2018 Outlook: Just how good is he? Since his big league debut on July 8, 2011, Trout is the only player in baseball to bat .290 with at least 180 home runs and 100 stolen bases. He has blown those thresholds away, in fact, with .307-201-165 numbers in those categories despite contributing little in 40 games in his 2011 debut season. He also managed at least a .290 batting average, 25 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2017 -- the only player who can claim that -- despite missing 39 games after tearing the UCL in his left thumb in May, with batting average (.306) and homer (33) totals that far exceeded those thresholds. Now 26, Trout is coming off a season of personal bests in practically every rate category and a pro-best 78 percent contact rate. He's the safest cross-format fantasy pick in the game, and Trout stands an excellent chance of capturing the Player Rater's top spot for the first time since 2012.
2018 Outlook: Using Player Rater finishes -- Altuve topped the list in 2014 and finished second in 2016 and 2017 -- there's a compelling case for Altuve as the first pick off your draft board. By adding some pop to his offensive game in 2015, then enhancing that skill again in 2016-17, Altuve has become one of fantasy's most complete players -- not just in categorical Rotisserie terms but in any scoring format. Altuve's contact skills are elite and give him the best odds of a major-league-leading batting average. He batted 15 points higher than any other qualifier in 2017 and 22 points higher than any other player over the past four seasons combined (he hit .334 during that span). Altuve is also a consistently productive base stealer, even if he's no longer a potential league leader, and he's the only player in baseball who swiped at least 30 bags in each of the past six seasons. If you prefer the "balanced" approach to team building, Altuve is the best building block you'll find.
2018 Outlook: Arenado is an exceptional all-around baseball talent, whether you credit Coors Field for some of his offensive prowess or not. He has .280-34-102 numbers in his past 162 team road games, and Arenado is one of the top points-league hitters in all of baseball. An exceptional contact hitter with elite power who bats in the game's most hitter-friendly ballpark in a deep lineup, Arenado possesses the dream combination in that format. Those skills also grant him one of the highest statistical floors of any player, which make him a compelling, first-round Rotisserie building block. Over the past three seasons, Arenado has driven in 48 more runs than any other player, and his 120 homers during that time are only six shy of Nelson Cruz's major league lead. Entering his age-27 season, Arenado should provide similar production.
2018 Outlook: After his MVP-caliber 2016, Betts' 2017 might be labeled a disappointment in fantasy terms. It's an unfair characterization as, despite a 54-point regression in batting average and 94-point drop in OPS, Betts managed a 26th overall finish on the Rotisserie Player Rater. In fact, he finished as the No. 8 hitter in terms of fantasy points. The latter feat is testament to Betts' remarkable contact ability, as his 88 percent mark was seventh among qualifiers, backed by a 5.6 percent swinging-strike rate that was fifth. He seemed strangely unlucky on batted balls last season; his .268 BABIP was historically low for a player with his skill set, which means that among the building-block-ranked players, he could be a relative bargain if people misjudge him off of raw 2017 returns. Betts is one of the few players in the game with legitimate .300-plus batting average and 25/25 skills, so expect some degree of rebound in 2018.
2018 Outlook: One of the most familiar names in the on-field as well as the fantasy game, Harper best fits the "risk/reward" label of any hitter in baseball. He has an MVP (2015) on his résumé, and he was on track for another in 2017 before severely bruising his knee in mid-August, which cost him 42 games. Harper scored the most fantasy points among hitters in 2015 and was fifth in 2017 before getting hurt. That 2017 missed time, however, as well as other DL stints in his career, cannot simply be glossed over, as Harper has been sidelined for nearly 20 percent of his team's games since his big league debut in 2012. Harper's all-out style of play does put him at risk, but his immense talent is also understandably tantalizing. He's now 25 years old, in the prime of his career, so the urge to draft Harper in the first round is probably more valid than not. How lucky do you feel?
