Streaming is a time-tested approach prized by fantasy owners of all stripes. Categories in head-to-head leagues can often come down to the thinnest of margins, making the weekend a crucial time to think about streaming pitchers. Below are this weekend's best options -- all owned in 30 percent or less in either Yahoo!, CBSSports or ESPN leagues as of Thursday night.
• Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs -- Jackson's results have been terrible this year, but on their face, his numbers appear to be driven at least in part by bad luck. His ERA is 4.57, but his FIP is 3.17, the gap owing largely to a .344 BABIP and 66.6-percent strand rate. However, he's earning every bit of that BABIP thanks to a 29.2-percent line-drive rate. Opponents have been able to hit the ball on the screws far too often against Jackson this season.
There is some good here, though. For one, Jackson is not giving up home runs, evidenced by a 2.8-percent HR/FB ratio. Second, his strikeout rate is up to 19.7 percent from 17.4 percent last year. Third, Jackson had his best game of the season his last time out, holding the potent White Sox to one run on six hits in seven innings, striking out nine and walking none.
His task will be easier on Sunday when he takes the ball against the Braves. They're hitting just .234/.293/.380 as a team, and have gotten almost nothing out of anyone other than Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton. They also own a 24.1-percent strikeout rate, third highest in the majors. Jackson has good enough stuff to take advantage and put up solid strikeout totals on Sunday.
• Henderson Alvarez, Miami Marlins -- Unlike Jackson, Alvarez doesn't bring any real strikeout potential to the table in his Sunday start in San Diego. Two other things he won't do all that frequently though are walk batters or surrender home runs. Alvarez's walk rate this year is 6 percent, which matches his career total, and he has allowed three home runs in 44 2/3 innings. That alone makes him a solid pitcher to stream if you're chasing in the rate categories this weekend.
In addition, you likely noticed those words "in San Diego" in the opening sentence extolling Alvarez' virtue. Not only is Petco Park a great place to pitch, but the team that calls it home has been the worst offense, top to bottom, in the majors this year. They're hitting .215/.266/.326, all of which rank last in the league, their dead-last wOBA of .265 is 19 points worse than the 29th-ranked Mets and they're one of just two teams -- the Astros are the other -- to have negative offensive WAR as a team.
This is about as good as a matchup gets, and Alvarez has shown an ability to take advantage of bad offensive teams. He has two complete game shutouts this season, one of which came in his last outing. He allowed the Mets just six hits in that gem, with seven strikeouts and zero walks. His other CGSO was against the Mariners. Both the Mets and the Mariners are in the bottom-third of the league in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, OPS, wOBA and weighted runs created plus. Alvarez is a great stream option this weekend, regardless of where you need help.
• Roenis Elias, Seattle Mariners -- Elias has quietly been putting together a productive rookie season in Seattle. He has a 3.27 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 1.31 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings. Sure, those aren't Masahiro Tanaka numbers, but they are better than replacement level, the sort of stuff you'll happily take out of your No. 4 starter. One thing he has proven he can do is strike hitters out, and a lot of that owes to his filthy curveball. Elias throws the pitch about one-fourth of the time, and it has a 47.9-percent strikeout rate and 13.8-percent swinging-strike rate. He didn't just start fanning batters all of a sudden this season, as he had 121 strikeouts in 130 innings at Double-A Jackson last year.
Elias starts Sunday against the Royals, a team that, unfortunately for him, doesn't strike out often. Their team-wide 15.4-percent strikeout rate is lowest in the majors. However, that climbs to 17.8 percent against lefties. They're hitting .256/.310/.366 overall and .232/.296/.312 against southpaws. Elias could stick on rosters in deep mixed leagues, but he should be considered a strong stream play across the board this weekend.