This is crazy. A little over a month into the season, a good fantasy starting rotation can be assembled from the pool of players presently on the DL. It seems like every day, another prominent starting pitcher is getting hurt. Out of the top-40 starting pitchers according to NFBC ADP, ten reside on the DL (Madison Bumgarner, Noah Syndergaard, Corey Kluber, Cole Hamels, David Price, Aaron Sanchez, Rich Hill, Felix Hernandez, Jameson Taillon, James Paxton). I tend to avoid drafting any starting pitchers who carry health risk, so fortunately, the only one I own in any league among that group is Hamels, who throws 200-plus innings every season but might not even reach the 125 IP mark this year.
The starting pitching injury trend has a more wide-ranging fantasy effect, especially in deeper leagues, where every owner has been affected by the utter lack of viable waiver wire options. As a Hamels owner in Mixed Auction Tout Wars, I almost wish he joined the DL group a week or two earlier, when the waiver wire field was slightly more appealing. Right now, the list of available starters is headed by names like Adleman, Koehler, Nelson, Bauer, Fiers and Garza, who would have been a must-add around six years ago. If only Hamels landed on the DL a little earlier, I would have been able to grab one of the following guys, all of whom are liable to fade at any moment, but they surely beat the current choices.
Hector Santiago - Coming off a highly disappointing 2016 campaign that included a career-worst 4.70 ERA, Santiago has bounced back nicely this year, opening the season by allowing three runs or fewer in each of his first six starts. Keep in mind that the Twins southpaw sports a solid 3.79 ERA for his career, so despite his strikeout rate not being what it used to be, I wouldn't be surprised if he pitches well enough to remain on deep mixed league rosters through the end of the season. As an added bonus, two of his divisional opponents, the Royals and White Sox, rank in the bottom third of the Majors in runs, homers, batting average and OPS.
Jason Vargas - After missing the majority of the 2015 season and nearly the entire 2016 campaign as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, Vargas has resurfaced on the fantasy radar thanks to a 1.42 ERA and 0.98 WHIP through five starts in 2017. His 8.2 K/9 is likely an aberration considering that his career K/9 is 6.0. But the veteran lefty has proven to be an effective back-end of the rotation starter over the years and could at the very least serve as a fine matchup-based option in deeper mixed leagues going forward.
Jesse Hahn - Despite posting an ugly 6.02 ERA and 1.64 WHIP across nine starts last season, Hahn's big league career numbers (3.66 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) prove that he has the ability to thrive if given the opportunity. Well, the A's are giving him that opportunity this year, and he's thriving, with a 2.53 ERA and 1.03 WHIP through five appearances (four starts). Don't expect consistent strikeouts, but Hahn's improved control coupled with a favorable home ballpark are definite positives. Also note that even during his rough 2016 season, he excelled at home (3.03 ERA in five starts).
Derek Holland - No one really knew what to expect from Holland when he signed a free agent deal with the White Sox over the winter. However, we did know that there was a time when he was pretty good, before injuries became a major problem. And he's been more than pretty good through six starts this season (2.02 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 7.6 K/9). Holland's dominant run is bound to hit a speed bump at some point (.222 BABIP), but fantasy owners might as well ride this out while it lasts. And who knows, maybe the speed bump won't be such a drastic one after all.
Brandon McCarthy - Like Holland, McCarthy has dealt with his fair share of injuries throughout his big league career, and he hasn't enjoyed much success since registering a 2.89 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 14 starts with the Yankees back in 2014. But it's been smooth sailing for the veteran righty so far in 2017, as he's gone 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA and 1.21 WHIP through five starts. Still, I'm not so sure I trust McCarthy long-term, from both a health and performance standpoint, but he's certainly better than anyone currently available on the Mixed Auction Tout Wars waiver wire.