2017 Outlook: What a second half! After the Orioles finally granted him a regular rotation spot late last April, Gausman quickly adapted, gaining greater confidence in his secondary pitches, posting 10 quality starts, eight wins, a 3.10 ERA and 23.8 percent strikeout rate in 15 second-half starts. His 1.26 WHIP during that time, however, showed that there was more room for improvement, and it presents room for pause if you're wondering about his top-20-starter fantasy prospects. Gausman is now locked into the Orioles' starting five, and his odds of a step forward are good, but how much of one will he take? Don't let him slide much beyond the top 25 starters on your draft board.
2017 Outlook: A pitcher who has consistently outpitched his peripherals, Teheran has had an ERA at least 36 points lower than his FIP in each of his past four seasons, and his -0.49 ERA/FIP differential during those four years combined was the 15th-most extreme in that direction of 175 qualified pitchers. He has gotten there thanks to sheer dominance against right-handed hitters and very-good-but-not-outstanding command, but at the same time, those traits (as well as his fly-ball leaning) probably assure a future as a third or fourth fantasy starter rather than a burgeoning ace. Now 26, Teheran does have time to make the adjustments to improve his value, but as of yet, there's no evidence it's imminent, making him a mere mid-round pick.
2017 Outlook: Following Wade Davis' trade to the Cubs, Herrera ascended to the Royals' closer role on a regular basis, and don't overlook how productive Herrera was filling in last year during Davis' multiple DL stints. In 45 team games while Davis was sidelined, Herrera managed 11 saves -- that's a 40 save full-season pace -- with a 2.95 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, and over the course of the full year, an increased emphasis on his breaking pitches fueled his career-high 30.4 percent strikeout rate. Those are top-10 fantasy closer numbers, and if Herrera remains in Kansas City all summer -- it's possible he'll be a midseason trade candidate as a player with two years' control remaining if the team doesn't contend -- he shouldn't have much trouble maintaining that status.
2017 Outlook: In his first full season since reconstructive knee surgery, Stroman got off to a rough start, posting a 5.33 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in his first 16 starts. As he built up strength, he finished the year on a high note, his ERA 3.42 and WHIP 1.16 in his final 16 turns, 10 of which were quality starts. Those splits illustrated the fine line Stroman treads: As a ground-balling, pitch-to-contact type, he can ill afford to pitch at less than full strength or with less than full feel for any of his pitches. It's possible that in his second full year from surgery, he'll be closer to his second- than first-half self, but he should never be mistaken for a strikeout artist. He's a top-40 capable starter, but his ceiling is probably shy of the top 20 at the position.
2017 Outlook: Maeda's skills translated excellently from Japan to the major leagues last season, with one exception: He exhibited a superior performance on lengthier rest and seemed to tire in the late-summer months. He posted a 3.16 ERA and 1.03 WHIP on five days' rest or greater, not to mention his ERA swelled to 4.25 during the second half, which is why the Dodgers asked him to bulk up during the winter to handle the strain of the more taxing, 162-game U.S. schedule. Durability is therefore a question surrounding Maeda, and warrants attention during spring training. His 3.58 strikeout-to-walk ratio, however, was well within range of his 4.05 number in his final three years in Japan, so on a per-start basis, he's well worth your while as a third or fourth fantasy starter.
2017 Outlook: Salazar was riding high as one of the game's best up-and-coming strikeout artists last season, posting a 2.24 ERA and near-30-percent strikeout rate in his first 11 starts, before injuries derailed him. He wasn't close to the same pitcher upon his return, and subsequently missed additional time with elbow and forearm issues. Salazar did make a pair of relief appearances during the World Series, which was encouraging, but his injury history is difficult to overlook, especially in light of the Indians' historically conservative approach to his workload. If he's healthy, he's a borderline top-10 fantasy starter on a per-start basis, but he has yet to exceed 185 innings pitched in any professional season to date.
2017 Outlook: After paying a steep price to acquire Giles from the Phillies in December 2015, the Astros did everything in their power to keep him from their closer role to begin last season, the product being an especially ugly April (9.00 ERA in 11 appearances) by the flamethrowing right-hander. By season's end, Giles had forced his way into the role, thanks to a 3.23 ERA, 37.6 percent strikeout rate and 29 saves plus holds in 33 opportunities after that bad opening month. He'll begin 2017 there, and while his first year as an American Leaguer might have been an occasionally rocky one, Giles possesses the skills to challenge for a top-five fantasy closer season. His range of outcomes might be somewhat wider than a typical top-10 closer's, but he's the kind of talent to target when paying for saves; he's in fact a slightly more appealing choice in points-based formats thanks to the strikeouts.
