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.
• Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals -- Garcia will make his 2014 debut on Sunday, one year and one day after his last start before a shoulder injury that ultimately needed surgery ended his 2013 season.
Garcia was having a fine season a year ago, posting a 3.58 ERA, 3.72 FIP and 43 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings before the injury put him on the shelf. All told for his career, he has a 3.65 ERA, 3.43 FIP and a shade more than seven strikeouts per nine innings. In other words, if he didn't miss an entire year of baseball, he would have been drafted in most leagues as a backend rotation guy.
As we've discussed in this space more than once, the Braves, whom Garcia will face on Saturday, are one of the league's most notorious swing-and-miss teams. They have a 24.3-percent strikeout rate, highest in the majors. It's a great team to target for streaming purposes when you're chasing strikeouts, and going with Garcia comes with the added bonus of getting a guy who could potentially stick on your roster. If you only have room to stream one guy this weekend, make it Garcia.
• Tom Koehler, Miami Marlins -- It's easy to understand why Koehler isn't more widely owned despite his success thus far this season. He has just 30 strikeouts in 49 innings, which translates to fewer than six per nine innings. He actually throws decently hard for a pitcher who doesn't get strikeouts, with his fastball sitting at an average of 92.7 mph, but any pitcher's fantasy value is going to be severely limited if he's fanning few batters.
Koehler's season-long fantasy value is not the topic we're concerned with in this space, however. He's due to start for the Marlins on Saturday against the Giants, and that puts him among the best stream options this weekend. The Giants have a solid .402 team slugging percentage, but are hitting just .243 with a .313 OBP. Koehler got knocked around a bit in his last start, but in the two outings before that he didn't allow a run while striking out nine in 15 innings. San Francisco is also a great venue for a pitcher, so Koehler can take advantage of not just the Giants hitters, but the environment, as well.
• Bronson Arroyo, Arizona Diamondbacks -- Arroyo draws a tough assignment when he takes the ball at home against the Dodgers on Sunday, but the veteran righty is on a hot streak of late. He was won each of his last three starts, allowing just one earned run and 15 hits in 23 1/3 innings in that stretch. He shut down two poor offenses, the Padres and depleted Nationals, and one good one, the Brewers. He also fanned 17 batters while walking four.
For the most part, Arroyo has been fine this season -- a serviceable real-life No. 4 starter, but not really someone you'd consider for your fantasy team. He has a 4.15 ERA, 4.15 FIP and just 27 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. The honeymoon is going to have to end sooner or later, but Arroyo is throwing the ball well for the time being. If you're looking at streaming a pitcher on Sunday, you're not likely to have too many options. Riding with the hot hand in a pitcher's park is as good of criteria as any to guide your selection.