2018 Outlook: After his MVP-caliber 2016, Betts' 2017 might be labeled a disappointment in fantasy terms. It's an unfair characterization as, despite a 54-point regression in batting average and 94-point drop in OPS, Betts managed a 26th overall finish on the Rotisserie Player Rater. In fact, he finished as the No. 8 hitter in terms of fantasy points. The latter feat is testament to Betts' remarkable contact ability, as his 88 percent mark was seventh among qualifiers, backed by a 5.6 percent swinging-strike rate that was fifth. He seemed strangely unlucky on batted balls last season; his .268 BABIP was historically low for a player with his skill set, which means that among the building-block-ranked players, he could be a relative bargain if people misjudge him off of raw 2017 returns. Betts is one of the few players in the game with legitimate .300-plus batting average and 25/25 skills, so expect some degree of rebound in 2018.
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: Baseball is just better when its biggest stars stay completely healthy. Stanton, who missed only one game in 2017 due to injury (for hamstring cramps in late May) set career bests in games played (159) and plate appearances (692), giving him an expanded opportunity to display his best-in-baseball raw power. Display it he did: Stanton hit 59 home runs in one of the worst home run environments in baseball in Miami, capturing the National League's MVP award in the process. Don't entirely attribute it to good fortune, though, as Stanton's adjustment to a closed stance also helped him post a career-best 73 percent contact rate, making him a much more complete slugger. For an encore, he gets to flash those same skills in one of the most homer-friendly environments in baseball, having been traded to the New York Yankees in December. Stanton is in a dream circumstance, and while his prospects of repeating couldn't be much better, it's important to remember that he has missed 20.1 percent of his teams' games in his career. There's risk here, but the power upside is monstrous.
2018 Outlook: Inexplicably, after putting forth one of the most productive second halves of 2017 of any player in baseball, Martinez lingered on the free-agent market deep into February, before finally signing with the Red Sox. During said second half, Martinez managed the game's best slugging percentage (.751), isolated power (.445), home-run rate (11.3 percent of his plate appearances) and wOBA (.472), his 31 home runs trailing only Giancarlo Stanton, thriving in one of the game's most hitting-friendly environments following his mid-season trade to the Diamondbacks. While Martinez's power metrics are destined to naturally regress, as that half-year was historic and practically impossible to repeat, and Fenway Park's Green Monster could convert a handful of his homers into extra-base hits, what he loses in that department he could gain in terms of runs/RBIs/plate appearances by joining a loaded lineup. He's capable of a batting average anywhere from .275-.300, and 30-plus-homer power, assuming he can stay healthy enough to accrue the at-bats to get there. Martinez is well worth an early-round pick.
2018 Outlook: Following a historic rookie season, what will Judge do for an encore? He enjoyed one of the most prolific power years in baseball history, setting a rookie record with 52 home runs that tied him for third by any player age 25 or younger. Judge's supporting metrics even back up his repeat prospects: He led the league in the Statcast metric "Barrels," which measures batted-ball events that provide the maximum outcome (.500-plus batting average and 1.500-plus slugging percentage), with 87, and he had the longest average fly ball distance (332.3 feet). Still, pitchers seemed to figure Judge out during the second half of the season as well as the postseason. His three-true-outcomes (home run, strikeout or walk) approach subjected him to streakiness and a low batting average, making him a slightly less attractive pick in points-based leagues. He's due some regression and could be overvalued given how prolific his 2017 campaign was, but he's also likely to once again be one of the best power sources in baseball and a particularly excellent pick in leagues that utilize on-base and/or slugging percentage instead of batting average.
2018 Outlook: With the exception of his stolen base total, Springer's arrow seems to be pointing upward in every aspect of his offensive game. In 2017, he set career highs in almost every offensive category, despite appearing in 22 fewer games than in the season before. Then he broke through on the national stage when he earned World Series MVP honors. In the process, Springer made much more consistent contact than he had at any stage of his pro career, increasing his chances of a repeat performance. The sole criticisms to be had are that his stolen base total and rate have each of the past two seasons and that he hits more ground balls than your typical power hitter -- somewhat limiting his power ceiling -- but neither is enough to bump him out of the early rounds.
2018 Outlook: A very good player in many regards -- contact ability, hard contact, patience and speed -- Yelich could do himself a world of good statistically by elevating his launch angle in an attempt to inject more power into his game. Since his July 23, 2013, big league debut, his 60.1 percent ground ball rate is the third highest among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances. In his defense, he has shown incremental gains in that area, most notably the 52.2 percent ground ball rate he exhibited in the second half of 2017. And then there's his January trade to the Brewers, which moved him from one of the worst parks for left-handed power (Marlins Park) to one of the best (Miller Park), plus dropped him into the heart of a much more productive lineup. Yelich has long been a popular breakthrough candidate in fantasy who hasn't yet taken that big step, but he still possesses a skill set that should place him among the 50 best players in the game by season's end ... if not better.
