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: 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: Injuries have dogged Strasburg throughout his eight-year career, as he has averaged just 24.1 starts per season (prorating his 2010 debut, which was split between the minors and majors). But when healthy, he has provided numbers competitive with almost anyone's in the game. His eight-start performance to conclude 2017, after missing 23 team games with a nerve impingement in his pitching elbow, is compelling evidence: Strasburg's 0.84 ERA led the league, his 0.78 WHIP was third best and 31.7 percent strikeout rate was fifth best. He's also top 10 in baseball in all three categories since his June 8, 2010, big league debut (among pitchers with at least 100 starts). Selecting him is taking a chance on his Cy Young-caliber talent on a per-start basis and knowing you'll probably need someone to fill in during his likely injury absences. That's a more palatable strategy today than it was in the past, at least.
2018 Outlook: A three-homer, 10-RBI performance in his 25th game on April 30 sparked what was an eventual career year for Rendon, who set personal bests in batting average (.301), home runs (25), RBIs (100), on-base percentage (.403), slugging percentage (.533), doubles (41) and walks (84), while appearing in more than 145 games for the third time in the past four years. In the process, he continued to show growth in his batted-ball distribution -- significantly more fly balls and fewer ground balls -- as well as his hard-contact rate. Rendon, who begins the season at 27 years old, is in the prime of his career and is a worthy early-round pick who could warrant top-25 consideration in points-based leagues.
2018 Outlook: October debridement and microfracture surgery to repair damage to articular cartilage in his right knee threatens the start to Murphy's season, as the Nationals have thus far offered only "optimism" that he'll be ready by Opening Day. Toss that onto a pile that includes second-half hip, neck and hamstring issues, as well as his 32 years of age, and Murphy is one of the riskier picks come draft day. Though the hitting approach he adopted in 2015 has made him a consistent candidate for at least a .300 batting average and 20 homers annually, he regressed significantly in terms of contact rate and struggled against left-handed pitchers in the second half of 2017, things that could signal the aging process as much as it might've resulted from his injuries. With full health, he'd be a top-50 pick, perhaps better in points-based leagues. Until we get a firmer read on his return date, however, he's a risky pick anywhere near that early and will require a backup plan.
2018 Outlook: Eaton was in the midst of his best year yet when, on April 28, he tore the ACL in his left knee lunging for first base to beat out an infield grounder. At the time, he was third in the majors in runs scored (24), that thanks in large part to his career-best .393 on-base percentage and role as the leadoff man for a potent Nationals lineup. Eaton is expected to be healthy for the start of 2018, taking over once more as the team's leadoff hitter, and if he looks strong during spring training he should pick up right where he left off. If so, he's plenty capable of repeating -- and arguably improving upon -- his No. 103 finish on the 2016 Player Rater and 85th-most fantasy points that season.
2018 Outlook: Doolittle emerged as the primary closer for the Nationals following a deadline trade to Washington, recording a save in 21 of his 22 opportunities down the stretch. His numbers were strong throughout the season, with a 2.81 ERA which was well supported by a 31.5 percent strikeout rate and 5.1 percent walk rate. Injury risk is the biggest thing separating Doolittle from the top tier of closers as the 31-year-old lefty has spent time on the disabled list in each of the past four seasons. There is also the risk of the Nationals upgrading the back end of their bullpen at some point and bringing in an even more established closer, in which case Doolittle would likely be relegated to setup duty. As a result, it's best to not pay for a full season's worth of saves.
2018 Outlook: Zimmerman added yoga to his repertoire and began examining Statcast data -- launch angles specifically -- at the onset of the 2016-17 offseason, his greater fortune in the health department and improved approach at the plate fueling a torrid, .330/.373/.596 first half. As pitchers adjusted to him, however, he gave back some of those gains thereafter, his .269/.337/.542 second-half numbers more representative of his true talent. Now 33 years old, Zimmerman might be hard-pressed to repeat his 144 games played, so be careful not to overpay chasing last year's numbers. He's a solid midrounder in all formats, but shouldn't be considered a leading man on a fantasy team.
