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: 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: 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.