2018 Outlook: Just how good is he? Since his big league debut on July 8, 2011, Trout is the only player in baseball to bat .290 with at least 180 home runs and 100 stolen bases. He has blown those thresholds away, in fact, with .307-201-165 numbers in those categories despite contributing little in 40 games in his 2011 debut season. He also managed at least a .290 batting average, 25 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2017 -- the only player who can claim that -- despite missing 39 games after tearing the UCL in his left thumb in May, with batting average (.306) and homer (33) totals that far exceeded those thresholds. Now 26, Trout is coming off a season of personal bests in practically every rate category and a pro-best 78 percent contact rate. He's the safest cross-format fantasy pick in the game, and Trout stands an excellent chance of capturing the Player Rater's top spot for the first time since 2012.
2018 Outlook: There's always danger in chasing last year's numbers, especially historic numbers. Blackmon set a record for RBIs by a leadoff man (103 of his 104 were out of the leadoff spot) and finished two shy of the record for home runs from that spot in that lineup (37). Also, his 387 total bases paced the majors by 10 over Giancarlo Stanton. In the process, a lot of things went right for Blackmon: His .371 BABIP was second among qualifiers and unusually high even by Rockies standards, that number kicked up to .385 in what was a torrid second half (.348/.429/.627, 21 homers), and Blackmon hit a scorching .383 with runners in scoring position to account for the lofty RBI total. Still, Blackmon's hitting skills are improving, as he set career bests in isolated power (.270) and well-hit average (.229), and Coors field does alleviate the danger of extreme regression. If there's a worry about his 2018, it's his waning stolen base trends, as a .300-30-85, 115-runs player stakes more of a first-round claim with 15-plus steals than one with fewer stolen bases. Regard Blackmon as a building-block type, but don't get carried away chasing his 2017.
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: While his rookie campaign was somewhat overshadowed by Aaron Judge's historic numbers, Bellinger's year wasn't much less excellent. Bellinger set a National League rookie record for home runs (39), with supporting fly ball and hard-contact metrics comparable to the rookie year rates of Ryan Braun, Kris Bryant and Judge, when looking exclusively at players of this century. Like Judge, though, pitchers seemed to adapt to Bellinger late in the regular season and in the postseason, and if you watched the World Series, you witnessed his weakness for breaking pitches down and in. Scouts have long felt that Bellinger's power is greater than his hit tool, so he might be a streaky type, subject to a low batting average but with a homer total that contends for the league lead. Expect some regression, but his skill set supports his candidacy for an early-round pick, which is slightly stronger in Rotisserie than points-based leagues.
2018 Outlook: After a 2016 marred by an 80-game suspension for PEDs, Gordon rebounded to his previous norms last season, flashing similar contact and speed metrics to his excellent 2014 and 2015 seasons. Though he's entering his age-30 season, his Statcast speed metrics have shown no signs of decline, and the Mariners have made several moves in the past year-plus that hint at their desire for more aggressiveness on the basepaths. Gordon shouldn't have much trouble repeating his 2017 numbers, giving him a great chance at a fourth career season inside the top 11 overall on the Player Rater, but keep in mind that speed-oriented players like this have much less value in points leagues. To that point, he has never finished higher than 71st in fantasy points in his career, making him more of a midrounder in that format.
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: Only the 12th player to manage 20/20 numbers as a rookie, Benintendi is a budding big league superstar and a building-block talent in dynasty formats. Rated Keith Law's No. 1 prospect entering his 2017 rookie season, Benintendi had a strong balance of plate discipline, power and speed, with the primary criticism being a wide lefty/righty split -- 58 points of wOBA -- something that has plagued many other young stars and can be cured with experience. Though his underlying metrics didn't hint at a significant breakthrough, he should enjoy incremental growth year over year, giving him a good chance at a top-50 finish in 2018 regardless of format.
2018 Outlook: A rocky 2017 campaign marred by an 80-game suspension for PEDs followed by a rough Dominican Winter League performance has Marte's fantasy stock in greater question than it has been in a half-decade, but both criticisms are perhaps unfair. While his power metrics were noticeably down after he returned in late July, capped by .098 isolated power, a .125 well-hit average and 51.9 percent ground ball rate in 64 games, he did bat .282 and steal 19 bases, which were right in line with his typical per-game rates pre-suspension. Even if Marte is no longer more than a 10-homer hitter, he makes enough contributions in the other rotisserie categories to be a viable early-round pick, though his free-swinging nature does make him a much less valuable selection in points-based leagues. To that end, he has never finished among the top 90 in fantasy points in any single year.
