Through three starts, he has a 9.72 ERA with a walk rate (7.6 BB/9) that nearly matches his strikeout rate (8.6 K/9). This is a great spot to fire up Braun, who has put up a .319/.391/.604 slash line against left-handers for his career.

Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) 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 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, 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. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate hitter rating; these are the author's ratings.