2018 Outlook: One of the few candidates for the major league stolen base crown who also possesses decent pop, Turner's fantasy impact is best illustrated by extracting his numbers in his past 162 regular-season games on the Nationals' active roster: 159 played, .308/.351/.500 rates, 24 home runs, 79 RBIs, 74 stolen bases, 122 runs scored. Those would be historic single-year stats, and while they overstate his potential due to including his unsustainable 2016 second half, even pacing his more realistic 2017 numbers over a full 162-game schedule would result in .284-18-72 with 74 steals and 120 runs -- still exceptional and Rotisserie first-round caliber. As Turner's rate stats have settled into more realistic levels, he has continued to show incremental growth as a hitter, alleviating his risk of being a bust, and his speed metrics are as strong as anyone's in the game. If there's any valid doubt about his numbers entering 2018, it's whether new Nationals manager Dave Martinez will give him the green light with the frequency that Dusty Baker did. Even as a 50-steal player, though, Turner would remain a Rotisserie building block, though he'd be more of a top-40 player in points formats due to the scoring system's tendency to devalue speed.
2018 Outlook: There's always danger in chasing last year's numbers, especially historic numbers. Blackmon set a record for RBIs by a leadoff man (103 of his 104 were out of the leadoff spot) and finished two shy of the record for home runs from that spot in that lineup (37). Also, his 387 total bases paced the majors by 10 over Giancarlo Stanton. In the process, a lot of things went right for Blackmon: His .371 BABIP was second among qualifiers and unusually high even by Rockies standards, that number kicked up to .385 in what was a torrid second half (.348/.429/.627, 21 homers), and Blackmon hit a scorching .383 with runners in scoring position to account for the lofty RBI total. Still, Blackmon's hitting skills are improving, as he set career bests in isolated power (.270) and well-hit average (.229), and Coors field does alleviate the danger of extreme regression. If there's a worry about his 2018, it's his waning stolen base trends, as a .300-30-85, 115-runs player stakes more of a first-round claim with 15-plus steals than one with fewer stolen bases. Regard Blackmon as a building-block type, but don't get carried away chasing his 2017.
2018 Outlook: One of the most consistent players in baseball, Goldschmidt has averaged .304 with 30 home runs, 104 RBIs, 19 stolen bases and 101 runs scored the past five seasons. With the exception of his 2014 campaign, which ended 54 games prematurely due to a fractured left hand after Goldschmidt was hit by a pitch, he has rarely strayed far from those numbers annually. It's the steals that'll probably catch your eye, as Goldschmidt has stolen at least 15 bases in five different seasons -- an unusual feat for a first baseman. Only he, Jeff Bagwell and Rod Carew have that many such seasons since World War II, and that's a welcome bonus for Rotisserie managers who land Goldschmidt. He's a category-filler whose contact rate is better than your typical slugger's, which makes him a first-rounder in Rotisserie and a strong choice in points-based leagues as well, though he's more of a marginal first-rounder there, if only because the position becomes deeper in points-based leagues.
2018 Outlook: The torn left thumb ligament that cost him 42 of the Astros' games during the second half of last season was frustrating to his fantasy managers, but it also might have kept Correa's anticipated 2018 price tag within range of him becoming a relative value pick. He's sneaking up on people as a budding star in the on-field game -- though his playoff success did raise his profile there -- as well as the fantasy game. Before he got hurt, Correa sported the game's eighth-best batting average (.320), 10th-best on-base percentage (.397) and sixth-best well-hit average (.248). Correa also became only the second shortstop in history with three 20-homer seasons through his age-22 season, joining Alex Rodriguez, the player to whom he was most often compared at the time of his No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 amateur draft. Now just 23, Correa has first-round upside, yet he might sneak beyond that tier in drafts, which would make him a relative bargain.
2018 Outlook: Baseball is just better when its biggest stars stay completely healthy. Stanton, who missed only one game in 2017 due to injury (for hamstring cramps in late May) set career bests in games played (159) and plate appearances (692), giving him an expanded opportunity to display his best-in-baseball raw power. Display it he did: Stanton hit 59 home runs in one of the worst home run environments in baseball in Miami, capturing the National League's MVP award in the process. Don't entirely attribute it to good fortune, though, as Stanton's adjustment to a closed stance also helped him post a career-best 73 percent contact rate, making him a much more complete slugger. For an encore, he gets to flash those same skills in one of the most homer-friendly environments in baseball, having been traded to the New York Yankees in December. Stanton is in a dream circumstance, and while his prospects of repeating couldn't be much better, it's important to remember that he has missed 20.1 percent of his teams' games in his career. There's risk here, but the power upside is monstrous.