2018 Outlook: In a season during which few pitchers tallied hefty workloads, Gonzalez's 2017 campaign carried quite a lot of value behind his 32 starts and 201 innings pitched. He posted his best ERA (2.96) and WHIP (1.18) since 2012, and finished tied for third in the majors with 22 quality starts. Gonzalez's underlying skills, however, belied the performance, and they could cause him to tumble down the rankings in 2018, should the position as a whole experience greater luck in the health department, elevating its replacement level. He had career lows with a .261 batting average on balls in play and 81.6 left-on-base percentage, with his good fortune suggesting his true value probably lies closer to his 2014 or 2015 numbers. If you're drafting him with those expectations, he's a good midrounder.
2018 Outlook: An April injury to starting center fielder Adam Eaton opened up unexpected playing time for Taylor last season, and he impressed to the tune of a .271/.320/.486 line in 432 plate appearances. His strikeout rate was unsightly (31.7 percent), but Taylor showed impressive pop, hitting 19 homers with a .216 ISO. The power doesn't seem to be a fluke, as Taylor's hard-hit rate increased from 31.7 percent to 34.0 percent while his fly ball rate jumped from 29.6 percent to 36.7 percent. With his swing-and-miss issues, he will be a batting-average risk for the foreseeable future, but Taylor seems like a solid bet to produce home run and steal numbers in the teens again this season. That said, with highly-rated prospect Victor Robles waiting in the wings, he won't have much wiggle room.
2018 Outlook: Roark's ERA the past three seasons (4.38, 2.83, 4.67) tells the story of a frustratingly inconsistent pitcher, though his xFIP (4.17, 4.17, 4.15) paints exactly the opposite picture. His strikeout, walk and ground ball rates held steady from his breakout 2016 season, but his ERA in 2017 nevertheless jumped nearly two runs. That setback seems primarily attributable to stats such as left-on-base rate, BABIP and HR/FB rate all regressing to the mean. Going forward, expect Roark to put up an ERA somewhere in the low-4.00s along with average strikeout and walk rates. It's enough to give him a spot in the back end of a fantasy rotation, and it helps that he's on the Nationals, who should power Roark to his fair share of wins.
2018 Outlook: Robles is one of the top prospects in baseball, his value to the Nationals evident in that they put him on their Division Series roster despite his having only 37 games' experience in Double-A ball and 13 in the majors. That's how polished his defense and speed are -- the traits that would translate most swiftly once the Nationals deem him ready, though his limited experience in the higher levels could result in him starting 2018 in Triple-A ball. Robles should see some time in Washington before year's end, and if he can force a promotion quickly enough, he'd be able to fill five rotisserie categories; and with his solid contact rate, he could provide comparable value in points-based leagues. Dynasty-league managers should target him in the early rounds, but in redraft formats, he's more of an endgame flier for mixed and a late-rounder in NL-only.
2018 Outlook: Wieters endured a poor 2017 campaign, hitting .225/.288/.344, good for a 62 wRC+. The 31-year-old fell below replacement level according to WAR and ranked as one of the worst pitch framers in the league. A catcher on the wrong side of 30 with clearly declining skills is normally a good bet to lose playing time, and indeed the Nationals do plan to scale back his role in 2018. Even if he remains the primary catcher throughout the season, his fantasy value will probably be marginal in most formats. His relatively low .264 BABIP could hint at some positive regression this season, but a player with a declining hard-hit rate and "catcher's speed" could easily earn a BABIP that low. Wieters looks like a low-average, low-power hitter who should probably be a backup at this point in his career.
2018 Outlook: The Phillies acquired Kendrick last winter in hopes of increasing his trade value and flipping him at the deadline, and he did not disappoint, putting up a .315/.368/.475 line in 334 plate appearances between Philadelphia and Washington. There are several red flags, however, starting with a .378 BABIP that landed way above the league average. That number should regress this year, taking Kendrick’s excellent batting average with it, though it may not fall all the way to the mean, as Kendrick’s career BABIP is an impressive .340. More worrisome for Kendrick is the fact that his strikeout and walk rates both trended in the wrong direction in 2017. He's also battled a number of lower-body injuries in recent seasons. After re-signing with Washington on a two-year deal, Kendrick will mainly work in a utility role, but should play regularly early on until Daniel Murphy (knee) returns from the disabled list.