You've heard this story before -- another Thursday, another ugly slate.
Only nine games are on the schedule, and outside of two or three names, cash pickings are slim, especially considering the day's only elite option isn't eligible for the late slate. Nonetheless, we'll wade through the wasteland and do our best to make it work. Is it Friday yet?
It's a one-man show in the elite tier on Thursday, with Stephen Strasburg leading the way with a home start against the Dodgers. Since returning from the disabled list, the right-hander has picked up where he left off, allowing just two runs over his last 21 2/3 innings. His 10.8 K/9 is top five in baseball, and his 24.4 hard-hit percentage is the fourth-lowest mark in the game. A matchup against the Dodgers isn't "cake" by any means, but Los Angeles has been middle of the road versus righties this year, so it's not exactly an intimidating matchup, either. On a day where the pitching depth is thin, Strasburg stands out as a premium arm worth paying for. Keep in mind, though, that an afternoon start means he'll be ineligible for late-slate contests.
It appears that vintage Adam Wainwright is back. Not only did the former Cy Young winner toss a three-hit shutout against Miami his last time out, he now owns a 2.30 ERA and 8.4 K/9 since the beginning of June, spanning eight starts. That dominance should continue with the Padres coming to town. San Diego just might be the most exploitable team in baseball versus right-handed pitching, with an 81 wRC+ and a 25 percent strikeout rate. With Strasburg and the Nationals having an early start time, Wainwright is one of the day's top cash-game anchors for evening action.
Going to Yankee Stadium to face the Yankees isn't what it used to be. What was once the most intimidating matchup in baseball is now a below-average lineup that does little damage at home and is one of the worst in the AL versus righty pitching. Enter Chris Tillman. The Orioles right-hander has delivered three straight seven-inning, one-run performances and should keep on rolling in this favorable spot. Although the Yankees aren't a big strikeout team, it's worth noting that Tillman whiffed a season-high nine batters in seven frames when he last faced the Bronx Bombers in June.
Even on a short slate, Francisco Liriano can't be considered cash-game viable. He walks too many batters (5.7 BB/9), allows too many homers (he's on pace to allow 25 dingers after surrendering 15 all of last year) and gives up too much hard contact (36 percent). That said, he definitely warrants consideration in GPPs. The left-hander owns a career 9.2 K/9 and is squaring off a Brewers team that's below average against lefties and fans at a 24 percent clip.
Sonny Gray is hard to trust in cash games. A 5.12 ERA will do that. However, the thin slate, combined with a prime home matchup against Tampa Bay, puts the A's righty on the radar. The Rays have been one of the worst teams in baseball against right-handed pitching, mustering a .302 wOBA and 25 percent strikeout rate. Things have only gotten worse in July, with a .277 wOBA and 24 percent whiff rate. While Gray has struggled this year, he has posted quality starts in four of his last five outings, so he's at least showing positive signs. It's hard to get a matchup much better than this.
Opposing Gray is Matt Moore, who draws an appealing road matchup against Oakland. The A's are better against lefties than righties, but they're still only league average, at best, and have really floundered so far in July (85 wRC+). Moore, meanwhile, sports a 2.51 ERA and 1.03 WHIP over his last seven starts. Don't expect a high strikeout total, as the A's make tons of contact, but this is still a great spot for the left-hander to succeed.
There's not much confidence to be found among Thursday's streaming options, but Jerad Eickhoff looks like one of the day's better bets. Available in 65 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Eickhoff draws a home start against a Marlins team that's merely average versus righty pitching and sports the second-lowest ISO (.133) in the National League. Take out his Coors Field start, and the Phillies righty owns a 2.34 ERA over his last eight outings.
After Eickhoff, it might be best to just sit tight and wait for some safer streaming options to emerge Friday. Tom Koehler has a favorable matchup against a bad Phillies offense, but his 4.7 BB/9 is worrisome and he hasn't posted a quality start in over a month. Although the Orioles aren't as dangerous as you might think against left-handed pitching (91 wRC+), CC Sabathia has a 7.94 ERA over his last five starts. It might be worth rolling the dice with James Shields, who has allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last four starts. Then again, a guy with homer problems facing the Tigers at U.S. Cellular Field, which greatly boosts both right- and left-handed power, carries a fair amount of blowup potential.
We've witnessed Julio Urias' upside, but he has battled inconsistency and the Nationals hammer left-handed pitching. And even if you like what you've seen out of Mike Foltynewicz this season, you certainly aren't going to run him out there in Coors Field.
First off, let's focus on the Coors Field game. The Braves lineup is as weak as they come, but it's still a good idea to get some exposure against Chad Bettis, who has posted a 6.09 ERA at Coors this season. Freddie Freeman, who has five career homers at Coors in 14 games, is the most enticing option here.
Squaring off against Bettis in the Coors game is Mike Foltynewicz. The right-hander has shown some good things this year, but left-handed swingers have still been a problem. In 72 career innings against them, he has surrendered a .396 wOBA. If you can afford them, Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez are both prime plays.
Saturday's road start against the Red Sox does not set up well for Tyler Duffey. The right-hander has trouble against right-handed hitters (.377 wOBA) and also has trouble keeping the ball in the park. Not only does Fenway Park inflate right-handed power, but the Red Sox have plenty of right-handed bats -- Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez -- that can do damage.
With Mike Pelfrey taking the mound for the Tigers on Saturday, feel free to load up on White Sox bats. Pelfrey has been pounded by lefty hitters this season (.390 wOBA), but righty hitters have hit him hard, too, (.368 wOBA), so you don't need to focus only on batters that carry the platoon advantage.
Andrew Cashner could be in for a long night against St. Louis, which sports the best offense in the NL against right-handed pitching (117 wRC+). Cashner has been drilled by right-handed bats this season (.395 wOBA), and he has had trouble with lefty bats in the past (.383 wOBA against lefty hitters in 2015). He also has been a powder keg away from Petco Park this season, sporting a 7.83 ERA. All Cardinals bats are in play here regardless of platoon advantage, making this a nice stacking opportunity if you have the funds.
Most likely to go yard: Carlos Gonzalez
Gonzalez mashes righties. Foltynewicz struggles against lefty hitters. Coors Field is the venue. Mix it all together and chances are we'll see Cargo go deep on Thursday.
Most likely to swipe a bag: Ian Kinsler
James Shields has not been good at holding runners on this season, so the Tigers will be looking to take advantage. Kinsler, who has nine swipes on the year, will test the veteran right-hander if he gets the chance.