Brace yourselves, folks. This is the ugliest slate we've seen in some time. Not only are there no elite options, there is only one hurler who registers a Game Score above 52. On the bright side, you'll have plenty of cap space to load up on big bats!
(NOTE: Carlos Rodon will not pitch today due to neck and arm discomfort.. MRI results showed no structural damage. Miguel Gonzalez will make an emergency spot start for the White Sox. The pitching chart will be updated shortly to reflect this change.)
Nope. Not today.
The owner of the day's top projected Game Score is Gio Gonzalez, who draws a road start against the Chicago White Sox. That said, it's hard to feel confident about the left-hander right now. He's moving to a more hitter-friendly park, he'll have to face a DH instead of a pitcher, and he's allowed at least five earned runs in each of his last three starts. And while the White Sox aren't great against left-handed pitching, they aren't pushovers, either. It's also worth noting that Gonzalez has pitched 6 1/3 innings or fewer in 10 of his 11 starts this year, which limits some of his cash-game appeal. On a short slate like this, the southpaw is in play, but he's not a must-play.
Adam Wainwright still hasn't looked like the Wainwright of old, but at least he's been better of late. Despite a 5.40 ERA on the season, his last four starts have seen him post a 3.04 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with 20 K's over 26 2/3 innings. Going from Busch Stadium to Great American Ballpark won't help, but facing a Reds lineup that struggles against righty pitching (85 wRC+) and whiffs nearly 23 percent of the time puts Wainwright in a favorable spot. He no longer misses enough bats (5.8 K/9 this year) to have any GPP appeal, but he's in the cash conversation for the abbreviated slate.
Jimmy Nelson finds himself in a good spot with a home tilt against the Mets, who are middle-of-the-road against right-handed pitching. The righty isn't a big strikeout guy (7.1 K/9), but the Mets can help him in that department, as they strike out nearly 25 percent of the time, the second-worst mark in the NL. When he's not missing bats, he's getting a lot of soft contact (his 24.5 soft-hit percentage ranks top-10). Nelson has also been much more effective at Miller Park this season, sporting a 2.54 ERA there (compared to a 5.13 road ERA). He's in play in both cash and tournaments.
The Mets head to Milwaukee, where the 43-year-old Bartolo Colon will take the hill for his 12th start of the season. Although Colon isn't a high-upside pitcher, he's in a high-upside spot. No team in baseball strikes out more than the Brewers, and they are below average against right-handed pitching, making this one of the day's better matchups. Despite constantly being around the plate, he's shown little blowup risk this season, allowing more than three runs just once in 11 outings. Colon is cash-game viable.
Nathan Karns got roughed up by the Rangers his last time out (7 ER in 4 IP), but he'd been pitching quite well before that, posting a 2.76 ERA in his previous seven starts. And unlike many of the names featured today, Karns actually has swing-and-miss stuff, evidenced by his 9.1 K/9 this season. The Indians will present a challenge, as they hit righties well (.327 wOBA) with good power (.180 ISO). But Karns still deserves some consideration for the short slate.
After getting touched up by the Blue Jays in Toronto in his first start of the season, Miguel Gonzalez owns a 3.10 ERA in six appearances since. It's hard to call him safe, as his spotty control (3.9 BB/9) can get him into trouble. However, he matches up well against a Nationals team that's been punchless against righty pitching (88 wRC+) this season.
Josh Tomlin's profile is similar to Colon's. He doesn't miss many bats, but he also doesn't allow many free passes and has been relatively safe this season, never allowing more than four earned runs in a start. The problem is that his road matchup versus Seattle isn't that favorable. Safeco is a good park for pitchers, but the Mariners make plenty of contact and actually sport the second-best wRC+ (116) in the AL against right-handers. Still, if you're hurting for streaming options, you can do worse than Tomlin, who is available in nearly half of ESPN leagues.
A free agent in 97 percent of ESPN leagues, Jhoulys Chacin heads to the Bronx, where he'll square off against a Yankees lineup that has struggled to do much offensively this season. They don't strike out much, but that's not a big part of Chacin's game anyway. The right-hander is showing better control (2.8 BB/9) this season with an improved ground ball rate (53 percent), which have helped him limit damage.
Collin McHugh gets a Rangers team that doesn't strike out much but is also below average versus righty pitching. Although the 4.97 ERA is ugly, the right-hander has pitched better than his ERA suggests, and his walk and strikeout rates are improvements over 2015. His ESPN.com ownership sits at just 37 percent.
It's hard to say anyone is unrosterable on such an ugly slate, but it's hard to find much appeal with Marcus Stroman these days. Not only has the right-hander surrendered six or more runs in three of his last four starts, but he's facing an Orioles team that's top-three in baseball versus righty pitching (.344 wOBA). And while the O's lineup does have a lot of swing and miss (23.1 percent whiff rate), Stroman hasn't shown an ability to really take advantage (6.2 K/9 this year).
Surprise, surprise! You're going to want to target bats in the Coors Field game. With southpaw Jeff Locke toeing the rubber for the Pirates, you'll want to allot some cap space for some right-handed Rockies bats, with Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story being the premium plays.
Pittsburgh bats are also in a great spot against Chad Bettis, who owns a 5.70 ERA at Coors this season, and is the lowest-rated pitcher of the day. The right-hander has actually struggled more against right-handed bats in his career, so don't be afraid to roster guys like Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Jung Ho Kang even though they lack the platoon advantage.
Outside of the Coors game, only one team gets a perfect 10 hitter rating, and that's left-handed Angels bats against Ivan Nova. Unfortunately, the Angels' lineup is right-handed heavy. Still, Kole Calhoun, who has hit 43 of his 57 career homers against right-handers, should be on your radar.
Martin Perez takes the hill for the Rangers, putting right-handed Astros bats in play. With Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis batting at the top and middle of Houston's order, there plenty of options to choose from.
Soft-tossing righty Tyler Wilson, who owns a 4.0 K/9 in 89 career innings, could have his hands full with the Blue Jays on Thursday. Although lefty swinger Michael Saunders and switch-hitter Justin Smoak should generate some interest, the right-handed sluggers -- Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion -- are in play here, too.
Finally, right-handed Cardinals bats find themselves in a favorable spot against southpaw Brandon Finnegan. Aledmys Diaz, Matt Holliday, Stephen Piscotty and Jhonny Peralta, now back from the disabled list, are all worthy of consideration.
Most likely to go yard: Nolan Arenado
Maybe it's cheating to go with Arenado, the current NL home run leader, but who cares. He's taking Jeff Locke deep on Thursday.
Most likely to swipe a bag: Curtis Granderson
I went the easy route with the home run pick, so I'll go out on a limb here. Jimmy Nelson is one of the day's better options, but he's also allowed 10 steals this season, while catcher Jonathan Lucroy has allowed more steals (32) than any catcher in baseball. Granderson has yet to steal a base this season, but this is the day he gets on the board.