Thursday marks the return of Max Scherzer, who has been sidelined for nearly a month with a back injury. The righty threw 64 pitches during a simulated game on Saturday and is now set to take the mound against Pittsburgh. As far as streaming options go, they aren't quite as exciting as Mad Max's return, but there are still some worthwhile names worth considering.
Here's a look at Thursday's top streaming options, focusing on players rostered in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN leagues.
Jeff Samardzija (R), rostered in 44% of ESPN leagues, San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs: Samardzija's ownership is on the rise, and he likely won't stay under the 50% threshold much longer. Dating back to July 1, Samardzija sports a 2.09 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over his last nine starts. Only once in those nine outings did he allow more than two earned runs. Shark has experienced some good fortune since the break (.202 BABIP, 95.7 LOB%) that suggests he's due for some regression, but the recent results have been too strong to ignore. While the Cubs present an imposing matchup on paper, they've been below average offensively (95 wRC+) in the second half, making this a decent matchup for the veteran right-hander.
Aaron Civale (R), 23%, Cleveland Indians at New York Mets: Civale has only four big-league starts under his belt, but the results have been noteworthy. The 24-year-old holds a 1.50 and 0.96 WHIP across 24 frames, registering a quality start in each of his outings. Civale has also yet to allow a home run. While 24 innings may be too small of a sample to draw any real conclusions, his big-league numbers are comparable to what he did in Double- and Triple-A this season, which suggests he could continue to have success. The Mets have been swinging hot sticks lately, which means there's some risk here, but an interleague contest with no DH and a move to the pitcher-friendly Citi Field are both positives for Civale.
Asher Wojciechowski (R), 3%, Baltimore Orioles vs. Tampa Bay Rays: We're digging a bit deep with Wojciehowski on Thursday, but he's at least in the streaming discussion on an abbreviated slate. The danger with Wojciehowski is that, like many hurlers this season, he's having trouble keeping the ball in the park (2.2 HR/9). The reason to take on that risk is if you need strikeouts. The right-hander sports a 10.3 K/9 this season, so there's some upside if he can manage to pitch deep into the game. That said, if you're trying to protect your ratios, exercise caution here.
The Rockies' bullpen is in a state of flux. Wade Davis is in the doghouse after allowing three runs to the Marlins without recording a single out earlier this week, and Scott Oberg is out for the remainder of the season with a blood clot in his right arm. That leaves Carlos Estevez and Jairo Diaz as the potential beneficiaries, as manager Bud Black noted on Monday that both guys could get save chances. It's a situation to monitor if you're trying to make up ground in the saves department.
Projected game scores
Catcher -- Will Smith (R), 47%, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Trent Thornton): Let's go ahead and skip the part where I discuss my astonishment that Smith is still available in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues. After all, the rookie backstop is batting .325 with 11 homers and 30 RBI over 27 big league games. I don't know who your starting catcher is, but there's a very good chance that Smith is better. Scoop him up for Thursday's bout with Trent Thornton and ride him the rest of the way.
First Base -- Renato Nunez (R), 28%, Baltimore Orioles vs. Tampa Bay Rays (LHP Ryan Yarbrough): You should know the drill by now. Streaming Nunez is all about chasing power production. The Orioles slugger has bopped 27 homers this season, and 11 of those have come against left-handed pitching.
Second Base -- Ryan McMahon (L), 26%, Colorado Rockies at St. Louis Cardinals (RHP Miles Mikolas): McMahon gets downgraded a bit because he's not at Coors Field, but his recent production still warrants his inclusion here. The 24-year-old is batting .297/.387/.619 since the All-Star break with 10 homers and 27 RBI in 35 games. McMahon matches up well with Mikolas, who has allowed five earned runs in back-to-back starts.
Third Base -- Asdrubal Cabrera (S), 44%, Washington Nationals at Pittsburgh Pirates (LHP Steven Brault): Cabrera has been getting semi-regular playing time for the Nationals and has been making good use of it. He's batting .313/.385/.482 since the All-Star break, and he gets a nice matchup against Brault on Thursday. The Pittsburgh southpaw is allowing a .346 wOBA to right-handed hitters and gets himself in trouble with free passes (4.3 BB/9).
Shortstop -- Willy Adames (R), 10%, Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles (RHP Asher Wojciechowski): We mentioned Wojciechowski's home run problems in the pitching section, and those same home run problems are what make Adames so appealing. Adames' 15 dingers this season are the most in his professional career, and five of those have come in the last month. He doesn't have the platoon edge here, but he's done most of his damage this season versus righty pitching (.292/.364/.464).
Corner Infield -- J.D. Davis (R), 36%, New York Mets vs. Cleveland Indians (RHP Aaron Civale): Davis has been on some kind of a tear. He's batting .381/.441/.608 in the second half and has solidified himself as a staple in the middle of the Mets' order. Davis is hitting righties (.373 wOBA) and lefties (.370 wOBA) equally hard, so there's no concern that he doesn't have the platoon advantage in his matchup with Civale.
Middle Infield -- Kolten Wong (L), 31%, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Colorado Rockies (RHP German Marquez): The Cardinals have been surging of late, and Wong has played his part, batting .364/.451/.500 in August. Meanwhile, Marquez, the owner of a 5.53 second-half ERA, has been prone to blowup outings this season, both at Coors and on the road.
Outfield -- Mike Tauchman (L), 39%, New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics (RHP Tanner Roark): You wouldn't know it from his rostered percentage, but Tauchman his batting .289/.370/.545 in 71 games with the Yankees this season, including .361/.431/.711 in the second half. While he suffers a park downgrade going to the Oakland Coliseum on Thursday, he's in a great spot against Roark, who is a huge liability against left-handed batters (.388 wOBA allowed).
Outfield -- Hunter Pence (R), 39%, Texas Rangers at Chicago White Sox (LHP Ross Detwiler): Pence has picked up right where he left off prior landing on the injured listed with a groin injury. He's batting .316/.386/.468 since returning to action and has registered three hits in two of his last three starts. Pence has been especially productive with the platoon edge, posting a 1.033 OPS facing left-handed pitching.
Outfield -- Mike Yastrzemski (L), 20%, San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs (RHP Kyle Hendricks): A matchup against Hendricks isn't necessarily ideal, but Yastrzemski might be up to the challenge. Not only does he sport a .407 wOBA and 1.018 OPS since the break, but he gets the platoon edge on Thursday along with a park upgrade in Wrigley Field.