It’s yet another abbreviated slate on Thursday, but it’s actually a pretty decent day in terms of streaming. Whether you’re in deep or shallow leagues, chances are there are at least a couple of names out there worth consideration.
Pitchers to stream
Trevor Cahill (R), 50 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, San Diego Padres vs Milwaukee Brewers: Cahill finds himself in a high-upside matchup against a Brewers team that’s striking out at a 25 percent clip, the highest rate in the National League. Milwaukee’s lineup carries plenty of thunder, evidenced by an MLB-best .215 ISO, but going from Miller Park to Petco is a huge downgrade in both runs and homers. For his part, Cahill’s 3.03 xFIP suggests his 3.27 ERA through seven starts is legit, and he continues to rack up whiffs (11.1 K/9). The righty has yet to deliver double-digit K’s in a start this season, but Thursday’s outing could be the first.
Jose Berrios (R), 28 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Colorado Rockies: After posting an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts last season, seeing Berrios pitch well in his 2017 MLB debut last week (7 2/3 innings of one-run ball) was a sigh of relief. Given his pedigree and minor league success, there’s reason for optimism going forward. Thursday’s matchup is a favorable one, as he gets a Rockies club that’s largely sapped of its powers away from Coors Field. Away from home, the Rockies sport a .293 wOBA to go along with a bloated 26 whiff rate.
Zach Davies (R), 14 percent, Milwaukee Brewers at San Diego Padres: Davies’ season-long numbers are still pretty darn ugly (5.80 ERA, 1.74 WHIP). However, he owns a decent 3.48 ERA and over his past four starts, gets the benefit of trading in the hitter-friendly Miller Park for the much more forgiving Petco Park, and gets to face arguably the weakest offense in baseball, a Padres lineup that strikes out 26 percent of the time versus righties and sports a 28th-ranked 78 wRC+.
Jordan Montgomery (L), 12 percent, New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals: Montgomery is also very enticing given the matchup. The Royals have been useless against southpaws this season (59 wRC+), and they aren’t a team that will take advantage of Montgomery’s control issues, as they rank dead last in walk rate versus lefties since the beginning of 2016. The lefty also gets the benefit of pitching in Kauffman Stadium, which will help negate his fly ball tendencies (47 percent fly ball rate).
Pitchers to avoid
Sonny Gray (R), 55 percent, Oakland A’s vs. Boston Red Sox: Gray hasn’t been bad since returning from the disabled list (3.78 ERA), but his 5.18 FIP and 4.55 xFIP tell us things could be much worse. He’s never been a huge strikeout guy, but his 4.9 K/9 over three starts needs to improve. Against a Red Sox team that sports the lowest K rate in baseball versus righties and is crushing so far in May (121 wRC+), I’m steering clear. For those who just want to throw Gray out there in hopes of securing a win, opposing hurler Chris Sale makes that very unlikely.
Brandon Kintzler is tied for third in baseball with 10 saves, yet he’s still available in 37 percent of ESPN.com leagues. The fact that he has as many strikeouts as saves tells us he lacks upside, but the rest of the Twins’ bullpen is a mess. Kintzler’s job is as secure as it gets. Don’t be shy about adding the right-hander if you need saves help. If Berrios pitches as well in his second outing as he did in his first, Kintzler will have a good shot at securing yet another save on Thursday.
Projected game scores
Note: W-L, ERA and WHIP are full-year 2016 statistics. 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.
Tyler Flowers (R), 4 percent, Atlanta Braves vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Ricky Marcus Stroman): Flowers won’t have the platoon advantage on Thursday, but it doesn’t matter. The Atlanta backstop owns a .422 wOBA against righty pitching this year, tops at the position and top 20 overall. Stroman is a good pitcher, but righty hitters are doing more damage against him than lefties this season, sporting a .308/.357/.413 slash line.
Adam Lind (L), 1 percent, Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates (RHP Tyler Glasnow): This one’s pretty simple. Glasnow, whose 6.44 BB/9 rate is the second-worst mark in baseball, has allowed a .313 batting average to left-handed hitters in his career. Lind, meanwhile, is drilling righties to the tune of a .341/.391/.634 slash line this season and is on pace for a career-best strikeout-to-walk ratio, making him a great plug-and-play option if he’s in the lineup.
Ryan Schimpf (L), 9 percent, San Diego Padres vs. Milwaukee Brewers (RHP Zach Davies): Schimpf possess big-time power versus righties. In fact, only Freddie Freeman and the retired David Ortiz own a higher ISO versus righties since the beginning of last season. That puts him in a very appealing spot against Davies, who has an increasing fly ball rate and has allowed 58 percent of the hits by left-handed batters this season to go for extra bases.
Chase Headley (B), 32 percent, New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals (LHP Danny Duffy): A matchup against Duffy doesn’t necessarily stand out as favorable. However, righty hitters have had much more success against Duffy the past few years, and Headley has hit better against lefties each of the past three seasons. Headley also has shown improved plate discipline this year, sporting the lowest O-Swing percentage (pitches a batters swings at outside the zone) of his career and his highest Z-Swing percentage (pitches a batter swings at inside the zone) since 2013.
Taylor Motter (R), 9 percent, Seattle Mariners vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Dylan Covey): Covey has made six starts for the Pale Hose this season, and they haven’t been pretty. The right-hander has a 7.98 ERA and 1.88 WHIP in those seven outings, and righty hitters have torched him for a .415/.513/.797 slash line. Those reverse splits suit Motter just fine, as he’s been much more dangerous against same-side pitching this season, putting up .376 wOBA against righties.
Chris Taylor (R), 6 percent, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Miami Marlins (RHP Edinson Volquez): Taylor has been receiving regular playing time at second base with Logan Forsythe sidelined. He won’t have the platoon advantage against Volquez, but the matchup is still favorable. The right-hander’s 6.2 BB/9 rate gives him tons of blowup potential, and Taylor has hit righties hard, evidenced by the .306/.404/.551 slash line against them.
Jed Lowrie (B), 18 percent, Oakland A’s vs. Boston Red Sox (RHP Hector Velazquez): Lowrie is sporting a .360 wOBA versus right-handed pitching this season and draws a strong matchup against Velazquez, who is making his major league debut. The right-hander’s minor league numbers this year were solid, but he’s not overpowering and is already 28 years old.
Seth Smith (L), 2 percent, Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers (RHP Jordan Zimmermann): There’s no way around it: Zimmermann has been hammered this year. He’s allowed at least four runs in five of his past six starts, and he’s surrendered eight homers in his past four outings. Smith, whose sole job is to hit right-handed pitching, is batting .300 versus righties this year, and 42 of his 43 homers since 2014 have come against righty pitching.
Max Kepler (L), 20 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Colorado Rockies (RHP Tyler Chatwood): Chatwood is a much better pitcher away from Coors Field, but he’s still not very effective against lefties. That makes Kepler a dangerous customer. Although the Twins outfielder has been scuffling so far in May, he owns a .366 wOBA against righty pitching, which ranks in the top 25 among outfielders.
Ezequiel Carrera (L), 2 percent, Toronto Blue Jays at Atlanta Braves (RHP Julio Teheran): Targeting left-handed batters against Teheran is a weekly occurrence. The righty is allowing a .377 wOBA to lefty bats this season, and his May ERA sits at 5.25. Carrera is hitting .337/.351/.478 against righties this year and typically bats second, putting him in a nice spot Thursday.
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.