Thursday's abbreviated slate isn't too exciting for streaming purposes. The goal when streaming is to find multiple upside arms in favorable matchups, but that's not in the cards, unfortunately. Today, most of the streamer-worthy hurlers find themselves squaring off against tough offenses, or at least offenses that have been hitting well lately. Of course, with just over a week left in the regular season, we're running out of time, so we don't have the luxury of holding out for better matchups. This is what we're left with, so let's make the most of it.
Here's a look at Thursday's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50% of ESPN leagues.
Adrian Houser (R), rostered in 34% of ESPN leagues, Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Houser draws a tough matchup against the Cardinals, the hottest team in baseball after winning 10 straight, but he's still in play as a streamer given his recent performance. The right-hander has delivered a 2.82 ERA since the All-Star break, which includes a 2.33 mark over his last seven starts. It also includes a complete game shutout Houser tossed against these same Cardinals in early September. Without many reliable streamers available for Thursday's shortened slate, Houser needs to be in the discussion.
Yusei Kikuchi (L), 48%, Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics: Some recent blowup outings have derailed Kikuchi's second-half ERA (5.82), but he carries arguably more K upside than anyone else on this list, so there are certainly situations where he's worth running out there. In fact, his last double-digit strikeout performance came against Oakland back in July, when he fanned a career-high 12 batters in just six frames. The A's still don't present a particularly favorable matchup, as they've been above average versus lefties this season, but the spacious Oakland Coliseum helps mitigate the risk.
Alex Cobb (R), 14%, Los Angeles Angels vs. Houston Astros: Here we have another hurler stuck in an undesirable matchup. A date with the Astros, who have posted an intimidating 135 wRC+ in September, could obviously go poorly. However, if you're lagging behind in your head-to-head playoff matchup, then you need to be aggressive. And with the way Cobb has pitched lately, being aggressive could pay off. The veteran right-hander has held opponents to one or zero earned runs in each of his last five starts, leading to a miniscule 0.91 ERA during that stretch. With a career-best 25.8% strikeout rate and elite ground ball (54.7%) and HR/9 (0.33) rates, Cobb carries a decent floor on Thursday, even in a matchup that looks bad on paper.
Madison Bumgarner (L), 31%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Atlanta Braves: A series of rough starts in late August and early September have ballooned Bumgarner's ERA to 4.56. However, a seven-inning, two-run performance against Houston his last time out hopefully has him back on track. While the Astros have smashed lefties this season (118 wRC+), Thursday's matchup against Atlanta looks like a much softer landing spot. The Braves rank 24th in baseball with a 93 wRC+ versus left-handed pitching, and their 6.6% walk rate in September is third-worst in baseball.
The Cardinals recently had a changing of the guard in the ninth inning, as they inserted Giovanny Gallegos into the closer role and shifted Alex Reyes into a setup capacity. Yet, Reyes is still more widely rostered than Gallegos, who is a free agent in nearly 40% of ESPN leagues. Gallegos has nailed down nine saves over the last month, and with the Cards playing as well as any team in baseball right now, there should be more save opportunities on the horizon. If you need saves, Gallegos is a no-brainer pick-up.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Catcher -- Daulton Varsho (L), 20%, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Charlie Morton): Varsho has carved out an everyday role for the Diamondbacks, splitting time between right field, center field, and catcher while batting in the top half of the lineup against righties. A player with catcher eligibility who plays every day is almost impossible to find in fantasy, so Varsho's value shouldn't be overlooked. Since the break, he's batting .294/.357/.588 in 48 games.
First Base -- Brandon Belt (L), 40%, San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres (RHP Yu Darvish): Frankly, it's hard to understand why Belt remains so readily available. All the veteran first baseman has done over his last 23 games is hit .311 while blasting 10 homers with 18 RBI and 20 runs. Belt owns a .952 OPS versus righties this season, and he matches up well with Darvish, who sports a 6.23 ERA in the second half.
Second Base -- Brendan Rodgers (R), 21%, Colorado Rockies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (RHP Max Scherzer): Facing off against Scherzer obviously isn't an ideal matchup, but Coors Field is still Coors Field. Rodgers is batting .328/.357/.567 in September, and he offers eligibility at both middle infield positions. Garrett Hampson, who is hitting .301/.350/.507 at Coors this year, is also a viable option here.
Third Base -- Andres Gimenez (L), 17%, Cleveland vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Dylan Cease): Gimenez is looking to finish the season on a strong note. He has two multi-hit efforts and a pair of homers in his last five games, and he's swiped three bags this month. On Thursday, he'll get the platoon edge against Cease, who has struggled on the road this season (5.02 ERA). Plus, with Cleveland playing a double-header on Tuesday, Gimenez should have more opportunities to rack up stats.
Shortstop -- Willy Adames (R), 46%, Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Adam Wainwright): Adames was just activated off the injured list on Monday after missing time with a quad injury, and his low rostered percentage reflects that fact that many fantasy managers haven't realized he's back in action. The 26-year-old shortstop sports a .374 wOBA since the break and has fared better against same-sided pitching.
Corner Infield -- Brad Miller (L), 8%, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Wil Crowe): There are a lot of good pitchers on this slate, but Crowe isn't one of them. The Pittsburgh hurler has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season, putting up a 5.77 ERA over 23 starts, including a 6.55 mark over his last eight turns. Miller, the owner of a .361 wOBA against right-handed pitching, is a good way to get exposure to the Phillies lineup in this prime matchup.
Middle Infield -- Edmundo Sosa (R), 4%, St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers (RHP Adrian Houser): Despite being far from a household name, Sosa continues to put up fantasy-relevant numbers. Over his last 20 games, the new Cardinals everyday shortstop has hit .329/.364/.557 with three dingers and a steal. Sosa has hit better against righties this season, so don't worry about the lack of the platoon advantage here.
Outfield -- Jarred Kelenic (L), 41%, Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics (RHP Chris Bassitt): Don't look now, but Kelenic is starting to come around. After putting up an awful .506 OPS over his first 64 big-league games, the 22-year-old has posted a .938 OPS since September 1, belting six homers with 15 RBI in 17 games. There are still some hurdles to overcome, but the former first-round pick has a skill set worth betting on. On Thursday, Kelenic will square off against Bassitt in his return from the injured list.
Outfield -- Anthony Santander (S), 46%, Baltimore Orioles vs. Texas Rangers (RHP Glenn Otto): Otto has been drilled for 15 runs over his last two starts, spanning just 6 2/3 innings. He's also allowing a .421 wOBA to lefty bats, albeit in a small sample. In other words, Thursday is a good day to bet on Baltimore bats. The switch-hitting Santander has good power from the left side, and 13 of his 17 homers have come at the hitter-friendly Camden Yards.
Outfield -- Lane Thomas (R), 30%, Washington Nationals at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Luis Castillo): Thomas looks like a new hitter since joining the Nationals. Washington's new leadoff man is hitting .302/.390/.548 in 33 games since switching sides, and on Thursday he'll get a nice park upgrade at Great American Ballpark.