Thursday's 12-game slate brings us a slew of intriguing head-to-head battles. The highlights include Shane Bieber going up against Mike Minor, Charlie Morton versus Frankie Montas, and Madison Bumgarner battling Walker Buehler. That's good to know, because the list of streaming options we're left with is a lot less inspiring. We start with two pretty solid choices, followed by two pretty questionable ones. Let's break it all down.
Dylan Bundy (R), rostered in 25 percent of ESPN leagues, Baltimore Orioles at Seattle Mariners: It was easy to dismiss Bundy after a poor 2018 season and then a 6.67 ERA this April, but he's seemingly worked his way back into fantasy relevance. Over his last eight starts, he has managed a 3.09 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP, including 38 strikeouts in his last 34 1/3 frames. That stretch includes starts against the Red Sox, Astros and Yankees, no less. I'll need to see more before I completely buy in here, but Thursday's matchup against the Mariners -- who are without the recently traded Edwin Encarnacion and the injured Mitch Haniger -- is not intimidating.
Zac Gallen (R), 4 percent, Miami Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals: Gallen has been quietly crushing it for Triple-A New Orleans, posting a 1.77 ERA with a 0.71 WHIP, striking out 112 batters (with just 17 walks) in 91 1/3 frames. Gallen was acquired by the Marlins from the Cardinals in the Marcell Ozuna deal. On Thursday, he matches up well with his former organization as the struggling St. Louis offense sits at No. 28 in the league with a .289 wOBA over the last month.
Adam Wainwright (R), 6 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Miami Marlins: When streaming starting pitchers, sometimes it's as simple as choosing the guy who is squaring off against those Marlins. After all, Miami has a 24.8 percent K-rate against RHP and a .283 wOBA that ranks dead last in the National League. Wainwright, who is set to return after missing some time with a hamstring injury, has struggled with start-to-start consistency. However, if there's ever a time to trust him as a streamer, it's for this home start.
Wade LeBlanc (L), 3 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Baltimore Orioles: LeBlanc finds himself in a similar place. Frankly, his numbers this season make it clear that he's typically a highly questionable option, but we're betting on the matchup against Baltimore. The Orioles have a .298 wOBA, placing them in the league's bottom five. They also have a bloated 26 percent K-rate against left-handed pitching. Despite LeBlanc's 6.20 ERA this season, he's actually allowed three or fewer runs in three of his last four outings. Even so, consider this more of a deep-league roll of the dice, as the risk here should be obvious.
Over the last 30 days, six of the top seven leaders in saves are rostered in at least 90 percent of leagues. There is one closer, however, who is rostered in only 58 percent of leagues. That closer is Hector Neris. He's racked up eight saves over the last month with 15 strikeouts over 11 innings. According to the ESPN Player Rater, he's been a top-three fantasy closer over that time, behind only Brad Hand and Josh Hader. With so many uncertain closer situations out there, Neris deserves to be rostered in more leagues.
Projected game scores
Catcher -- Chris Iannetta (R), 1 percent, Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks (LHP Robbie Ray): Ray can be filthy at times, but he can also be erratic, serving up lots of hard contact. The left-hander, who has surrendered four homers over his last three starts, is much more susceptible to right-handed batters. This creates a potentially favorable spot for Iannetta, who has surprisingly posted a 1.012 OPS over his last 19 games.
First Base -- Matt Adams (L), 1 percent, Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Nick Pivetta): Pivetta has pitched much better since being recalled, following a brief banishment to the minors due to his rough first few outings to open the season. However, Adams smashes righties and sports a 1.098 OPS over the last two weeks.
Second Base -- Derek Dietrich (L), 41 percent, Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers (RHP Jimmy Nelson): After "going nuclear" in the month of May (1.241 OPS), Dietrich has bottomed out in June (.445 OPS). That said, he popped a two-run homer against Justin Verlander on Tuesday. On Thursday, he travels to Miller Park, an elite venue for left-handed power. Nelson has been a mess since rejoining Milwaukee's rotation (10.29 ERA, 2.14 WHIP), so it might take some time before he figures things out.
Third Base -- Todd Frazier (R), 3 percent, New York Mets at Chicago Cubs (RHP Tyler Chatwood): Frazier has quietly turned things on in June, putting up an .892 OPS with three homers and more walks (10) than strikeouts (8). Chatwood may hold an ERA under 4.00, but he still can't find the plate (5.4 BB/9) and hasn't started a game since April.
Shortstop -- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (R), 35 percent, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Los Angeles Angels (LHP Jose Suarez): Gurriel is batting .325/375/.675 over his last 22 games and has settled in as the No. 3 hitter in Toronto's lineup. He gets the platoon advantage on Thursday in a nice matchup against Suarez, who suffers from a big park downgrade going to the Rogers Centre.
Corner Infield -- Albert Pujols (R), 11 percent, Los Angeles Angels at Toronto Blue Jays (LHP Clayton Richard): Pujols is no longer a great (or even good) fantasy option. In fact, he's barely worth a roster spot in standard formats. However, he does still have some pop, and that alone makes him an intriguing option against Richard, who has been blasted by right-handed batters this season (.430 wOBA).
Middle Infield -- Marwin Gonzalez (S), 48 percent, Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals (RHP Glenn Sparkman): The switch-hitting Gonzalez is a perfect player for short slates, as his eligibility at five different positions makes him an easy plug-and-play option. On Thursday, he should get his licks in against Sparkman, who is allowing a .380 wOBA to left-handed bats.
Outfield -- Jorge Soler (R), 33 percent, Kansas City Royals vs. Minnesota Twins (RHP Jake Odorizzi): Odorizzi has been cruising. He's not invincible, though. He hit a speed bump against the Royals his last time out, and he faces those same Royals again on Thursday. Chances are he bounces back, but I still like Soler as a power play. He is slugging .567 against RHP this season, including 16 of his 20 home runs.
Outfield -- Eric Thames (L), 4 percent, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tanner Roark): Roark has been a huge liability against left-handed bats this season, allowing a .305/.403/.484 triple slash. Miller Park is not is a good place to struggle against that side of the plate. Thames, meanwhile, has put up a .371 wOBA versus right-handed pitchers this season.
Outfield -- Garrett Cooper (R), 15 percent, Miami Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Adam Wainwright): Cooper has been on a tear. Over his last 24 games, he is batting .359 with six homers, 18 RBI and 23 runs scored. Cooper must be licking his chops as he gears up to face Wainwright, who has been torched by right-handed batters in 2019 (.322/.407/.583).