2018 Outlook: He's coming off a historic seven-year run, during which he has captured three Cy Young awards (2011, 2013 and 2014), an MVP award (2014) and four major league ERA crowns (2011-14) and has averaged 17 wins and 232 strikeouts with a 2.10 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. So why is it even a question as to whether Kershaw is the No. 1 overall pick in any fantasy draft? Simple: Back problems have shortened each of his past two seasons, costing him a combined 96 Dodgers games and limiting him to 48 regular-season starts, only 13 of which have come after the All-Star break. That's an issue particularly in head-to-head leagues, in which Kershaw is the type of pitcher who can almost single-handedly lead your team to the playoffs, only to disappear at that most inopportune time -- said playoffs. It makes him the most risk/reward pitcher in fantasy, as he has been the No. 7 overall player on the Player Rater in each of his past two injury-shortened seasons, yet he has forced his managers to find replacements for weeks at a time. Depending on your risk tolerance, Kershaw stakes a claim to the No. 1 overall pick -- more so in points-based leagues, where elite starting pitching dominates -- but he might not be the lead man in a four-pitcher "Tier 1" of starters.
2018 Outlook: Let the debate begin: Who was the best pitcher of the past five seasons? If WAR, wins or strikeouts is your measure of choice, it's Scherzer, as he's the major league leader in each of those categories, with 33.3, 89 and 1,320 respectively. Scherzer has also won back-to-back Cy Young awards and three in that five-year span. Perhaps most importantly, in fantasy terms, Scherzer's 163 starts and 1,092 1/3 innings pitched during that span are tops in the game, which means he's bringing you volume in a game that is trending further toward specialization. These are the things points-league managers want, and they're plenty helpful in Rotisserie leagues, too. Although Scherzer is now 33 years old and had minor neck, calf and hamstring injuries last season, the beginning of his career decline doesn't appear imminent. He should again be one of the first pitchers off your draft board -- if not No. 1.
2018 Outlook: In what was probably perceived by most as a "down" season, Bryant made some important skills advancements in 2017 that bode well for his chances of a return to MVP glory. Thanks to his career-best 76.6 percent contact and 19.2 percent strikeout rates, he boosted his stock dramatically in points-based leagues, in which even a smidge more luck on his fly balls could help him emerge as a top-10 overall performer. It was good news for Bryant's Rotisserie value, too, as such polish elevates his batting-average floor, giving him a realistic chance at a .300 batting average, 30 home runs or, in the best case scenario, both. In a way, Bryant seemed to trade some power for batting average and extra-base hits, in an era when most seem to be doing the opposite. Although he's probably no longer worthy of your first pick in the draft, Bryant is certainly still a building-block player worthy of your second pick, thanks to his high likelihood of returning value on your investment.
2018 Outlook: A rocky 2017 campaign coupled with the prospect of being traded during the season -- Machado is eligible for free agency at year's end -- has probably deflated Machado's perceived draft stock to the point that he'll be a potential value in most leagues, should he slip beyond the first 15 picks. Although he had a quiet first half of 2017 (.217/.289/.420), he roared back with a stunning, .296/.330/.516 second half in which his contact rate ranked among his best at any stage of his career. Machado's .259 batting average seemed extraordinarily unlucky, as he had a .265 BABIP despite posting the second-most hard-contact line drives in baseball, which means he could record a mark as many as 30 points higher with greater fortune on balls in play in 2018. He's also an underrated power source, having hit 121 home runs before turning 25 (that occurred last July 6), good for 25th in baseball history and fourth among primary third basemen. Machado's arrow is still pointing upward, and his request to play shortstop in the future coupled with the prospect of a trade -- potentially to a team with a need at that position -- only provides additional benefit in fantasy. He's a premier talent, and he could make a borderline first-round case in points-based leagues.
2018 Outlook: The reigning major league leader in wins (18), ERA (2.25), WHIP (0.87), strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.4:1) and ERA+ (202), Kluber has cemented his status as one of the most valuable pitchers in the game. Better yet, he's one of the most durable, as both his 876 1/3 total innings and his 6.9 innings-per-start average the past four seasons combined rank second in baseball -- the former behind only Max Scherzer and the latter behind only Clayton Kershaw. Although Scherzer and Kershaw tend to get more fantasy press and have the benefit of working in the more pitching-oriented National League, Kluber's skill set warrants placement right there in the four-man "Tier 1" of fantasy starting pitchers, regardless of format. In an era when workhorse starters are becoming increasingly rare, all three warrant first-round selections in points-based leagues and can make legitimate cases for the same using Rotisserie scoring.