2018 Outlook: After years of rumors, McCutchen was finally traded, landing in San Francisco in an even more pitching-friendly ballpark (AT&T Park) than his last one (PNC Park). Don't mistake that for a significant downgrade, however, but rather something that will make a repeat of his 28 home runs more difficult. McCutchen did rebound in a significant way in 2017, perhaps a product of better luck in the health department, as he enjoyed some of his best across-the-board contact metrics in a half-decade and annihilated left-handed pitching to the tune of .336/.435/.696 slash rates. He's a much more consistent player than people seem to give him credit for -- and a pretty decent bet to return top-100 overall fantasy value in all formats yet again.
2018 Outlook: As the Tigers began their rebuild, Castellanos quietly enjoyed one of the more under-the-radar summer breakthroughs, batting .303/.339/.557 in 106 games from June 1 forward. He did this thanks in large part to his boosting both his contact rate and well-hit average significantly, while maintaining his already-high fly-ball rate. While Castellanos' supporting cast entering 2018 is weaker, he'll also occupy a prime lineup spot, again fueling his counting numbers. He's not yet a top-10 fantasy option at the position, but he's also one of the more intriguing upside plays from the corner infield tier.
2018 Outlook: One of five players with at least 30 home runs and 15 stolen bases last season, Santana broke through with a more fortunate year in the health department and the benefit of an everyday role. Unfortunately, he caught a lot of breaks in the process, his 19.5 home run/fly ball percentage the second-highest among qualifiers and .363 BABIP sixth-highest, despite a poor contact rate (66.1 percent) and only modest hard contact. Santana will be hard-pressed to repeat the effort even in a homer-friendly home environment, so there's a good chance he's going to be overvalued in points-based leagues, where he makes a weak case for a top-100 selection. In Rotisserie leagues, however, his power/speed combo should earn him a place in that group.
2018 Outlook: One of the more difficult players to project, Puig put forth career-best totals in home runs (28), RBIs (74) and stolen bases (15) last season when fantasy managers probably weren't expecting it, after he had disappointed the two years prior when they were likely anticipating a breakthrough. Digging beneath the Rotisserie numbers, Puig's stats suggested he might have instead raised his statistical floor at the expense of his ceiling, as his 49.0 percent ground-ball rate hinted his true power potential lies probably slightly beneath his 2017 output, and his steals total was driven by an unexpected increase in green lights on the base paths rather than an increase in speed or ability to read opposing pitchers. Puig has settled in as a midround pick, but a more reliable one than he has been in the past.
2018 Outlook: Be careful not to mistake Mazara's 101 RBIs last season as a sign of a significant step forward: He plated more than 20 percent of the runners he had on base, and had the fifth-highest such success rate in the game, so a lot of the reason for his more than 60-point gain fantasy points was merely better luck in that one category. Ultimately, he made only incremental gains with the bat, unsurprising for a 22-year-old, though the small steps forward in terms of isolated power (.153 to .170), walk rate (6.9 to 8.9 percent) and well-hit average (.120 to .172) were all encouraging. Mazara's future star still shines bright, making him an underrated dynasty pick in the early-to-mid rounds, and in a redraft league he's well worth the look in the middle rounds due to his upside.
2018 Outlook: Persistent hamstring issues held Polanco back from a repeat of his breakthrough 2016 campaign, especially in the stolen-base department, where he attempted just two steals (both successful) in 74 games after his first DL stint of the season in mid-May. Nevertheless, while his overall statistics were disappointing, he did enjoy some key gains: a significantly greater contact rate (career-best 84.2 percent) and an increased fly-ball rate (career-best 33.4 percent). And he did both without giving up much in the way of hard contact. With more luck on the health department, Polanco could return to those 2016 totals, which earned him a spot in the top 100 on that year's Player Rater and just a hair shy of the top 100 in points leagues. Monitor him during spring training to make sure he's at full strength, but he remains a solid midround pick.
2018 Outlook: One-dimensional sluggers are rapidly losing value in an era where seemingly every hitter has at least respectable power, but Bruce is good enough at what he does to remain a valuable fantasy option. His .254/.324/.508 slash line was good for a 118 wRC+, his best mark since 2012, and his career-high 36 homers tied him for 15th in the league. There is certainly some risk in his profile, as his 2017 season was the only one in the past four years in which he produced at least one WAR, but his numbers in the core categories have been consistent for the past two seasons He will be just 31 next season, so he's far from over the hill, and is a good bet to provide solid power numbers without a damagingly low batting average. Further, Bruce could gain first-base eligibility in-season after signing with the Mets.
2018 Outlook: Fowler's first season in St. Louis represented a sizable step back from his final season with the Cubs. His on-base percentage dropped thirty points, he stole fewer than 10 bases for the first time in a full season and his recent defensive gains were reversed. However, he managed to set career highs with 18 homers and a .224 ISO, numbers which were supported by a jump in hard-hit rate from 30.6 percent up to 38.1 percent. Besides the walk rate (12.8 percent), the only other thing consistent about Fowler in 2017 was his lack of durability, as he's now played in 125 or fewer games in four of the past five seasons. A player on the wrong side of 30 who has injury concerns is a risky bet, but he should continue to have some fantasy value next season as the Cardinals' regular center fielder and leadoff man.