2017 Outlook: Though Hamels no longer looks like a potential fantasy staff ace, and his hitting-friendly home environment lowers his statistical ceiling somewhat, he has been a model of consistency over the years: He has the longest active streak of 200-plus-inning, sub-3.75 seasons, with seven in a row. Still, he regressed in the control department last season, his 9.1 percent walk rate the highest of his career, as he struggled to locate his pitches, most especially his signature changeup. Should Hamels recapture the feel for that pitch, he'd once again be a lock for a top-25 caliber season among fantasy starters -- and perhaps a few ticks better in points-based leagues -- but his advancing age makes it wise to treat him as nothing more than a borderline member of that group.
2017 Outlook: From starter to reliever to starter to reliever back to starter again, Sanchez has met every challenge thus far during his professional career with aplomb, breaking through in the latter role last season to the tune of the No. 62 spot on our Player Rater and the 42nd-most fantasy points using standard scoring. His constantly shifting roles, however, cast doubt upon his role and durability, as he experienced a 90-inning increase in 2016 compared to 2015. He possesses excellent stuff -- a modest strikeout-to-walk ratio and tendency to afford more homers to left-handed hitters being his main weaknesses -- and could repeat or even improve upon last year's performance, but the history of pitchers struggling the year after such a sizable innings increase makes him a wiser pick as one of the top-30, rather than top-20, starters.
2017 Outlook: His first season as a member of the Red Sox was also, unfortunately, the worst of his seven years in the big leagues, but that Kimbrel nevertheless finished among the 20 best fantasy closers using Rotisserie or points-based scoring speaks volume about his talent. For the sixth consecutive season, he managed at least 30 saves, a 35 percent strikeout rate and sub-1.10 WHIP; that's a record number that represented six of the 27 total campaigns in history. A knee injury he suffered in July that required surgery contributed, meaning that his health is worth tracking during spring training to ultimately determine his odds of a return to the position's top five. Kimbrel's raw ability makes him a candidate, but he's also one of the incumbent closers who might be wisely handcuffed to his top setup man (Tyler Thornburg).
2017 Outlook: Few players will have as variable a price point dependent upon league format as Miller, a middle-innings dynamo who is as good at helping stabilize a fantasy team's ERA, WHIP and strikeouts as anyone in the game. These pitchers can be invaluable assets in leagues with daily transactions or start caps, worthy of middle-round picks and/or double-digit auction bids thanks to the flexibility they provide filling in the cracks between your pricey starters and closers. Due to Miller's second-in-command role behind likely Indians closer Cody Allen (or perhaps the shorter end of a partnership), however, he might generate fewer saves, hurting his Rotisserie and points-based value, and could fall short of the big-league holds lead due to mixing and matching with Miller. Make no mistake: Miller is as good a pitcher as the pundits made him out to be when he was the team's postseason workhorse last October; the difference is that during the regular season, he'll endure a more conservative workload of perhaps 70 innings.
2017 Outlook: One of the most remarkable comeback stories this century, Hill, at the age of 35, re-emerged as a dominant member of the Red Sox's rotation in September 2015, extended said success into a productive, albeit-20-start 2016 with the Dodgers, then parlayed it into a three-year deal to remain in L.A. He did it by whittling his arsenal to two pitches: His four-seam fastball and curveball, both exhibiting an increased amount of spin, making them difficult to square up. In short, Hill's adjustments make him the real deal, though his 37 years of age and chronic blister issues last summer cast some doubt on his ability to hold up to the 162-game schedule. He's one of the best per-start pitchers in the game -- his past 24 starts have been that good -- and a must to have active when he's healthy, but consider any start he makes past 15 gravy.
2017 Outlook: After putting forth one of the best seasons of his 13-year career in 2015, Greinke followed it up with one of his worst, and worse yet, he struggled with injuries for the first time in three years. The move to Arizona, and its unforgiving home ballpark, contributed, as Greinke generally pitched his best with the Chase Field roof closed (controlling the interior environment) but was hammered when the roof was open. That suggests more matchup-by-matchup maintenance is in order, especially in light of the shoulder stiffness that cut his year short in September. Greinke's history of good command numbers -- evidenced by his 3.37 career FIP -- gives him a strong chance to rebound, but in a tougher pitchers' environment his ceiling might be that of a top-15 starter.
2017 Outlook: A late-October domestic violence charge threatens Familia's status to begin 2017, as he might be facing a suspension, but when active, he's expected to once again serve as the Mets' closer. He's a workhorse in that role, the only pitcher with at least 75 appearances and 75 innings pitched in each of the past three seasons, and possesses the combination of swing-and-miss stuff plus an elite ground-ball rate that minimizes big innings and eases worry about his occasionally inconsistent control. During his eligible games, Familia should have an easy time producing top-10 fantasy closer value, and in fact, he might be one of the five best at his craft. As he won't be DL-eligible during any suspension, however, he could be a difficult pitcher to stash in a standard mixed league and faces longer odds of being a top-10 pick at his position.
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.