All three of our featured pitching streamers on Thursday are flirting with the 50 percent rostered threshold. Normally we also like to feature some lesser-rostered players, but with an abbreviated slate like this one, we don't always have that luxury. We take what we can get.
Here's a look at the day's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Clay Buchholz (R), rostered in 53 percent of ESPN leagues, Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres: Getting to face San Diego is a daily lottery ticket, and Buchholz is Thursday's big winner. The Padres are one of the worst offenses in baseball, ranking 26th in wRC+ (85), 27th in ISO (.138), and 28th in wOBA (.293). They also sport a 25.1 percent strikeout rate that is the highest in the National League. Buchholz, meanwhile, has 19 whiffs in his last 18.2 innings and hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any start since June 12. On a shortened slate, this a pretty bankable streaming matchup.
Tanner Roark (R), 49 percent, Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals aren't the ideal team to stream against right now. They've been surging, winning seven straight games and ranking second in baseball over the last two weeks with a 127 wRC+. Having said that, Roark might be able to tame the Cardinals' red-hot bats. In four starts since the All-Star break, the Nationals right-hander holds a 1.21 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. More impressively, he's posted a 27:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 29.2 innings. If he keeps pitching like that, Roark can shut down any lineup in baseball.
Zach Eflin (R), 50 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets: Eflin was sent to Triple-A over the weekend in a strategic roster move, but he'll be back to match up against the Mets as part of Thursday's double-header. The right-hander has established himself as an important part of Philadelphia's rotation. He holds a strong 3.57 ERA across 16 starts while showing terrific control (1.9 BB/9) and fanning nearly a batter per inning (8.5 K/9). He's also done a tremendous job in limiting hard contact and his 28.2 hard-hit percentage ranks ninth-best in baseball. On Thursday, Eflin gets a favorable matchup against a below-average New York offense that's striking out at a 24.3 percent clip in August.
Pitcher to Avoid
Jon Lester (L), 93 percent, Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates: Lester found himself in this category last week and, after allowing nine runs (eight earned) in 3.2 innings against Washington, he finds himself here again. All told, the Cubs left-hander has an 8.65 ERA over his last seven starts. The Pirates haven't been particularly threatening against lefties this season (98 wRC+), but I don't see how you can confidently run Lester out there right now.
Projected game scores
Mitch Garver (R), 4 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Francisco Liriano): Liriano would be better suited as a lefty-specialist out of the bullpen, but the Tigers have little incentive not to keep throwing him out there every fifth day. Fantasy managers should take advantage. The veteran left-hander is allowing an .825 OPS to righty bats this season, and Garver is batting .298/.349/.544 since the All-Star break.
C.J. Cron (R), 33 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees (RHP Masahiro Tanaka): Cron has shown reverse splits this season, producing a .229 ISO against right-handed pitching. This matches him up well with Tanaka, who is allowing a 40 percent hard-hit rate to right-handed batters. He's also had trouble at Yankee Stadium this season, holding a 4.46 ERA with eight homers allowed in seven starts.
Niko Goodrum (S), 7 percent, Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins (RHP Ervin Santana): Santana has yet to settle in since returning to Minnesota's rotation. In fact, he looks like a pitcher we should be attacking right now, as he holds an ugly 6.53 ERA over four starts. While Goodrum's production has fallen off of late, the 26-year-old switch-hitter possesses a sneaky "power-speed combo" with three dingers and a pair of steals in his last 12 games.
David Freese (R), 7 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs (LHP Jon Lester): Lester has been a punching bag of late, surrendering a 10.32 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break, which includes two outings in which he allowed at least eight runs. This is a prime spot to fire up Freese, who is batting .354/.393/.610 over his last 28 games.
Jorge Polanco (B), 7 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Francisco Liriano): The power hasn't been there for Polanco this season, but he's still batting .291 with a .365 OBP over the last 30 days. With a career-best 9.3 percent walk rate, he's a good bet to reach base multiple times against Liriano and his bloated 5.2 BB/9 rate.
Josh Bell (B), 41 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs (LHP Jon Lester): We've already highlighted how much of a disaster Lester has been of late. He's definitely a hurler you're going to want some exposure against on Thursday. The red-hot Bell is batting .321/.379/.566 over the last month and should continue to swing a hot stick against a reeling Jon Lester.
Ketel Marte (B), 35 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks at San Diego Padres (RHP Jacob Nix): Nix pitched well in his big-league debut and put up strong numbers between Double- and Triple-A. However, he's not overpowering and could struggle if his control falters. While Marte has hit better against lefties this season, he has historically fared much better against right-handed pitching. Dating back to July 20, Marte is batting .289 with a .372 OBP and nearly as many walks (9) as strikeouts (11).
Randal Grichuk (R), 16 percent, Toronto Blue Jays at Kansas City Royals (RHP Glenn Sparkman): Grichuk isn't a great season-long fantasy option due to his inconsistency, but he can provide numbers in bunches when he's on his game. That's what we're seeing right now. Over the last month, Grichuk has slashed .286/.333/.531 with five dingers, nine doubles, and 15 RBIs. He's a nice upside play against Sparkman and his 8.47 ERA across 10 big league appearances.
Jason Heyward (L), 40 percent, Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Ivan Nova): Nova has been a liability against left-handed batters this season (.295/.337/.525), which is where Heyward comes in. A .297/.356/.426 hitter on the road in 2018, the 29-year-old outfielder bats in the heart of the Cubs lineup and has done most of his damage against righties in recent seasons.
Eric Young Jr. (B), 1 percent, Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers (RHP Ariel Jurado): Jurado has only four big league starts under his belt, and none of them has been pretty. The 5.66 ERA is bad enough, but he also has a brutal 3.5 K/9 to go along with allowing a 41 percent hard-hit rate. He's been particularly vulnerable to left-handed batters, who are hitting .294/.400/.588 against him. The switch-hitting Young has been playing every day of late and is a nice source of cheap speed if you need a "pick me up" in the stolen-base department.
Hitter matchup ratings
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth), 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 to 10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. 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.