2018 Outlook: Graded baseball's fastest player by many measures (most notably Statcast's sprint speed and FanGraphs' Baserunning metric) and the defending American League Platinum Glove Award winner (given to the league's best overall defensive player), Buxton's up-and-down performance with the bat makes him as tantalizing a breakthrough candidate as it will scare off his critics. His first-half/second-half splits in 2017 illustrate: He hit .216/.288/.306 in the former, .300/.347/.546 in the latter. Thanks to his minimizing a leg kick and closing his stance somewhat, Buxton's second half is probably more representative of his true talent, though it was certainly BABIP-driven (.378). He's one of the few true 20/40 possibilities in baseball, a franchise-caliber selection in dynasty formats and an intriguing early-to-midrounder in redrafts. However, the lack of consistent contact makes him a so-so pick in points-based leagues and a streaky selection for those in head-to-head formats. Don't get carried away.
2018 Outlook: One of 2017's most heartwarming breakthrough-year stories, Pham put forth a top-25 Rotisserie season and top-80 fantasy point total after spending years struggling with keratoconus, a degenerative eye condition. Surgery and meticulous selection of proper contact lenses helped him substantially boost his contact rate and improve his patience metrics, most notably his 16.4 percent "chase" rate (this measures the percentage of non-strikes swung at), which ranked second-best among batting title-eligible major leaguers. With it, Pham was able to flash the power/speed combination he did in his earlier minor league days, and his five-category potential now makes him an intriguing selection in the game's top 100, though he might warrant waiting a few extra rounds in points-based formats. Whether he can maintain the patience and contact gains is the biggest question, but he has carved out a regular role and is a safer pick than you might think.
2018 Outlook: Though his final numbers didn't necessarily show it, Pollock returned to close-to-2015-peak form last season, with the most significant differences being poorer luck on balls in play (.291 BABIP) and 45 fewer games played. The latter has been and remains an issue, as he has missed nearly 40 percent of the Diamondbacks' scheduled games in the past four seasons combined due to injuries, something that isn't likely to cure itself overnight now that he's past his 30th birthday. Pollock does fill the Rotisserie stat sheet and generates a competitive number of fantasy points when healthy, making him worth the risk in the early-to-mid rounds.
2018 Outlook: Back with his original drafting team, the Brewers, Cain brings elements of speed, defense and some pop to the table, things that should again make him an appealing rotisserie pick, thanks to his category-filling potential. While he has had some trouble staying healthy throughout his career and is entering his age-32 season, diminishing the chances that will improve in that regard, he has been quite a consistent hitter when on the field, with .291-13-70, 28-steal averages per 162 games played in the past five years. Miller Park could help him bump up his power output somewhat, and since manager Craig Counsell is typically aggressive on the base paths, Cain's steal total could also benefit. Cain would be a top-50 rotisserie pick if you trust him to stay healthy, and he's only a few rounds less valuable than that in points-based formats.
2018 Outlook: Conforto was in the midst of one of baseball's biggest breakthrough campaigns when, in an Aug. 24 game, he suffered a tear in the posterior capsule of his left shoulder swinging and missing at a pitch. The injury required surgery that threatens to shelve him until May, or worse, deeper into the season, casting a shadow on his 2018 fantasy value. Extracting Conforto's numbers in the Mets' first 81 games of last year, his .285/.405/.548 numbers ranked among the game's leaders, and he showed significant improvement against left-handed pitching that cements his status as a star capable of an everyday role. Even with the injury, he's an outstanding dynasty league pick for those with patience, but in a redraft league, he's more of a midround pick accounting for his potentially lengthy absence.
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: One of 2017's biggest breakthrough stories, Merrifield was one of only two players with at least 15 home runs and 30 stolen bases, joining Jose Altuve. Merrifield did it by boosting his contact rate to 85.0 percent -- in line with his minor league rates -- while hitting fewer ground balls (his 37 percent rate between the minors and majors the lowest in his pro career). In short, he made the kinds of improvements that make such a campaign repeatable, though he did have plenty go right for him in the process, making a complete repeat challenging. Merrifield is a rotisserie category-filler with top-10 second-base value, though he's a bit shy of that in points-based formats, due to his low walk rate.