2018 Outlook: McCullers was on his way to one of the best seasons by any pitcher during the first half of the year, registering nine quality starts, a 2.58 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 28.6 percent strikeout rate in 13 starts before back issues became a persistent problem for him beginning in June. Following his first DL stint, he failed to notch a single quality start and had a 7.29 ERA in nine starts, though he did offer some encouragement with a 2.61 ERA in his five postseason appearances. McCullers gets it done with one of the prettiest curveballs in the game, which in the past two seasons has ranked among the best in spin rate, swinging-strike rate and wOBA allowed. That alone makes his upside tantalizing enough to select among the first 40 starters on your draft board, but considering his injury history, let's be clear: You will require a backup plan.
2018 Outlook: Tabbed "Japan's Babe Ruth" during his days in the Japanese Pacific League, Ohtani is the first player in the Rotisserie era to possess genuinely intriguing skills as both hitter and pitcher. Though the latter is widely considered the more polished part of his game, as his career ERA was 2.52, WHIP was 1.08 and strikeout rate was 28.5 percent in Japan, he shouldn't be overlooked as a hitter. He managed .286/.358/.500 rates in his career there. These helped make Ohtani the league's 2016 MVP, and they line him up for a dual-threat role, both for the Angels, where he'll likely be a member of their rotation from the start while sneaking in time at designated hitter when he's not pitching, and in fantasy, where he'll be one player who can be started in any given day or week only at starting pitcher or DH. You'll want Ohtani active on the pitching side more often, as he has genuine front-of-the-staff potential, but it's not unthinkable that he could contribute a sneaky home run total (though likely at some cost to his batting average). Don't get overzealous with your projections for him, but know that he's indeed a worthy pick within the top 100 in any format.
2018 Outlook: Godley broke into the Diamondbacks' rotation for good last May 10, and from that point forward, he had the majors' 13th-best ERA (3.36), ninth-best WHIP (1.13) and 17th-best strikeout rate (26.3 percent). He achieved this, in large part thanks to one of the best curveballs in the game, as well as one of the league's highest ground-ball rates -- his 57.5 percent mark also ranked fourth-highest during that time span. Now a member of the rotation from the season's start, Godley stands an excellent chance at a hefty workload. With the Diamondbacks reportedly installing a humidor, he'll have good odds of repeating the effort. A case can be made that he's one of the 40 best fantasy starters in the game, but one who might be able to come at a bit of a discount.
2018 Outlook: Injuries, including multiple bouts of elbow soreness as well as fingernail and blister issues, limited Price all season, holding him to just 11 starts and 74.2 innings overall. When healthy, his numbers weren't far off his career pace; his 24 percent strikeout rate was right near his career average, while his 7.6 percent walk rate was only slightly worse than his established mark. His 3.38 ERA in 2017 was in line with his 3.22 career ERA and not far off his 3.64 FIP. Price will be a high-risk, high-reward option this draft season. If he remains healthy all year, Price will almost certainly provide excellent value at his cost. But the best predictor of future injury is past injury -- there's significant downside here as well.
2018 Outlook: Both Gray's curveball and slider register some of the highest spin rates in the game, and on the quality of those two pitches alone, he's plenty capable of producing numbers worthy of top-40 fantasy starter status. Injuries have held him back in each of the past two seasons, however, lowering his statistical ceiling from its former top-20 levels. Following his trade to the Yankees, Gray's control faltered, his walk rate rising to 9.7 percent in 11 starts, something of greater concern because of his home park's home run-friendly nature. He's a pitcher you'll probably need to mix and match as you can, though in Rotisserie leagues where his wins will have greater value, he's a worthwhile midround selection.
2018 Outlook: Bundy got off to a hot start last season and appeared to be on the verge of a breakthrough, posting a 2.89 ERA and 10 quality starts in his first 11 tries, but as the year progressed and he was forced to adjust to the strains of a 162-game schedule, his numbers tumbled. A drop in average fastball velocity -- his went from 93.7 mph in 2016 to 92.1 last year -- largely held him back, though he did show some signs of growth, including polishing a slider responsible for 75 of his 152 strikeouts. Bundy's injury history makes him a scary pick to trust for a full-timer's workload, but it's also worth remembering that scouts saw front-of-the-staff potential from him during his minor league days. So long as he's not priced as a clear top-35 fantasy starting pitcher, he's worth taking the chance on his upside.
2018 Outlook: Cueto had a very disappointing 2017 season, battling blister and forearm issues and putting up a 4.52 ERA, far worse than the 2.79 ERA he posted in 2016. The veteran's 2018 season is difficult to project. On the one hand, his injuries could easily be used to explain away his poor season. Perhaps last season will end up being a blip on an otherwise excellent track record, which includes seven straight campaigns with an ERA below 3.65 from 2010 to 2016. On the other hand, Cueto will be 32 for the entirety of next season and has already thrown 1,787.1 major-league innings. A significant drop-off at that age for a workhorse of Cueto's quality would certainly not be unprecedented -- just look up the coast to see what's happening to Felix Hernandez in Seattle for proof.
