There are three Thursday slates left in the regular season, and all of them feature only eight scheduled games. Hey, after last week's four-game Thursday slate, it's hard to complain. This Thursday, we get a nice one-two punch at the top, with Clayton Kershaw and Eduardo Rodriguez both toeing the rubber for their respective clubs. On the streaming front, the options are a little thin, but we should be used to that by now. We also (weather permitting, yet again) get an extra game between the Marlins and Mets, who had half of a double-dip washed out yesterday.
Here's a look at the day's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Pitchers to stream
Brett Anderson (L), rostered 9 percent of ESPN leagues, Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles: Anderson is set to rejoin Oakland's rotation after missing a couple of weeks with a strained left forearm. Prior to the injury, the left-hander had posted a 2.83 ERA over eight second-half starts. While the lacking strikeout rate (4.7 K/9) limits some of the fantasy appeal, a pristine 1.7 walk rate and an elite 55.6 ground ball rate help him get by without swing-and-miss stuff. On Thursday, he matches up well with an Orioles club that helpless against lefties, ranking second-worst in baseball with a 78 wRC+ and .288 wOBA.
Sandy Alcantara (R), 5 percent, Miami Marlins at New York Mets: Alcantara has only two big league starts to his name, but he's still one of the day's more intriguing streamers. First off, he draws an appealing matchup against a Mets team that ranks 21st in baseball with a .312 wOBA versus right-handed pitching. Secondly, his stuff has shown to be very effective against big league hitters, as he's allowed just one run on six hits across 12 innings in his two starts this season. While Alcantara's mid 90s velocity hasn't led to many swings and misses just yet, he's getting tons of grounders (51.6 percent), and he showed improved control his last time out (2 walks in 7 IP) after walking five batters in five frames in his 2018 debut. There's some risk here because of the limited track record, but the 23-year-old Alcantara is a good bet in a solid matchup.
Austin Gomber (L), 36 percent, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: While the Dodgers lineup looks awfully dangerous on paper, it's actually been below average against lefty pitching in 2018, sporting a 96 wRC+ and 23 percent strikeout rate. This still doesn't rate as a positive matchup for Gomber, but it's at least manageable. The southpaw owns a 2.68 ERA since the All-Star break and has allowed three or fewer runs in six straight outings. Also helping Gomber's cause is the fact that he has a 2.13 ERA at Busch Stadium this season.
Heath Fillmyer (R), 1 percent, Kansas City Royals vs. Minnesota Twins: I'm certainly not buying into a Fillmyer has a legitimate fantasy option, but on a short slate with limited streaming options, he could skate by in this matchup. While the righty has been hammered for an 8.72 ERA on the road this season, he holds a strong 2.54 ERA in 39 innings at Kauffman Stadium. Fillmyer also features a 50 percent ground ball rate that could help keep him out of trouble against a mediocre Twins lineup that sports a 91 wRC+ over the last month. All told, Fillmyer is more of a deep-league play, but he's one that could pay off if he stays true to his home/road splits.
The eternal chase for saves never ends. Teams change closers even this late in the season, as evidenced by the Los Angeles Angels handing the ball to Ty Buttrey in the ninth inning twice in the last week. Buttrey, who converted both times, was acquired from the Red Sox in the Ian Kinsler deal. His 96-mph fastball is "closer quality" and results in a plethora of strikeouts. This season, Buttrey has honed his control, rendering him someone to monitor for the rest of 2018, with the possibility of being a cheap source of saves next year. On Thursday, he'll need some help from his bullpen mates as starter Odrisamer Despaigne has averaged just four frames his last three starts.
Projected game scores
Chris Iannetta (R), 6 percent, Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Clay Buchholz): When you're on a short slate without many quality catcher options, you can do worse than plug in the guy taking his hacks at Coors Field. Iannetta is batting .304/.407/.565 over the last 15 days and owns an .834 OPS at Coors this season.
Ryan Zimmerman (R), 47 percent, Washington Nationals vs. Chicago Cubs (LHP Mike Montgomery): Since the All-Star break, Zimmerman is batting .306/.392/.589 with seven homers and 28 RBI. His numbers against lefties this season have been even more impressive, as he's pummeled them for a .393/.486/.721 slash line. Zimmerman gets the platoon advantage again here, making him a terrific streamer is he's available.
Starlin Castro (R), 49 percent, Miami Marlins at New York Mets (LHP Steven Matz): Castro's rostered percentage has dipped just below 50 percent, which makes him eligible for this space for the first time in a while. It couldn't come at a more opportune time as Castro has a chance to play both ends of Thursday's twin-bill with a pair of lefties starting for the Mets. Dating back to June 5, Castro is batting .314/.368/.470. He finds himself in an enticing matchup against Matz, the owner of a 6.21 ERA since the break and/or Jason Vargas and his 6.75 mark for the season.
David Freese (R), 2 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals (LHP Austin Gomber): We like Gomber as a streaming option on Thursday, but Freese remains a quality play at the hot corner. The former Cardinal is batting .305/.368/.449 against southpaws in 2018 and has been red-hot over the last couple of weeks, hitting .364/.426/.618.
Amed Rosario (R), 33 percent, New York Mets vs. Miami Marlins (RHP Sandy Alcantara): Rosario may be batting .336/.374/.509 over the last 27 games, but the real value he provides in fantasy comes via his legs. Since the All-Star break, the 22-year-old's 12 stolen bases are third-most in the National League. Rosario is worth a look if you're trying to make up ground in the stolen bases category. Further, with yesterday's rainout, the Mets and Marlins will play an old-fashioned double-header today, potentially giving Rosario twice the chance to run, though note the Marlins have allowed the third-fewest pilfers in the league.
Hunter Dozier (R), 4 percent, Kansas City Royals vs. Minnesota Twins (LHP Stephen Gonsalves): Gonsalves owns an 11.68 ERA in four starts this season and is allowing a .432/.554/.568 slash line to right-handed batters. Yeah, I want to have some exposure here. Enter Dozier, who has the platoon advantage and is batting .333/.353/.688 over the last two weeks.
Jonathan Villar (B), 42 percent, Baltimore Orioles vs. Oakland Athletics (LHP Brett Anderson): Don't look now, but Villar is resembling the fantasy force he was back in 2016 when he popped 19 homers and swiped 62 bags. In 36 games since joining the Orioles, Villar has racked up seven home runs and 12 stolen bases. He's also done most of his damage against lefties this year, batting .297/.385/.446 against them.
David Dahl (L), 9 percent, Colorado Rockies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (RHP Clay Buchholz): Dahl has done his best work against right-handed pitching this season, producing a .950 OPS with a 40.2 percent hard-hit rate. Not to mention a .937 OPS when playing at Coors Field (.506 OPS on the road). Buchholz holds a pristine 2.01 ERA, but a 3.47 FIP, 4.01 xFIP, and 86.6 percent strand rate suggest some negative regression is coming.
Nick Martini (L), 1 percent, Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Dylan Bundy): Bundy has been a punching bag against left-handed batters this season, surrendering a .318/.384/.568 slash line. He's also served up a whopping 19 home runs since July 1. This creates a nice opportunity for Martini, who gets a significant park boost going to Camden Yards.
Kole Calhoun (L), 46 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Seattle Mariners (RHP Mike Leake): Calhoun has slowed down a bit of late, but he's still sporting an .880 OPS with nine homers and 10 doubles since the All-Star break. Leake, meanwhile, has given up five or more runs in two of his last three starts. His 36.1 hard-hit rate allowed is also a career worst.
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.