It's Thursday, meaning yet another shortened slate. Lather, rinse, repeat. There are plenty of quality hurlers taking the mound on Thursday, but of course, we can't all own Yu Darvish, James Paxton and Jacob deGrom. That's why it's important to plug those gaps in daily leagues to maximize your roster spots.
Here's a look at the most interesting streaming options that are still widely available in ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Luis Castillo (R), 25 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Cincinnati Reds vs. San Diego Padres: Castillo continues to impress. Sure, the walk rate is a little high and pitching at Great American Ballpark is no picnic. However, he has more than held his own (3.64 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) during his first nine big league starts, and the combination of a 9.1 K/9 rate with a 58 percent ground ball rate is hard to ignore. The young right-hander couldn't ask for a better matchup on Thursday, squaring off against the Padres. San Diego is one of the worst in baseball versus righty pitching, sporting an 87 wRC+ and a 25 percent strikeout rate.
Dinelson Lamet (R), 16 percent, San Diego Padres at Cincinnati Reds: Opposing Castillo on Thursday is Lamet, who has also impressed of late. In his past three starts, he's allowed just four earned runs and 11 hits, good for a 1.96 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. On top of that, he sports an 11.4 K/9 this season. Among hurlers with 60-plus innings, that mark ranks eighth overall, ahead of names like Clayton Kershaw and Chris Archer. Lamet is in a great spot against the Reds, who have really struggled offensively since the break, ranking 23rd or worse in wOBA, wRC+ and ISO.
Zach Davies (R), 50 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Minnesota Twins: Davies' strikeout rate has dwindled down to 6.0 this season, which obviously limits his fantasy appeal. Even so, he's been getting the job done without a large number of whiffs. The righty has a 2.12 ERA since the All-Star break. In fact, he's pitched seven or more innings with no earned runs allowed in three of his past four starts. A 6.15 ERA at Miller Park this season throws some cold water on him as a streaming option, but a matchup against the Twins, who are middle of the road versus righties, remains favorable.
Vince Velasquez (R), 13 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets: I'm talking about Velasquez last because he brings with him the greatest risk among today's streaming group. The right-hander has battled both control issues and homer problems this season, which isn't a good combination. That said, since returning from the DL in mid-July, he owns a 3.00 ERA over four outings -- including one against the Astros and one against the Rockies in Coors Field. On Thursday, he matches up well with a Mets team that sports an 88 wRC+ and 23 percent whiff rate over the past month.
Arodys Vizcaino has stepped into the closer role in Atlanta. The 26-year-old right-hander has secured each of the Braves' past three save chances without a hitch, while Jim Johnson has moved into a setup role. Available in 77 percent of ESPN leagues, Vizcaino has the stuff to keep the job for the long haul, so he deserves more attention than he's been getting.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Jason Castro (L), 3 percent, Minnesota Twins at Milwaukee Brewers (RHP Zach Davies): I highlighted Davies as a potential streamer above, but that 6.15 home ERA is hard to ignore. Castro owns a career-best 38 percent hard-hit rate this season, including a .177 ISO versus righties over the past three seasons. It also doesn't hurt that Miller Park is arguably the best park in baseball for left-handed power.
Jesus Aguilar (R), 1 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Minnesota Twins (LHP Dietrich Enns): Kyle Gibson's start was pushed to Friday, paving the way for Enns' big-league debut. The 26-year old southpaw was acquired from the Yankees in the Jaime Garcia deal and sported a combined 2.38 ERA and 1.08 WHIP at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Rochester, fanning 41 in 45 1/3 innings. Aguilar's .915 OPS versus lefties has earned him a platoon role, where he'll look to take advantage of the rookie from the clean-up spot.
Howie Kendrick (R), 17 percent, Washington Nationals vs. Miami Marlins (RHP Dan Straily): Kendrick showed reverse splits in 2016, and this season he's crushing righties to the tune of a .341/.379/.439 slash line. This is the right time to attack Straily, who holds a 6.20 ERA and 1.82 WHIP over his last four starts. He's also allowing a .213 ISO to right-handed bats.
Ryon Healy (R), 36 percent, Oakland Athletics vs. Baltimore Orioles (LHP Wade Miley): There are certain players you want to use nearly every time they have the platoon advantage. Healy is one of them. When a lefty is on the mound, he creates havoc (.360/.382/.651). With Miley on the mound for the Orioles on Thursday (.376 wOBA allowed to righties), this one is a no-brainer.
Marcus Semien (R), 25 percent, Oakland Athletics vs. Baltimore Orioles (LHP Wade Miley): With Miley's struggles against right-handed batters this season (.302/.392/.484), I couldn't help but recommend a second Oakland batter on Thursday. Semien is a .284/.330/.477 hitter against lefties in his career, and he can add value on the bases, as well.
Danny Valencia (R), 18 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Los Angeles Angels (LHP Tyler Skaggs): Valencia hammers southpaws, as evidenced by the .309/.376/.543 he's posted against them this season. He's in a nice spot against Skaggs, who struggled on his rehab assignment and lasted only four innings in his first start off the DL last week.
Kolten Wong (L), 4 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Kansas City Royals (RHP Jason Hammel): Wong has been smoking hot since the start of August, batting .385/.433/.615 over eight games. He'll square off against Hammel, who owns a 4.86 road ERA and is dealing with his highest fly ball rate (41.3 percent) of the last 10 years.
Jacoby Ellsbury (L), 20 percent, New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Marco Estrada): Ellsbury hasn't offered much production this season, but what positives he has produced has come against right-handed pitching (.270/.355/.408). Plus, 14 of his 15 steals have come with a righty on the mound. Estrada, meanwhile, owns a 7.39 ERA since June 1.
Jim Adduci (L), 0 percent, Detroit Tigers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Gerrit Cole): If there's a way to attack Cole, it's with left-handed batters. Over the last two seasons, the Pirates hurler has surrendered a .294/.344/.493 slash to lefty hitters. Adduci has been batting second for the Tigers versus right-handed pitching, and half of his 16 hits against righties this season have gone for extra bases.
Keon Broxton (R), 6 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Minnesota Twins (LHP Dietrich Enns): Broxton is a high-risk play who has a lot of swing and miss in his game, but he also possesses a tantalizing power/speed combination. He's on pace for 21 homers and 27 steals despite spending some time in the minors.
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.