2017 Outlook: Much of the magic that fueled Arrieta's astonishing, historic 2015 Cy Young campaign seemed to wear off early last season, coinciding almost precisely -- and strangely -- with his no-hitter on April 21, when he walked an unusual-for-him four batters. Though still an excellent pitcher for his 31 starts -- he finished as the No. 11 starting pitcher both on the Player Rater and in standard-league fantasy points -- his walk rate rose alarmingly, from 5.5 to 9.6 percent, and he eased off his signature slider, such a productive pitch for him in 2015, throwing it nearly 11 percent less often. Fatigue could've played a part, as his 248 2/3 innings pitched in 2015 counting the regular season and postseason led the majors, and the Cubs seemed to do a better job giving him requisite rest last year. That might give Arrieta an excellent chance at either a repeat or slight improvement upon his 2016 numbers, and his combination of swing-and-miss and hard contact-minimizing stuff should only help. A return to 2015 form might be a long shot, but he's plenty capable of a top-10 starter's season.
2017 Outlook: Lester found himself in a dream scenario in 2016, backed by a brilliant (and arguably league-leading, depending on your measure of preference) Cubs defense and with veteran David Ross doing wonders for his pitch framing as well as masking any of his own deficiencies holding runners on base. Though the Cubs return a similarly skilled supporting corps behind him, Ross' retirement casts a shred of doubt upon Lester's ability to replicate his career bests in wins (19), ERA (2.44) and WHIP (1.02). Lester's numbers will presumably fall back to earth somewhat, but his substantially improved command of the past three seasons gives him a fighting chance of either meeting or exceeding his 2014-15 combined rates of a 2.88 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. His durability -- nine consecutive seasons of at least 30 starts and 190 innings pitched -- should not be ignored, and should keep him a top-10 starting pitcher in any format.
2017 Outlook: The majors' defending ERA crown winner (2.13), Hendricks had a lot of things break in his favor last season, but he also made adjustments that lent legitimacy to his performance. He was a master of minimizing hard contact, especially against left-handed hitters; he led the league in well-hit average allowed (.089) and was second in the category amongst right-handers versus lefty hitters (.085), thanks in part to increased sinker usage as well as a high-spin curveball (higher spin being more difficult to hit). His 3.20 FIP, which was right in line with his 3.29 career number, hints at regression to the mean in his future, but this is a pitcher who might make a career of somewhat exceeding his peripherals. In a year where few starting pitchers are truly "safe" picks, Hendricks makes an easy top-20 case.
2017 Outlook: He's one of the most consistent and underappreciated starters in the game: Quintana is one of only five pitchers in baseball with at least 200 innings pitched of a sub-3.75 ERA in each of the past four seasons (Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer). Quintana's success is largely due to his aggressiveness coupled with good command, as he has ranked among the game's top 15 in getting first-pitch strikes in each of those four years. During that time, however, he hasn't exhibited much room for growth, which is a problem in Rotisserie leagues for a pitcher on a rebuilding team as the White Sox. As is, Quintana's 40 non-win quality starts the past three seasons combined are the major league's most. He's an excellent third or fourth starter for your squad, but at this point it'd be better for his fantasy value if the White Sox trade him, something that has been rumored for a while and might yet happen in-season.
2017 Outlook: In the past three seasons combined, Davis' 1.18 ERA led all relievers with at least 150 innings pitched, his 0.89 WHIP was third-best and 33.1 percent strikeout rate was eighth-best, and now that he's the closer for the defending World Champion Cubs, his perceived value is sure to be sky-high. A pair of DL stints late last season due to forearm injuries provide reason for caution, however, as he lost some velocity and spin on his fastball as well as location of his slider/cutter during the second half, resulting in fewer swings and misses. Davis could enter spring training fully healthy, and by all rights he might be as valuable a fantasy closer as any during his peak-health periods, which is why he makes an easy top-10 pick at the position. Just understand that those forearm issues cast a bit of a shadow, making him a shakier pick than the top-five, known commodities.
2017 Outlook: Say hello to Captain Consistency, and he's doing it at age 38! Since recovering from his 2011 Tommy John surgery, Lackey has averaged a 3.35 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 170 strikeouts in four seasons, rarely straying much from those individual numbers in any single year. He's a master of getting ahead in the count, ranking among the top five in the game at first-pitch strikes in each of the past three years (he's the only pitcher to claim that), and he has leaned increasingly upon a two-seam fastball and cutter that helps neutralize left-handed hitters. Lackey probably offers little profit potential as a mid-rounder, but he's also one of the more stable investments out there.