Thursday's 11-game slate features a slew of aces, but Max Scherzer is the one who will undoubtedly draw the most attention. As of this writing, Mad Max is slated to take the hill against the Philadelphia Phillies. However, the Washington Nationals have declared themselves as "sellers" ahead of Friday's trade deadline, and trade rumors have been swirling around Scherzer, who would be the most prominent pitcher on the market. The three-time Cy Young winner could very well still make a start this week, but there's a good chance it'll be for a different team. If Scherzer is pulled, Paolo Espino is the likely Washington hurler to inherit the start.
Here's a look at Thursday's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues.
Alex Cobb (R), rostered in 26% of ESPN leagues, Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland Athletics: Aside from a blowup start against Tampa Bay in late June, Cobb has been lights out of late, surrendering one or zero earned runs in five of his last six outings. Even with the poor starts against the Rays, Cobb owns a 2.36 ERA over his last six turns. He's drawing the A's at the right time, as they've stumbled to an 87 wRC+ that ranks bottom-three in baseball over the last month. The last time Cobb squared off against Oakland in late May, he spun seven shutout innings.
David Price (L), 35%, Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants: Price's matchup on Thursday is a bit of a mixed bag. The Giants offense has been crushing in July, putting up a 118 wRC+, but they've more or less been average against lefties this season. Meanwhile, Price has pitched well as a starter this season, posting a 3.21 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 across six starts. More importantly, after a series of shorter starts, the veteran southpaw is close to getting fully stretched out, throwing a season-high 74 pitches his last time out. Price should be close to a full-go at the pitcher-friendly Oracle Park on Thursday.
Drew Smyly (L), 26%, Atlanta Braves at New York Mets: There's not much in Smyly's profile that's particularly exciting, and the indicators suggest that he deserves worse than the 4.30 ERA he's posted in 17 starts. Still, he's produced a 2.75 ERA over his last nine turns, holding opponents to three or fewer runs in all of them. Smyly's matchup is similar to Price's. While the Mets have been hitting well in July, they've been middle-of-the-road against left-handed pitchers this season. There is some risk with Smyly that regression is coming soon, but the hope is that he can maintain the solid floor he's shown over the last two months.
Casey Mize (R), 49%, Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles: Mize, a former No. 1 overall pick, clearly carries plenty of long-term upside. However, the short-term downside is that the Tigers haven't been letting him pitch deeply into games lately. The good news, though, is that after being held to 56 pitches or fewer in three straight starts, he got up to 79 pitches his last time out, which could be an indication that the Tigers are letting Mize ramp up again. Over his last 15 starts, the youngster has allowed more than three earned runs only once. Assuming the Tigers extend Mize's pitch count again, he'll be in a great spot against the Orioles, who have been one of the worst teams in baseball against right-handed pitching in 2021.
With Kendall Graveman being shipped off to the Astros on Tuesday, the closer role in Seattle is up for grabs. Paul Sewald, who already has four saves this season, is the favorite to take over ninth-inning duties. Not only does Sewald own a 2.30 ERA and 0.99 WHIP over 31 appearances, but his 15.51 K/9 ranks third in baseball, behind only Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman. The 31-year-old righty is available in 89% of ESPN leagues.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Eric Haase (R), 43%, Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles (LHP Alexander Wells): Haase has been showing big-time power behind the plate, clubbing 17 home runs in just 54 games, including a game-tying grand slam in the ninth inning against Minnesota on Tuesday. Much of his production has come against lefties, as his .324 batting average and 1.075 OPS against them illustrates. A matchup against Wells, Thursday's lowest-ranked hurler, has Haase in a prime spot on Thursday.
First Base -- Joey Votto (L), 50%, Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs (RHP Alec Mills): Votto is finally rostered on 50% of teams, but frankly, it's not enough. Not only is he putting up top-end batted-ball data this season, but he's backing it up with results. The veteran is batting .292/.396/.567 against right-handed pitching, and he owns a .308/.405/.573 triple slash over his last 40 games.
Second Base -- Rougned Odor (L), 5%, New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays (RHP Luis Patino): The Yankees offense has been a disappointment, but Odor has actually been a pleasant surprise at the plate. While he's certainly hit some cold spells this season, he's hitting .295/.345/.617 with seven homers and 17 RBI over his last 25 games. Odor has been batting third or fourth against righties, and that'll be the case again on Thursday with Patino on the mound for the Rays.
Third Base -- J.D. Davis (R), 35%, New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves (LHP Drew Smyly): Since returning from the injured list, Davis is batting .290/.389/.548 with a pair of homers in 11 games. On Thursday, he gets the platoon advantage against Smyly, who has been much more vulnerable against right-handed swingers in his career.
Shortstop - Alcides Escobar (R), 5%, Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Vince Velasquez): Now that he's no longer stealing bases, Escobar doesn't have a very exciting skill set for fantasy. That said, he's settled in as the Nationals leadoff hitter, and that does provide value, particularly in the runs department. Since the beginning of July, Escobar's 14 runs rank top-12 in the National League. He's also hitting .293 with a .396 OBP since the All-Star break.
Corner Infield -- Rowdy Tellez (L), 3%, Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Chad Kuhl): Tellez has been drawing regular playing time at first base, even getting the occasional start against lefties. The increased playing time is a direct result of the mashing he's been doing at the plate, hitting .333/.433/.625 over his last 12 games. On Thursday, Tellez finds himself in a favorable spot against Kuhl, who has surrendered a .357 wOBA to lefties in his career.
Middle Infield -- Leury Garcia (S), 9%, Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals (RHP Carlos Hernandez): Garcia has taken the reins at second base with Nick Madrigal sidelined. Over his last 30 games, he's posted a respectable .274/.383/.442 batting line. There may not be big power or speed here, but his value gets a boost by hitting in a great lineup and offering eligibility at three different positions.
Outfield -- Gavin Sheets (L), 4%, Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals (RHP Carlos Hernandez): Hernandez owns a 6.04 ERA over 14 appearances this season, so it makes sense to target multiple bats against him. Sheets has posted a .306 ISO since his promotion, belting six homers and four doubles with 15 RBI in just 21 games. Hernandez is going to have his hands full with this lineup on Thursday.
Outfield -- Gregory Polanco (L), 6%, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Milwaukee Brewers (RHP Freddy Peralta): A matchup against Peralta isn't ideal, but the Brewers held the right-hander to just 51 pitches in his last start in an effort to manage his workload, so it's possible he doesn't go deep into Thursday's start, either. Either way, Polanco has been red-hot at the plate of late, hitting .333/.433/.708 in July with two homers and three stolen bases.
Outfield -- Darin Ruf (R), 2%, San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (LHP David Price): When there's a lefty on the mound, it's almost always a favorable matchup for Ruf, who has hit lefties hard throughout his career. The 34-year-old outfielder sports a 1.108 OPS against southpaws this season, putting him in a nice spot against Price on Thursday.