2017 Outlook: His is a name you know and love, and that might not be a good thing in fantasy terms. A former perennial fantasy ace -- albeit one who was sometimes frustrating to own in Rotisserie leagues because of his modest win totals -- Hernandez's velocity has dropped, specifically the differential between his sinker and changeup, and injuries have begun to crop up, eroding his skills. After his midsummer DL stint for a calf injury, "King Felix" appeared hardly a prince, posting a 4.48 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 17.7 percent strikeout rate in 15 second-half starts. He's a pitcher in need of adjustments to compensate for his lost velocity but as of yet hasn't made them, but it's not unthinkable that he'll be the next veteran to quickly do so (see: Verlander, Justin). Until he does, Hernandez is at best a third/fourth fantasy starter, and one with a steep downside from there.
2017 Outlook: Gray's was one of the more perplexing stat lines of 2016: He was a better pitcher at Coors - much lower WHIP, greater strikeout rate - than on the road, and his game log revealed a frustrating level of inconsistency. Considering the challenge of calling Coors his home, however, Gray's year should be termed nothing short of encouraging. He possesses an elite slider that fuels his strikeout rate, and he showed a propensity for getting first-pitch strikes that suggests he's better than his 8.3 percent walk rate indicated. Coors will always present ratio-related problems for any pitcher, including one as promising as Gray, and it'll force more individual matchups attention than for an average pitcher, but he's still an exciting enough youngster to be worth tabbing as your fourth or fifth starter.
2017 Outlook: One of six pitchers to save 40-plus games in 2016, Ramos will begin the season again the Marlins' closer, where he'll hope to reverse the strikeout decline he exhibited following an August DL stint for a fractured finger -- he struck out hitters nine percent less often after the injury compared to before it. Recapturing that ability will be key to his maintaining top-15 fantasy closer status; Ramos' control has always been shaky, leading to unusually high annual WHIPs. He still possesses a filthy slider that'll rack up the strikeouts, and 75 of those with 30-plus saves seems pretty likely, but beware mistaking him for a member of the upper tier at his position.
2017 Outlook: Though Price's first year in Boston didn't live up to expectations, he did finish it on a positive note that offers encouragement for 2017: He had eight wins, nine quality starts, a 3.24 ERA, 1.10 WHIP in his final 14 starts. Part of the reason for his struggles might have been as the adjustment to Fenway Park, a challenging environment for a left-handed pitcher lacking a non-elite ground-ball rate, and part might have been the decline in both his four-seam fastball (down 1.1 mph, to 93.8) and sinker (down 1.2 mph, to 93.6) velocity, the latter contributing to a small decline in his strikeout rate. Price remains one of the game's more durable starters, and he wouldn't be the first player to fully adapt to his Boston surroundings in Year No. 2, making a small rebound as likely an outcome as any. He should be one of the first 10 pitchers off your board regardless of format.
2017 Outlook: Few pitchers have as wide a range of potential outcomes as Nola entering 2017. For two months at the onset of 2016, he looked like one of the game's brightest up-and-coming stars, but the wheels came completely off immediately thereafter, as he posted a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of the season before being shut down due to elbow issues. Nola is reportedly fine at the onset of spring training, but his health will require monitoring, and he's tough to trust until he proves himself over an entire big-league campaign. He's a control and ground-ball specialist when fully healthy, possessing top-30 starting pitcher upside that makes him well worth speculating as your fifth or sixth fantasy starter.
2017 Outlook: July surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome threatens not only Harvey's 2017, but his career, as the track record of pitchers who have made a successful recovery from the operation is mediocre at best. Few past examples possess Harvey's raw talent; he was the No. 10 starting pitcher on the Player Rater and 13th in fantasy points in 2015, but his ERA regressed by more than two runs last season and injuries limited him to just 17 starts. Oh, did we mention that he also has a Tommy John surgery on his résumé? Harvey's spring progress might be the most critical to track of any pitcher, as his range of outcomes is arguably the widest. The healthy version is a top-10 fantasy option, but there's no guarantee he'll be even close to that.
2017 Outlook: He's no longer the overpowering closer he was early in his career, having lost a good deal of fastball velocity over the years, but "K-Rod" continues to mount productive save totals, tallying a sixth career season with at least 40 in 2016, third-most in baseball history behind only Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera (9 apiece). The Tigers will return Rodriguez to their closer role once again in 2017, and despite his rising ratios, so-so peripherals and career-worst 22.1 percent strikeout rate last season, he's one of the few "predictable" picks among fantasy closers. He's seemingly aging gracefully, likely assuring you 30-plus saves despite minimal other contributions, and that's not a bad fallback option in the middle rounds if you miss out on the elite finishers. Rodriguez is, unfortunately, declining in value more rapidly in points-based scoring.
2017 Outlook: A pitcher with a checkered injury history, Paxton began 2016 with Triple-A Tacoma, and when he finally was recalled by the Mariners in June, something odd had changed: He had added nearly two whole miles per hour to his average fastball velocity as well as additional spin to the pitch. He also had improved control, his 4.7 percent walk rate his best at any pro stop in any season. Paxton could be in line for a major breakthrough in 2017 thanks to these significant skills improvements, so long as he can remain healthy enough to hold up to the 162-game schedule. He possesses enough upside to be a top-40 starting pitcher candidate, but is more wisely selected in the mid-to-late rounds.
