Pitcher injuries are far from a new thing, but, for some reason, hurlers seem to be dropping like flies this season — especially high-end options. Heck, there were 132 pitchers on the injured list … before Opening Day. 

Tommy John surgery already has claimed starters such as Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, who was off to a monster start, and Miami’s Eury Perez, as well as Orioles closer Felix Bautista. Atlanta’s Spencer Strider is out for the year after undergoing UCL surgery in his right elbow on Friday. Gerrit Cole, Kodai Senga, Framber Valdez and a slew of others are dealing with elbow or shoulder issues. 

Whether it’s pitchers being pushed to throw harder with higher spin rates on every pitch or the pitch clock, fantasy managers are left to fill big holes in their rotations (and hope whoever is being picked up to fill the void isn’t the next to drop). A look at widely available options for your squad: 

Young guns

Kutter Crawford hasn’t picked up a win in his first three starts, but he owns a 0.57 ERA with a 28.1 percent strikeout rate, .127 opponent’s average and 10.8 percent swinging-strike rate. His walk rate (12.5 percent) is far too high, and his xERA (1.62), FIP (2.64) and xFIP (4.01) all indicate some good fortune, but this is a pitcher who should be on more than 59 percent of the rosters in ESPN leagues. 

Tanner Houck (58.7 percent) has allowed four earned runs in his first three starts (2.04 ERA), and has a 25 percent strikeout rate, 2.6 percent walk rate and 10 percent swinging-strike rate. He is leaning heavily on his slider (.207 opponents average) and sinker, and none of the underlying numbers indicate him falling apart (not even after getting hammered and taking a loss on Friday against the Angels). He should be rostered. 

Cody Bradford (46.9 percent) will remain in the Rangers’ rotation (even after Michael Lorenzen returns) after going 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 17-2 strikeout-walk rate and .145 opponents average in his first three starts. 

Big East

After going 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA and .222 opponents average over his final four starts for the Giants last year, Sean Manaea (33 percent) was 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and .118 opponents average in his first two starts for the Mets before taking the mound Saturday. He is displaying swing-and-miss stuff (12.2 percent swinging-strike rate), increased velocity and has a career-best 11.45 strikeouts per nine. The underlying numbers don’t show anything that should scare fantasy managers away. 

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Philadelphia’s Spencer Turnbull (20.3 percent) walked one batter and allowed no runs over his first 11 innings while striking out 31.7 percent of the batters he faced. He had an 11.4 percent swinging-strike rate and a .128 opponents average. With a 2.26 xERA, 1.39 FIP and 2.17 xFIP, he should be on more rosters, and he is in a great place to succeed. 

The Rays

Every year there seems to be at least one fantasy option coming out of Tampa Bay, and 2024 is no different. Zack Littell (23.4 percent) is striking out 23.4 percent of the batters he has faced while going 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 1.304 WHIP. His xERA (1.78), FIP (2.23) and xFIP (3.63) all indicate regression, but he should remain a viable option. 

Aaron Civale (56 percent) is widely available despite being 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 9.53 strikeouts per nine. 

The oft-injured vets

Cincinnati’s Frankie Montas (38.4 percent) is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA, a 1.140 WHIP and .234 opponents average. He is walking just 2.2 per nine innings, a career-best mark, while striking out almost 20 percent of the batters he faces. If he can stay healthy, he is a solid add with some upside. 

You also could take a shot with seasoned pitchers such as James Paxton (13.9 percent), Michael Wacha (18.6 percent) or Tyler Anderson (15.3 percent) before their bodies inevitably fail them. 

Former reliever

So far, so good in the transition to starter for Jordan Hicks (47.6 percent). Despite a career-low 6.5 strikeouts per nine, he has walked just 4.5 percent of the batters he has faced, and opponents are hitting .194 against him over his first three starts. He is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 0.83 WHIP.

Big hits

Brady Singer SP, Royals

Not only are opponents hitting .156 against him, but he has allowed just two earned runs over his first three starts while striking out 18 and walking just four. His 0.98 ERA entered Friday ranked seventh in the majors.

Spencer Steer 1B/3B/OF, Reds

In a three-way tie for the most RBIs (15) in the majors. In his first 12 games, he hit .372 with three homers and a 1.192 OPS.

Nathan Eovaldi SP, Rangers

Was 1-0 with a 1.45 ERA over his first three starts but had a 0.71 ERA, 18-3 strikeout-walk rate and .163 opponents average in his past two.

MJ Melendez OF, Royals

Entered the weekend on an eight-game hit streak — going 9-for-27 (.333) with three homers, seven RBIs, six runs and a 1.215 OPS in that span.

Big Whiffs

Zach Eflin SP, Rays

Allowed four homers and 12 runs in his first three starts and is 1-2 with a 6.35 ERA. Opponents have hit .282 against him.

Nolan Jones 1B/OF, Rockies

Just eight hits in his first 51 at-bats (.157) with no homers, four RBIs, 23 strikeouts and a .481 OPS.

Luis Castillo SP, Mariners

Opened the season with three straight losses, a 6.89 ERA, .352 opponents average and a career-worst 8.2 swinging strike rate. His xERA (3.51), FIP (3.34) and xFIP (3.14) all indicate some bad luck. He’ll be OK.

Daulton Varsho OF, Blue Jays

Has just six hits (one extra-base hit, a double) in his first 38 at-bats, with no homers or RBIs, a 23.8 percent strikeout rate and a .422 OPS.

Check swings

– After hitting .108 (4-for-37) with no homers, no RBIs and a .322 OPS in his first 10 games, the Royals’ Vinnie Pasquantino was 6-for-8 (.750) with one homer, eight RBIs and a 2.075 OPS in two games before Friday.

– Jason Foley (40 percent rostered) appears to be the favorite ninth-inning guy for the Tigers, going 3-for-3 in save chances while striking out 11.8 per nine and having not allowed a run in his first six appearances.

– Finding Nimmo: After going 1-for-21 (.048) with a .333 OPS over his first six games, Brandon Nimmo was 9-for-22 (.409) with two homers, 10 RBIs, five runs and a 1.344 OPS in his next five games. He is walking in 15.1 percent of his at-bats, his best mark since 2019.

– Despite striking out in 38.7 percent of his at-bats (fourth-highest mark in the majors), the Dodgers’ Teoscar Hernandez entered Friday tied with Spencer Steer and Roto Rage favorite Jake Burger for the most RBIs (15) in the majors. He was hitting .298 with four homers and a .916 OPS.

– Milwaukee backstop William Contreras entered Friday with a seven-game hit streak — going 12-for-29 (.414) with two homers, nine RBIs, eight runs and a 1.175 OPS in that span.

– The Story is over: Since signing a six-year, $140 million contract with the Red Sox in 2022, Trevor Story has played in less than 30 percent of Boston’s regular season games and hit .227 with a .681 OPS. He is, once again, out for the season after needing surgery on his left shoulder.

– Former Yankees hurler Fritz Peterson died at the age of 82 on Friday. Too bad swinging strike rate wasn’t a thing when he pitched, because it apparently would have been pretty high.

Team name of the week

Skubal Divers

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