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Daily notes: Pitcher and hitter rankings for Thursday

Coming off a strong July, fantasy owners would be wise to go to Jerad Eickhoff for his Thursday start. Hunter Martin/Getty Images

As far as shortened slates go, this is a good one. After seeing fewer than 10 games on each of the past two Thursday schedules, we have 13 games to dissect this time around. The marquee matchup of the day features Arizona's Zack Greinke taking on Jose Quintana of the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The not-so-stellar matchups, though, are the ones we'll be targeting for streaming purposes. Let's take a look!


Pitching

Pitchers to stream

Jerad Eickhoff (R), 13 percent, Philadelphia Phillies at Los Angeles Angels: Speaking of turning the corner, Eickhoff might just be working his way back into fantasy relevance. The right-hander owns a 2.89 ERA over his past five starts, and July was the first month all season in which he averaged more than a strikeout per inning. The improvement is thanks, in part, to increased usage of his curveball, which has graded out as his most effective pitch over the past two seasons. Eickhoff will never be a solid source of wins for a floundering Phillies club. That said, he does find himself in a great spot on Thursday, facing an Angels team that ranks 28th in baseball with a .307 wOBA against right-handed pitching.

Collin McHugh (R), 24 percent, Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays: McHugh has made two starts since returning from the DL (elbow), and the results have been favorable. After a so-so first outing against the Orioles in Camden Yards, he threw six innings of one-run ball against the Tigers his last time out, allowing just four hits while striking out seven. McHugh's velocity is right where it should be, and the fact that he's missing bats is a good sign. The Rays have been tough customers against right-handed pitching this season (108 wRC+), but a 25 percent punch-out rate makes this a high-upside matchup.

Ty Blach (L), 10 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland Athletics: If you're looking for upside, look elsewhere. Blach's 4.5 K/9 over 113 innings this season tells you all you need to know. However, that doesn't mean he can't help you in other areas. The left-hander has shown great control this season (2.0 BB/9). He has also done a great job in limiting home runs (0.72 HR/9), and his 30.6 percent hard-contact rate is top 20 in the NL. An A's lineup that ranks bottom-three in the AL against lefties (84 wRC+) shouldn't pose much of a threat.

Bullpen

Trevor Rosenthal has officially reclaimed the closer spot in St. Louis, but his ownership numbers (35 percent) don't reflect it. The right-hander's 1.94 FIP and 2.42 xFIP suggest that his 3.43 ERA is due to come down. Plus, his 14.4 K/9 is a career best and ranks in the top five in baseball among hurlers (minimum 40 innings). Since the All-Star break, Rosenthal owns a 1.04 ERA in 8 2/3 innings. He should not be this widely available.


Projected game scores

GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. The asterisk (*) means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.


Hitting

Catcher

Welington Castillo (R), 20 percent, Baltimore Orioles vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Matthew Boyd): There are usually a couple of hurlers we can target on every slate, and Boyd is one of them on Thursday. The southpaw is allowing a .308/.371/.488 slash to right-handed batters this season, and Camden Yards is very unforgiving. For his part, Castillo has produced a .318/.348/.438 slash against lefties in 2017.

First Base

Lucas Duda (L), 15 percent, Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros (RHP Collin McHugh): I like McHugh as a streamer today, but he still allowed a .289/.348/.455 slash to left-handed batters in 2016. This season, Duda is batting .251/.367/.562 versus righties. He has also homered in three of four games since joining the Rays, with 54 of his 64 homers over the past three seasons coming off righties.

Second Base

Eric Sogard (L), 2 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Michael Wacha): Sogard has seemingly fallen off the fantasy radar after a brutal July, but let's not forget that he's hitting .311/.425/.434 versus right-handed pitching this season. He has also been particularly effective at Miller Park (.338/.417/.514). Wacha has been terrific lately, but he has been more vulnerable to left-handed swingers this season.

Third Base

Rafael Devers (L), 41 percent, Boston Red Sox vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Miguel Gonzalez): Devers has quickly acclimated to the majors, hitting .429 (10-for-24) with a pair of bombs over his first seven games. He'll surely encounter some struggles over the season's final two months, but the 20-year-old's bat is legit. He gets a tasty matchup on Thursday against Gonzalez, who owns a 5.30 road ERA and is allowing a .284/.349/.495 slash to lefty batters.

Shortstop

Jordy Mercer (R), 12 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Sal Romano): Mercer won't have the platoon advantage here, but he has fared much better against righties this season, hitting .275/.351/.416 (compared to .222/.304/.395 versus lefties). As it happens, Romano has been worse against righty hitters during his brief time in the majors, surrendering a .397 wOBA to right-handed bats.

Corner Infield

Mike Napoli (R), 18 percent, Texas Rangers at Minnesota Twins (LHP Adalberto Mejia): Napoli gets the platoon advantage in a favorable matchup against Mejia, who has actually pitched worse than his 4.07 ERA would suggest. The slugger whacked a season-high eight homers in July, and Target Field has actually been more favorable to right-handed power than Globe Life Park in recent years.

Middle Infield

Neil Walker (B), 22 percent, New York Mets at Colorado Rockies (RHP German Marquez): Fresh off the DL, there's no better way to jumpstart Walker's return to the lineup than through a trip to Coors Field. The switch-hitting second baseman is batting .277/.352/.497 versus righties this season. In 22 career games at Coors, he's hitting .310/.368/.448.

Outfield

Gerardo Parra (L), 50 percent, Colorado Rockies vs. New York Mets (RHP Rafael Montero): So far, 2017 hasn't been kind to Montero (5.56 ERA), and a start at Coors Field certainly isn't going to help matters. Parra is batting .333/.355/.529 versus righties this season, including .423/.445/.644 in Denver.

Max Kepler (L), 15 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Texas Rangers (RHP A.J. Griffin): Kepler's overall stat line is pretty lackluster, but he becomes a more appealing option if you stream him exclusively against righties. The Twins outfielder is batting .293/.362/.500 versus right-handed pitching this season.

Joey Rickard (R), 0 percent, Baltimore Orioles vs. Detroit Tigers (LHP Matthew Boyd): There aren't many spots where you can use Rickard, but this is one of them. He's batting .298/.344/.433 against left-handed pitching this season -- and .313 since June 1. Boyd, meanwhile, hasn't been able to punch out righty batters consistently. His 41 percent hard-hit rate would rank third-worst in baseball if he had enough innings to qualify.


Hitter matchup ratings

Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth, as well as the past 21 days) and 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. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, whereas 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.