Thursday brings us our last short slate of the season. Short slates can be frustrating because of the limited options available, but they're also the most important because nearly every fantasy team has empty spots to fill. Let's make this one count.
Here are the day's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
CC Sabathia (L), 30 percent, New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays: Squaring off against Glasnow on Thursday is Sabathia, who can no longer rely on pure "stuff" to get hitters out. He's still finding a way to make it work, though. Despite diminished velocity, the big lefty has an 8.2 K/9, his highest strikeout rate since 2014. Sabathia is also on track to post his third straight sub-4.00 ERA this season. While the Rays have been one of the better teams in baseball against lefty pitching (106 wRC+), their 23.9 percent whiff rate versus southpaws is third-worst in baseball. In fact, one of Sabathia's two double-digit strikeout performances in 2018 came against Tampa Bay back in June.
Marco Gonzales (L), 32 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers: After a brutal August (10.35 ERA), Gonzales has rebounded in September, putting up a 2.25 ERA across three outings. He currently ranks top-10 in baseball with a 4.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and his 3.49 FIP and 3.59 xFIP suggest he deserves better than his 4.12 ERA. Gonzalez matches up well with a Rangers club that's tanked over the last month, ranking bottom-three in MLB with a 78 wRC+. Gonzales' last start - a six-inning, one-hit, zero-run performance on Saturday - came against these same Rangers.
Jason Vargas (L), 5 percent, New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves: On abbreviated slates like this one, pickings are usually pretty slim. As a result, some hurlers get recommendations that fall into the "half-hearted" category. Such is the case with Vargas. While it's hard to get past his 6.25 ERA and obvious blowup potential, he has been passable lately. Over Vargas' last seven starts, he has a 3.11 ERA with 35 K's in 37 2/3 frames. Do we trust him to hold down a Braves lineup that's smashed lefties this season? Not really. At this point in the season, however, many fantasy managers are willing to stomach that risk.
If you're still scrounging for saves in the season's final days, Wily Peralta and Mychal Givens are two names to consider. Save chances don't come along very often when you close for the Royals and Orioles, but these two ninth-inning men have racked up a combined four saves over the last week. Both Peralta and Givens are still available in more than 75 percent of ESPN leagues.
The Rays are giving Tyler Glasnow an extra day of rest, employing an old-fashioned bullpen game as opposed to their newfangled "primary pitcher" variety, since regular "followers" Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirinos and Jalen Beeks have all worked multiple innings over the past three days. Jaime Schultz will open, and then manager Kevin Cash will play matchups against a Yankees lineup still battling for home field advantage in the AL wild-card game.
Ironically, the Twins will borrow Tampa Bay's "opener, then primary pitcher" strategy with Gabriel Moya taking the ball to start and Stephen Gonsalves slated to work the middle innings against the Tigers. LHP Gonsalves last pitched on September 19 at Detroit, tossing six scoreless innings in relief, allowing just one hit while fanning four. Expecting a repeat of this effort is optimistic, however Gonsalves is in play for those with an open pitching spot on a day where only 16 clubs are in action.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. The "*" symbol means the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Jorge Alfaro (R), 4 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Colorado Rockies (RHP Antonio Senzatela): A matchup at Coors Field is really all the info we need here, but it certainly helps that Alfaro has been on a tear of late. Over the last 30 days, the 25-year-old backstop is batting .364/.462/.636. While he won't have the platoon advantage, he's actually hit slightly better against righties this season.
Ryan O'Hearn (L), 11 percent, Kansas City Royals vs. Cleveland Indians (RHP Josh Tomlin): O'Hearn is a no-brainer here. He has tattooed right-handed pitching this season, putting up a .333/.429/.740 against them, and he owns a 1.021 OPS so far in September. Tomlin, meanwhile, has surrendered a 1.150 OPS to lefty bats in 2018.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (R), 6 percent, Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners (LHP Marco Gonzales): While Gonzales has bounced back with a strong September, it's hard to get past the fact he still owns a 5.77 second-half ERA with .300 batting average against. Falefa, who is eligible at multiple positions, has an .809 OPS against left-handed pitching.
Adrian Beltre (R), 49 percent, Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners (LHP Marco Gonzales): It's possible this will be Beltre's final season, and he's finishing strong. The veteran third baseman sports a .294/.351/.691 triple slash in September with seven dingers and 14 RBI. Beltre draws the platoon advantage in Thursday's favorable matchup against Gonzales.
Charlie Culberson (R), 3 percent, Atlanta Braves at New York Mets (LHP Jason Vargas): Culberson isn't a player who draws much attention in fantasy circles, but he's quietly put up a very productive second half in limited playing time, batting .301/.339/.575 with eight homers in 113 at-bats. While Vargas has pitched better of late, he's still allowing a .296/.351/.538 triple slash to righty batters in 2018.
Justin Bour (L), 10 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Colorado Rockies (RHP Antonio Senzatela): Bour has been mired in a bit of a slump, but Coors Field is the perfect slump buster. The lefty slugger sports an .823 OPS against righties with 18 of his 20 homers this season, and he's set to square off against Senzatela, the owner of a 5.20 home ERA.
Jeff McNeil (L), 39 percent, New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Julio Teheran): McNeil has been a frequent flyer in this space, and it's easy to see why. Not only has he been scorching hot over the last month (.344/.394/.510), but he's absolutely raked against righties, producing a .351/.402/.490 slash line. Teheran is a quality hurler, but lefty hitters have long been a thorn in his side.
Gerardo Parra (L), 3 percent, Colorado Rockies vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Jake Arrieta): Parra is batting .312/.373/.403 against right-handed pitching this season, with 19 of his 22 extra-base hits. Getting to hit at Coors Field doesn't hurt, either. Meanwhile, the 2018 season can't end soon enough for Arrieta, who is in freefall mode, demonstrated by a 6.64 ERA over his last eight starts.
Robbie Grossman (B), 7 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Francisco Liriano): Liriano may hold a 1.88 ERA so far in September, but his July and August ERAs (6.00 and 7.17, respectively) show his volatility. The southpaw has surrendered a .358 wOBA to righty batters this season, with 37 of the 40 extra-base hits he's allowed. For his part, Grossman sports an .848 OPS against right-handers, including a .321/.431/.464 slash line over the last 30 days.
Jay Bruce (L), 23 percent, New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves (RHP Julio Teheran): Brandon Nimmo is also a quality option in this matchup, but we'll give the nod to Bruce, who's rostered in fewer leagues. The veteran outfielder owns a .900 OPS in September with five dingers after hitting just four homers combined in April-August. On Thursday, Bruce gets the platoon advantage against Teheran, who has allowed an .815 OPS to lefty batters over the last three seasons (.629 OPS allowed to righty batters).
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.