2017 Outlook: For four-plus months of 2016, deGrom continued to exceed every expectation. Through 21 starts, he had a 2.30 ERA, fifth-best among qualifiers, a 1.05 WHIP and 24.5 percent strikeout rate, affirming his status as a sneaky top-10 fantasy starter. Forearm troubles shortly thereafter set him back, ultimately costing him the season's final month, resulting in mid-September surgery to repair ulnar nerve damage. He resumed throwing in December and is expected to be ready for the season, though any such injury raises valid durability questions. If he looks good during the spring, another run at the top 10 starters is possible, though he's more wisely valued a top-20 Rotisserie starter, and perhaps top-25 in points-based scoring since he's not usually a contender for the strikeouts crown.
2017 Outlook: The majors' defending ERA crown winner (2.13), Hendricks had a lot of things break in his favor last season, but he also made adjustments that lent legitimacy to his performance. He was a master of minimizing hard contact, especially against left-handed hitters; he led the league in well-hit average allowed (.089) and was second in the category amongst right-handers versus lefty hitters (.085), thanks in part to increased sinker usage as well as a high-spin curveball (higher spin being more difficult to hit). His 3.20 FIP, which was right in line with his 3.29 career number, hints at regression to the mean in his future, but this is a pitcher who might make a career of somewhat exceeding his peripherals. In a year where few starting pitchers are truly "safe" picks, Hendricks makes an easy top-20 case.
2017 Outlook: The fear of impending Tommy John surgery sometimes instills excessive fear within us, with Tanaka an excellent such example. Since it was revealed in late 2014 that he had a small tear in the UCL in his right elbow, he has finished among the top 25 starters using Rotisserie scoring in both 2015 and 2016; volume-wise, he finished 36th among starters in the former. Tanaka's elite control -- he's one of three pitchers to have made at least 20 starts with a walk rate beneath five percent of his total batters faced in each of the past three seasons (Bartolo Colon, Clayton Kershaw) -- and difficult-to-square-up splitter makes him an extremely reliable, high-floor starter when healthy. While there'll always be risk he succumbs to such a surgery someday, Tanaka's consistent success makes him well worth drafting as a top-25 starter in any format.
2017 Outlook: He's one of the most consistent and underappreciated starters in the game: Quintana is one of only five pitchers in baseball with at least 200 innings pitched of a sub-3.75 ERA in each of the past four seasons (Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer). Quintana's success is largely due to his aggressiveness coupled with good command, as he has ranked among the game's top 15 in getting first-pitch strikes in each of those four years. During that time, however, he hasn't exhibited much room for growth, which is a problem in Rotisserie leagues for a pitcher on a rebuilding team as the White Sox. As is, Quintana's 40 non-win quality starts the past three seasons combined are the major league's most. He's an excellent third or fourth starter for your squad, but at this point it'd be better for his fantasy value if the White Sox trade him, something that has been rumored for a while and might yet happen in-season.
2017 Outlook: There's so much talent hidden beneath in Cole's arm, but injuries and an unwillingness to trust his breaking pitches seem to be holding him back. In the past three seasons, he has made five trips to the DL, for shoulder, lat, triceps and elbow (twice) issues, and his 19.4 percent strikeout rate last season represented his worst yet at the big-league level. These traits threaten to push Cole several tiers down the rankings, as they exhibit the tendencies of a matchups-oriented fantasy starter, though his pedigree -- No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 amateur draft, Keith Law's No. 8 overall prospect entering his 2013 big-league debut season -- and brief glimpses of greatness at this level suggest potentially something more. Unfortunately, until Cole shows us evidence of a burgeoning breakthrough, he's more of a "leap of faith" pick if treated as close to a top-20 fantasy starter or top-100 overall player, and in points-based scoring, the loss of strikeouts is troubling and might make him worth waiting a round or two longer.
2017 Outlook: The American League's defending Cy Young Award and Comeback Player of the Year Award winners, as well as the No. 14 finisher on the Player Rater and No. 6 using standard-scoring points, Porcello finally broke through last season thanks to increased reliance and spin upon his four-seam fastball. It was his go-to with two strikes to left-handed hitters, eradicating his previous righty/lefty split, and generated 74 of his 189 total strikeouts. In short, there were skills adjustments that drove Porcello's breakthrough, and ease fear of significant regression to the mean. Some regression to the mean, however, is inevitable, as almost everything went right for him, and a decent chunk of his value came from his 22 wins. Porcello has established himself as a firm member of the top 25 fantasy starters, but his true appeal might be that of a high-floor, low-ceiling pitcher, rather than the ace he appeared to be last year.
2017 Outlook: In retrospect, it's difficult to fathom how Duffy failed to crack the Royals' 2016 Opening Day rotation. Thanks to greater reliance upon his sinker, as well as elite fastball velocity that remarkably carried over into his return to the rotation, Duffy put forth a beneath-the-radar run at the American League's Cy Young award, finishing as the No. 24 starting pitcher on the Player Rater and 19th at the position in standard-league points. That delay in his ascension to the Royals' rotation might have been a boon; it assured a gradual, year-over-year ramping up of his annual workload, easing worry that he'll be prepared for a full-time starter's role in 2017. Duffy is due for some regression, especially if he can't replicate his 94.7 mph average fastball velocity, but a potential increase in volume (starts, innings) gives him great odds at similar fantasy value (or perhaps more).
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: 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: 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: 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.