This is one of the uglier slates we've seen in a while. While there are 12 games on the schedule, which includes a double-header between the Rays and Orioles, the streaming options on the pitching side are a bit shaky. There's nearly always some risk involved when streaming starters, but Thursday's group requires an extra leap of faith.
Here's a look at Thursday's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in less than 50% of ESPN leagues.
Seth Lugo (R), rostered in 58% of ESPN leagues, New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies: Lugo is rostered in more than 50% of leagues, so we're already breaking our own rules, but he's clearly the safest arm that's still widely available on a day where safe streaming options are hard to come by. Since joining the Mets' rotation, the right-hander holds a 2.65 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 13.2 K/9 rate. Lugo has been slowly building up his pitch count, hitting a season-high 91 pitches in his last outing, so he's unlikely to have any restrictions going forward. He should keep on rolling against a Phillies offense that's middle-of-the-road against right-handed pitching (98 wRC+). If Lugo is still available in your league, he's an easy pickup.
Dean Kremer (R), 17%, Baltimore Orioles vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Kremer has shown well in his first two big-league starts, surrendering just two runs over a combined 11 innings with 14 strikeouts. That's especially impressive considering both starts came against the Yankees. Tampa Bay will present another tough test for the 24-year-old. That said, Kremer consistently racked up big strikeout numbers in the minors, fanning 431 batters over 356 2/3 frames (10.9 K/9), so there's plenty of K potential against a Rays club that whiffs 25.3% of the time against righties -- the fourth-highest rate in baseball.
Alex Young (L), 2%, Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Angels: Since joining Arizona's rotation in mid-August, Young has allowed three or fewer earned runs in six appearances, showing a decent floor. His 4.35 ERA and 7.3 K/9 in those six outings aren't exactly inspiring, but Young has been good enough to warrant streaming consideration against the Angels, a bottom-five team against left-handed pitching with a .287 wOBA. While Young has gotten in trouble this season with the long ball (2.3 HR/9), that risk is limited against the Angels, who rank just 23rd in baseball with a .151 ISO.
Griffin Canning (R), 12%, Los Angeles Angels vs. Arizona Diamondbacks: Squaring off against Young on Thursday is Canning, who has underachieved after generating plenty of buzz during draft season. Then again, he has shown flashes at times, like when he tossed eight innings of one-run ball against Houston three starts ago. Those flashes give us some confidence to trust him as a streamer in favorable matchups, and that's what he has on Thursday against Arizona. The Diamondbacks rank 26th in baseball with a .303 wOBA against right-handed pitching this season and have been MLB's worst offense over the past two weeks (.272 wOBA).
Pitcher to avoid
Nathan Eovaldi (R), 33%, Boston Red Sox at Miami Marlins: Eovaldi might be a tempting option against Miami, but keep in mind that he managed only 40 pitches in his first start off the injured list over the weekend, so it's doubtful that he'll last long enough in Thursday's contest to provide any real value.
Bullpen: It's generally a good strategy to target relievers in double-headers, and Diego Castillo is the obvious choice for Thursday's double dip. Available in 77% of ESPN leagues, Castillo has been a huge weapon for the Rays, notching four saves and three holds while posting a 2.04 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.
For the latest team-by-team closer situations, please consult our Closer Chart.
Projected game scores
Catcher -- Martin Maldonado (R), 27%, Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers (RHP Jordan Lyles): With a 7.80 ERA over nine appearances this season, Lyles is one of the hurlers you want to attack on Thursday. Maldonado, whose 20 RBIs are top-six among catchers, lets you do that at a weak position.
First base -- Jesus Aguilar (R), 20%, Miami Marlins vs. Boston Red Sox (RHP Nathan Eovaldi): Aguilar just continues to rake despite being rostered on very few fantasy teams. Over his past 12 games, he's batting .349.462/.606 with more walks (nine) than strikeouts (seven). With the regular season winding down, you're better off rostering Aguilar's hot stick and dumping whoever isn't getting it done.
Second base -- Ty France (R), 26%, Seattle Mariners vs. San Francisco Giants (LHP Tyler Anderson): With eligibility at three different positions, France is a really nice weapon to have on days when multiple teams are off. The 26-year-old is batting .308/.400/.564 since the beginning of September and gets the platoon advantage against Anderson.
Third base -- Bobby Dalbec (R), 23%, Boston Red Sox at Miami Marlins (RHP Jose Urena): Dalbec has quickly confirmed that his power plays in the major leagues, as he's clubbed six bombs in his first 13 games. The rookie has a good chance to power up again against Urena, who has been hammered for nine runs in his first 9 1/3 innings in 2020.
Shortstop -- Mauricio Dubon (R), 3%, San Francisco Giants at Seattle Mariners (LHP Nick Margevicius): The Giants' offense has been on a roll in September (141 wRC+), and Dubon has done his part, batting .310/.362/.476 over his past 12 games. He also sports a .365 wOBA versus lefties, putting him in a nice spot against Margevicius.
Corner infield -- Alec Bohm (R), 24%, Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets (RHP Seth Lugo): Fantasy managers normally fall over themselves to roster the next hot prospect, so it's a surprise that Bohm hasn't gotten more attention. The former No. 3 overall pick has hit .318/.369/.482 over his first 31 games, and his 49.4% hard-hit rate tells us that's not a fluke.
Middle infield -- Chris Taylor (R), 44%, Los Angeles Dodgers at Colorado Rockies (LHP Kyle Freeland): Taylor is one of Thursday's easiest plug-and-plays. Not only is he playing every day while batting in the heart of the Dodgers' lineup, but he also gets the platoon edge in a game at Coors Field. If that's not enough, Taylor is hitting .349/.417/.674 so far in September.
Outfield -- Manuel Margot (R), 12%, Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Dean Kremer): Considering that stolen bases are so hard to come by, it's pretty shocking that Margot is still available in 88% of leagues. The speedster has swiped eight bags in his past eight games, giving him 13 on the season. If you have points to gain in stolen bases, there's zero reason to leave Margot on the waiver wire.
Outfield -- Aaron Hicks (S), 26%, New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Chase Anderson): Anderson has been a big liability against lefty bats this season, allowing a .440 wOBA and four homers in just 11 2/3 frames. This creates a prime opportunity for Hicks, who gets a nice boost in OBP leagues, thanks to his 20.3% walk rate.
Outfield -- Tyler O'Neill (R), 5%, St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates (LHP Steven Brault): O'Neill is a pure power play. While he's a classic boom-or-bust option, he finds himself in an appealing spot on Thursday. O'Neill draws the platoon advantage against Brault, who has lasted five innings just once in eight starts this season.
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) 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 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, 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. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate hitter rating; these are the author's ratings.