I'm usually pretty good at identifying undervalued starting pitching, a skill that enables a fantasy owner to focus on hitting in the early rounds of snake drafts, or devote as much as 75% of an auction budget towards the purchase of bats. I've been fairly successful once again this season, having bought Ervin Santana, Lance Lynn and Gio Gonzalez for a combined $4 in Mixed Auction Tout Wars. So why is starting pitching my team's biggest weakness so far? Well, my higher-priced buys, namely Cole Hamels ($17), Kevin Gausman ($9) and Matt Moore ($5), have been either injured or inconsistent, and overpaying for a starting pitcher in a trade isn't my style.
So, in looking to starting pitching, the waiver wire is my only option. Thanks to the sky high number of injuries so far this season along with the size of the league (15 teams), the process of scanning the waiver wire in search of viable starting options can get quite depressing. The good news is that every owner is dealing with the same challenge, though some have fared better than others. Since I'm in a positive mood today, I figured that I'd highlight some of the best pickups so far. Believe me, this was not an easy exercise.
Jason Vargas (Fred Zinkie on 4/10 for $10) - Vargas has pieced together a solid big league career as a back-end of the rotation starter, but we haven't seen this. Through ten starts, the veteran lefty has posted a 2.39 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP to go along with 51 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. Expect regression across the board for the owner of a career 4.09 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 6.0 K/9 rate. Vargas owners should enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Jesse Hahn (Scott Swanay on 4/10 for $28) - Tuesday's rough start versus the Marlins marked the first outing this season in which Hahn has allowed more than three earned runs. His 3.81 ERA and 1.29 WHIP for the year bear a close resemblance to his career 3.82 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. The fact that he's served up only one home run through 49 2/3 innings this season after allowing eight homers in 46 1/3 frames last year is especially encouraging. Hahn was placed on the 10-day DL on Saturday with a right triceps strain, but he's expected to return when first eligible.
Derek Holland (Derek Van Riper on 4/17 for $27) - Fully healthy for the first time since 2013, Holland has resurfaced on the mixed league radar after registering a 2.37 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP through ten starts. Since Van Riper snagged Holland, his namesake has notched six quality starts in seven tries. Expecting Holland to continue performing at this level is probably unrealistic, but this is a guy who has proven to be a highly effective big league pitcher when healthy, so it's far from unrealistic to expect him to maintain mixed league value from here on out.
Jordan Montgomery (Fred Zinkie on 4/17 for $3) - Although Montgomery's 4.30 ERA is nothing special, the rookie southpaw sports a solid 1.24 WHIP to go along with 43 strikeouts over 46 innings through his first eight big league starts. Montgomery has shown strong poise on the mound and looks like a pitcher who could have a long career ahead of him as a reliable middle of the rotation real-life hurler and a quality back-end of the rotation fantasy option. He might turn out to be one of the better Mixed Auction Tout Wars waiver wire finds of 2017.
Zack Godley (Scott Engel on 5/15 for $46) - We're not talking about a significant sample size here, so let's not get too excited just yet. Godley, who struggled to the tune of a 6.39 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP in 27 appearances (nine starts) for the Diamondbacks last year, seems to have gotten his act together this season, pitching to a 1.99 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP through five starts. And in three starts as a member of Scott's active roster, he's delivered a 1.83 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. Over parts of five minor league seasons, the 27-year-old boasts a 2.94 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP and a 9.0 K/9 rate, so perhaps Godley is just a late bloomer.
Or perhaps in a week or two, he will be back on the waiver wire, joining the already lengthy list of starting pitcher FAAB purchases that have not worked out.
Zach Steinhorn is the 2016 Mixed Auction Tout Wars champion. Follow him on Twitter @ZachMLB