2017 Outlook: What an utterly baffling year. Pineda posted baseball's third-best xFIP (3.30) in 2016, suggesting excellent underlying skills thanks primarily to his 27.4 percent strikeout rate, and resulting in a somewhat serviceable year in points-based formats. In Rotisserie leagues, however, his year was mostly awful, resulting in a No. 325 Player Rater finish that was more than 100 ranking spots lower. Pineda's fastball, mostly due to faulty command, was hammered -- opponents batted .348 against it, including 17 of his 27 home runs -- and it doesn't help that his home ballpark isn't at all forgiving. He's a better pitcher than his final numbers, but it's unclear whether his 2017 ceiling is that of a top-25 or top-50 fantasy starter. Considering his injury history, the latter is probably wiser, making him more of a back-of-your-staff type in mixed leagues.
2017 Outlook: The Pirates' de facto closer, Watson saved 15 games in 26 appearances following the trade of Mark Melancon last July 30, but as a left-handed pitcher, he's at risk of his manager's whim should Clint Hurdle decide he's more integral coming out of the bullpen in situational spots. That's not to suggest Watson can't close -- he's not your traditional LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY), limiting right-handed batters to .217/.282/.352 rates in 2016 -- but he's filthier against same-handed hitters, had a bloated 4.37 FIP, and the Pirates do have bullpen competition, including free-agent signee Daniel Hudson. Watson warrants top-20 fantasy closer treatment in drafts, but he's one at his position who might be smartly handcuffed or backed up with depth at the position.
2017 Outlook: One of the rare pitchers to gain velocity as he has aged, Happ parlayed his improved fastball zip as well as his two-month detour through Pittsburgh working with pitching guru Ray Searage into an unexpectedly productive fantasy season in Toronto in 2016. Though he lacks stellar peripherals - he's above-average but far from elite in terms of walk, strikeout and ground-ball rates - his stuff is good enough to minimize hard contact. After such good fortune in terms of wins (20) and ERA (3.18), Happ will probably face regression in 2017, but he's certainly capable of finishing with a stat line in range of his three-year averages of a 3.63 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.
2017 Outlook: After missing all of the 2014-15 seasons recovering from Tommy John and then hernia surgeries, Taillon roared back with a thoroughly dominant 10 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis to begin last season (2.04 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 25.9 percent strikeout rate). That earned him a promotion to the big club, where he never skipped a beat: Taillon became the only rookie this century to post a walk rate better than five percent (4.1), strikeout rate better than 20 percent (20.3) and ground-ball rate greater than 50 percent (55.0). That combination of skills greatly decreases his risk of regression during his sophomore campaign, with the most valid argument against his taking another big step forward the possibility that the Pirates will continue to cap his innings after so much pro-career time lost due to injury. Still, Taillon could be afforded close to 30 starts, and with PNC Park's pitching-friendly confines helping him, his best-case scenario might be amongst the top 25 starting pitchers, though he should be drafted as closer to a top-50 option at the position.
2017 Outlook: Ray had an extremely unusual year, best illustrated by his sporting the game's largest disparity between his ERA (4.90) and FIP (3.76). He posted both a BABIP well above the league average (.355 compared to .300) and left-on-base percentage well beneath it (68.7 compared to 72.9), so poor fortune -- not to mention his cozy home confines -- certainly contributed. Lurking beneath Ray's raw Rotisserie stats was improved fastball velocity and greater reliance upon his slider, increasing his strikeout rate, so there's a chance he could put it all together with a true breakthrough in 2017. He's well worth consideration in the late rounds, as potentially a top-50 fantasy starter.
2017 Outlook: Manaea thrived in the minors almost instantly following his trade to the Athletics in July 2015, culminating with his arrival in Oakland at the end of last April. After some initial struggles, he posted a remarkable 3.81:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 18 starts during the final four months of the year, his 2.96 ERA during that time span giving him the look of a potential top-40 fantasy starter entering 2017. What made the difference for Manaea was his performance against right-handers, as he narrowed what was an initially wide platoon split to limit righties to a mere .229 second-half batting average. His final hurdle to superstardom is his workload, as the Athletics reined in his pitch counts last season and might again this year due to the forearm and back issues that plagued him at times in 2016. Manaea should be drafted as a fifth or six fantasy starter, but he's one of the stronger breakthrough candidates entering 2017.
2017 Outlook: Wainwright's strikeout rate was already in decline entering last year, and the wheels completely came off in 2016, as he posted career worsts in ERA (4.62), FIP (3.93), WHIP (1.40) and batting average allowed (.281). Diminished control and poor luck were mostly responsible, but even during his down year, Wainwright at times flashed his prior ace form: He had a 2.58 ERA during a 12-start stretch from May 18-July 21, which was his most useful stretch of the season. He's no longer the top-20 fantasy starting pitcher candidate he once was, that mainly due to his shifting approach from swings and misses to weaker contact, but Wainwright still has the ability to contribute on either a matchups basis or as a fourth or fifth option in Rotisserie and points leagues.