Thursday brings with it one of the smallest slates of the season. With the series between the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners being postponed due to a member of the A's organization testing positive for COVID-19, we're left with only eight games on the schedule. The good news is that there are still multiple pitching streamers worth consideration. The better news is that, while we may be stuck grasping at straws on Thursday, Friday is currently set up for an overflowing 20-games worth of baseball action. If Thursday is the appetizer, then Friday will be the feast.
Here's a look at Thursday's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues
Zach Eflin (R), rostered in 16% of ESPN leagues, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Washington Nationals: Eflin turned some heads against Atlanta over the weekend, spinning seven innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts and no walks. It was by far his most dominant outing of the season, so it's noteworthy to point out that his curveball usage (22.9%) was a career high. Prior to Saturday's start, he hadn't featured it more than 11.6% in any game this season. Eflin's pitch mix is certainly worth monitoring over his next couple of turns to see whether or not he's figured something out. Eflin's 2.72 FIP and 3.03 xFIP suggest he has actually pitched better than his 4.10 ERA. Plus, his 33.3% K-rate puts him in the league's top 10, so there are multiple levels of intrigue here. Washington's bats have been hot of late, putting up a top-five wOBA over the last two weeks. Nevertheless, Eflin is worth riding.
Taijuan Walker (R), 39%, Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox: After being traded to the Blue Jays last week, Walker went out and twirled six shutout frames against the Orioles on Saturday, dropping his ERA down to 3.27 and his WHIP to 1.07. The right-hander's stuff isn't generating many swings-and-misses, but he is doing a good job limiting hard contact. In fact, Walker's 26.6% hard-hit rate allowed is among the top five in baseball (min. 30 IP), according to Statcast. He's a decent streamer against a Red Sox team that recently traded Mitch Moreland and might also be without J.D. Martinez, who is battling a wrist injury.
Alec Mills (R), 23%, Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates: After a pair of strong starts to open the season, Mills has crumbled, surrendering 17 runs in his last 19 2/3 innings, culminating in a 7.78 ERA. Then again, if we're looking for an opportunity for the Cubs right-hander to rebound, it's not going to get any better than Thursday's matchup against Pittsburgh. The Pirates have the worst offense in baseball against right-handed pitching, and it's not close. They currently rank dead last in wOBA (.251), wRC+ (55), OBP (.257), ISO (.112) and, well, you get the point. Mills isn't a big strikeout guy, but he could still rack up a handful of whiffs against the Pirates and their 26% K-rate.
J.A. Happ (L), 15%, New York Yankees at New York Mets: Happ was roughed up in his first couple of outings this season, largely due to control issues, but he's pitched better of late. He's allowed just one run over his last 13 innings, including 7 1/3 scoreless frames against the Mets his last time out. Happ gets those same Mets on Thursday. There's still some downside here given his home run issues, but the Mets lineup is left-hander heavy and not overly threatening.
Danny Duffy (L), 24%, Kansas City Royals vs. Chicago White Sox: Duffy makes this list because he holds a respectable 4.11 ERA and has seen his K/9 rate soar to 10.3 this season after sitting at just 7.9 in 2019. He's also done a fairly good job in holding down good offenses, limiting the Twins to only one run in back-to-back starts in mid-August. That said, it's wise to exercise caution against a White Sox lineup that has smashed lefties this season, sporting an MLB-best .403 wOBA and 160 wRC+. Your place in the standings may dictate if you need to take more risks in the season's final month, so know that Thursday's matchup presents a tall task for Duffy.
The Phillies' acquisition of David Phelps from the Brewers on Monday didn't create many headlines, but it was a noteworthy move nonetheless. While Brandon Workman has taken over Philadelphia's closer role since being acquired from Boston, he's allowed runs in three of his six appearances. If Workman's struggles continue, Phelps could find himself in some high-leverage situations late in games. Through 13 appearances this season, Phelps has a 2.77 ERA with a 13.9 K/9 and a 1.4 BB/9. He's available in virtually all ESPN leagues.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Yan Gomes (R), 4%, Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Zach Eflin): Gomes is in the midst of a nice little run, batting .364/.404/.636 over his last 12 games, hitting safely in 11 of those contests. Consistent catcher production is hard to find, so Gomes makes for a fine pick-up if you're not getting enough out of your catcher spot.
First Base -- Ryan O'Hearn (L), 1%, Kansas City Royals vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Dylan Cease): O'Hearn has a lot of swing and miss, but he's also adept at getting on base and has good power. He's swatted two homers in the past week, and he matches up well with Cease, who has been tagged for six homers in just 22 2/3 innings against left-handed swingers.
Second Base -- Jurickson Profar (S), 14%, San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Angels (LHP Andrew Heaney): The Padres offense is rolling, and Profar has been doing his part. Over the last 15 games, he's batting .304/.353/.522 with three dingers and 10 RBI. Heaney has been inconsistent this season, allowing four-plus runs in three of his last four starts.
Third Base -- Alec Bohm (R), 23%, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Washington Nationals (RHP Anibal Sanchez): It's been tough going for Sanchez and his 6.90 ERA through six starts. He's unlikely to turn things around against a tough Phillies lineup that sports a 115 wRC+ over the last two weeks. Bohm has shown strong skills in his first two weeks of big-league action, sporting a 47.7% hard-hit rate and walking nearly as much as he's struck out.
Shortstop -- Chris Taylor (R), 24%, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Luke Weaver): Taylor is a valuable weapon on short slates. He's a Swiss Army knife that can be used at three different positions and hits in one of baseball's most dangerous lineups. Weaver, who has an 8.23 ERA over seven starts, figures to have a long night ahead of him.
Corner Infield -- Colin Moran (L), 16%, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs (RHP Alec Mills): Mills has been very hittable this season, especially when facing left-handed batters. He's surrendered five homers in just 20 innings against lefties. Moran and his 53.3% hard-hit rate should be able to take advantage.
Middle Infield -- Nick Solak (R), 27%, Texas Rangers at Houston Astros (RHP Zack Greinke): Solak recently acquired second-base eligibility for this season -- and now he's only a couple of games away from securing that eligibility for 2021. The 25-year-old offers both power and speed and hits in the heart of the Rangers lineup.
Outfield -- Jason Heyward (L), 27%, Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP JT Brubaker): A hot week has put Heyward back on the fantasy radar. Over his past six games, he's hitting .421 with six extra-base hits, including three homers. Heyward, who is hitting .328/.446/.844 versus right-handers this season, draws the platoon edge in Thursday's matchup.
Outfield - Aaron Hicks (S), 27%, New York Yankees vs. New York Mets (RHP Robert Gsellman): Hicks is an easy way to get some exposure to the Yankees offense. As New York's No. 3 hitter, he possesses a strong batting eye (along with solid power) in a hitter-friendly park. Hicks has an 18.7% walk rate which ranks fourth-best in all of baseball, giving him a value boost in OBP formats.
Outfield -- Josh Reddick (L), 8%, Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers (RHP Lance Lynn): Reddick just keeps doing his thing despite being largely ignored in fantasy circles. He's batting .280/.361/.439 on the season with a career-best 11.4% walk rate. The matchup against Lynn is tough, but it would be a smart move to get a piece of the Astros lineup.
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.