2018 Outlook: Gray has been a bit of an anomaly the past two seasons, with his ERA at Coors Field coming in at more than a half-run lower than on the road. One of the reasons for this is his "front of a rotation" potential stuff, led by a fastball that averaged a stunning 96.2 mph in the final two months of 2017. This resulted in his posting eight quality starts and a 2.44 ERA in his final 11 turns. Gray still has some work to do in terms of durability and consistency, and Coors might always hold his statistical ceiling back to the point he'll have difficulty cracking the top-25 fantasy starters unless he sheds the uniform. If you're willing to do the matchups homework, you might be pleased with Gray's contributions, but don't draft him assuming it'll be a smooth ride, start over start.
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: The most extreme ground-baller in baseball, having led the league in the rate category in back-to-back seasons, Stroman is a pitcher more reliant upon his defense than missing bats. Remarkably, despite this trend, he has been more consistent than his 2016 (4.37) and 2017 (3.09) ERAs will have you think, with similar numbers against contenders and non-contenders, month over month, since the 2016 All-Star break and in home and road games. In short, he's a pretty predictable pitcher, likely locked into his back-of-the-top-100 overall and top-25-among-starters valuations of 2017. Note: A shoulder injury could cost him a brief DL stint to start the year.
2018 Outlook: Lester's step backward in both fantasy production and underlying skills coincided with his former personal catcher David Ross' retirement following the 2016 season. The pair had linked up for a 2.75 ERA and 1.10 WHIP from 2013-16, but Lester's ratios in 2017 (4.33, 1.32) seem to be a better representation of his true ability. He's now 34 years old and posted the lowest average velocities of his career on his four-seam fastball and sinker last season as well as his highest wOBA allowed to right-handed hitters (.344), further supporting the claim. Lester's strength has been his durability, with the resulting high volume helping propel him into the top 40 fantasy starting pitchers even if he's past his peak.
2018 Outlook: The poster boy for the differences in the baseball itself resulting in persistent blister issues for pitchers -- but remember, it's not the balls! -- Sanchez made four separate trips to the DL (three specifically attributed to blisters), effectively ruining his 2017 campaign. He made just eight starts, saw his walk rate soar (12.0 percent) and never seemed to get a feel for his pitches at any point. It's therefore not unreasonable to discard it entirely, as he still possesses the 95-mph fastball and hard-breaking curveball that earned him the No. 62 overall spot on the 2016 Player Rater. A full rebound to that level is no slam dunk, but there's still top-40 starting pitcher upside here, even if it's partial.
2018 Outlook: Gausman has now posted sub-3.50 ERAs and exactly 10 quality starts after the All-Star break in both of the past two seasons, but his combined first-half ERA in those years was 5.05. So which is it? Is he turning into merely a second-half performer, or have the past two seasons just been part of his adjustment process to the big leagues? The latter seems slightly more likely, as in both years he finished strong -- largely the result of his leaning more on his splitter, his "out" pitch, after using the pitch more sparingly in the season's early weeks. Gausman posted a whopping 26.2 percent strikeout rate in the second half of 2017, so those who wish to buy into his breakthrough potential yet again have good reason. Picking him within the top-40 starters after all his inconsistency, however, seems a bit ill-advised.
2018 Outlook: Injures -- first a UCL tear in his right elbow for which he chose rehab rather than surgery in 2016, then a right biceps strain that cost him almost five months of 2017 -- have limited Richards to 12 total starts over the past two seasons. When healthy, however, he has been excellent, with a 2.31 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and a 23.8 percent strikeout rate in those games, numbers that bear out an ability to pitch successfully deep into games and no sign of diminished velocity. Richards' skills aren't in doubt, as he's a capable top-20 fantasy starter if you project his performance to a full, healthy year, but he's a difficult pitcher to trust will give you said full year's worth of production. Your risk aversion should dictate when you pick him, but he's well worth the gamble once the top-40 fantasy starters are off the board.
2018 Outlook: Thanks in large part to an increase of more than two mph in his average fastball velocity and a boost in his cutter usage, Anderson snuck his way into the top-20 starting pitchers and top 75 overall on our 2017 Player Rater. While the skills improvements bode well for his prospects of a repeat, his underlying skills did suggest good fortune on balls in play -- his .268 BABIP, 80.6 left-on-base percentage and 8.0 home run/fly ball percentage were all significantly better than his career rates and among the leagues' leaders. Having Miller Park as his home will inevitably cause Anderson some regression, with greater volume (read: a legitimate chance at 180-plus innings) one of the strongest arguments in his favor. His skill set isn't that of a top-25 fantasy starter, but he's also not a far cry from one.