2018 Outlook: Few pitchers possess as much raw ability as Syndergaard, who throws the game's highest-velocity fastball (among regular starters) and has three other plus pitches in his slider, curveball and changeup. Unfortunately, few come with as many injury questions, as the right-hander missed the majority of 2017 with a partially torn lat muscle, after he had pitched a significant chunk of the 2016 campaign with a bone spur in his pitching elbow. Considering the increasing specialization of pitching staffs in the game, Syndergaard isn't as scary a selection as he might've been in the past, and his per-game stats support his candidacy for an early-round pick: Since his May 12, 2015, big league debut, he has the seventh-best ERA (2.89), 13th-best WHIP (1.10) and 10th-best strikeout rate (28.4 percent). The problem is that he's every bit as likely to make five or fewer starts as he is to start 30-plus.
2018 Outlook: For the first time in his career, Carrasco made 32 starts and reached the 200-inning plateau, and the good fortune in the injury department helped him flash his top-10 fantasy starter potential. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball after the All-Star break, posting eight quality starts, a 3.12 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 29.2 percent strikeout rate in 15 starts, numbers that hinted he might only be improving with time. Carrasco's injury history is difficult to ignore. He has averaged 176 2/3 innings in the past three seasons, but even that number might be enough to propel him into the top-10 starter tier in 2018. He's well worth an early-round selection.
2018 Outlook: Between Cody Bellinger's historic season and Seager's missed postseason time due to a back injury, the shortstop might have slipped beneath the radar in terms of star-caliber fantasy picks. Seager's sophomore year, however, wasn't really much less statistically impressive than his 2016 Rookie of the Year season. His underlying skills all seemed to improve: more walks, more hard contact, fewer ground balls, fewer bad swings on pitches outside the strike zone. In short, Seager was the young shortstop who didn't have the eye-popping 2017, yet possesses comparable skills to any of the elite players at his position. He's a legitimate early-round pick and a building block for those in dynasty leagues.
2018 Outlook: Don't sleep on deGrom, whose 2017 was excellent and perhaps overlooked due to the barrage of injuries that beset the Mets' roster. He was much more fortunate in the health department, setting personal bests with 31 starts and 201 1/3 innings, and he only improved as the year progressed, posting 10 quality starts, a 3.39 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 29.5 percent strikeout rate and 5.7 percent walk rate after the All-Star break. He also gained some fastball velocity in the process, which bodes well for further growth in 2018. He's a potential top-10 fantasy starting pitcher, and one of the safer such selections.
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: A one-pitch pitcher wielding a cutter on a similar career path to Mariano Rivera's, Jansen has already done four times what Rivera did only once in his career: strike out 100-plus batters. In fact, Jansen in 2017 became only the second player in history with at least 40 saves and 100 strikeouts in a season, and in the process he significantly improved both his strikeout and walk rates. He had an eye-popping 15.6- 1 strikeout-walk ratio! Fantasy analysts often advise you go the cheap route for saves, but Jansen entering 2018 is about the most surefire relief pitcher in any season in history. He's the exception to the rule that you wait beyond at least the top 50 picks to pick a reliever and has even greater value in leagues that score relievers more heavily.
2018 Outlook: One of 2017's biggest breakthrough stories on the pitching side, Severino had the underlying skills that supported its legitimacy: He was one of four ERA-qualified pitchers with the dream combination of at least a 25 percent strikeout rate and 50 percent ground ball rate as well as a sub-.150 well-hit average. In short, he misses bats, minimizes damaging contact and keeps the ball down, the latter a wise thing considering his home park is homer heaven Yankee Stadium. Severino accomplished it with a much more aggressive approach last year -- he had the eighth-best first-pitch strike rate (65.1 percent) as well as the game's highest average fastball velocity (97.5 mph). Though he might not seem like a top-10 starter due to only one season's evidence, his skills support the selection.
2018 Outlook: A three-homer, 10-RBI performance in his 25th game on April 30 sparked what was an eventual career year for Rendon, who set personal bests in batting average (.301), home runs (25), RBIs (100), on-base percentage (.403), slugging percentage (.533), doubles (41) and walks (84), while appearing in more than 145 games for the third time in the past four years. In the process, he continued to show growth in his batted-ball distribution -- significantly more fly balls and fewer ground balls -- as well as his hard-contact rate. Rendon, who begins the season at 27 years old, is in the prime of his career and is a worthy early-round pick who could warrant top-25 consideration in points-based leagues.
2018 Outlook: After struggling early in his sophomore season, Bregman took a significant step forward during the second half of 2017, batting .315/.367/.536 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs. In the process, he made noticeable gains hitting right-handed pitching while boosting his contact rate to 84.6 percent and well-hit average to .188. Those improvements bode well for his ability to fill the batting average and power categories. What's more, Bregman snuck in 30 games at shortstop while Carlos Correa was sidelined, giving the youngster coveted dual-position eligibility (third base being his usual position). If you're looking for a breakthrough candidate, Bregman is a wise pick-up, a top dynasty-league target and a surefire early-round pick in redraft formats.
2018 Outlook: He's as consistent a power source as they come -- the only player in baseball to have hit at least 30 home runs in each of the past six seasons -- and possesses one of the keenest batting eyes in baseball. He's one of only three players with at least a 10 percent walk rate and no more than a 20 percent strikeout rate while qualifying for the batting title in each of the past six seasons (also Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana). These skills make Encarnacion one of the most attractive picks in points-based leagues, but he's also a viable early-round pick in rotisserie leagues, where his status as a heart-of-the-order hitter in a potent lineup helps. Now 35, Encarnacion's best years are probably behind rather than ahead of him, but expect the aging curve to be gentler on him than most thanks to his plate discipline.
2018 Outlook: Consider this: Sanchez has hit 53 home runs in 177 career big league games, the fourth most ever by any player through that many games. He's an incredible power source with the underlying metrics to support it, plus he plays in one of the most homer-friendly ballparks. In short, Sanchez is about as safe a bet for 30 homers as you'll find behind the plate, in an era when quality fantasy catchers are exceedingly scarce. In ESPN standard leagues, he's worthy of a top-50 overall pick, but in two-catcher leagues, he's even more desirable than that.
2018 Outlook: Just when it looked like he was drawing back to the rest of the pack among fantasy closers, Kimbrel broke through with not just one of his own best single years, but one of the best single years by any relief pitcher all-time. He whiffed 49.6 percent of the batters he faced, the third-best rate by a reliever in history, and coupled it with a career-best 5.5 percent walk rate, resulting in the second season in his career with at least 35 saves and 125 strikeouts -- he owns two of the five such campaigns by any player all-time. Having answered the injury questions that popped up late in 2016, Kimbrel has re-established himself as the "1A" to Kenley Jansen's "1." He's a viable top-50 option in any format, and if your league heavily weights relief scoring, he could be worth a pick a round or two sooner.
2018 Outlook: No player in history has gotten off to the kind of home run barrage that Hoskins did so early in a career, as he hit 18 home runs in his first 34 big league games, five more than any other player through that many career contests. That helped make him one of the most impactful players in fantasy in the season's final two months, though pitchers did seem to begin to figure him out in September, as he batted .227 with a 64.8 percent contact rate in his 28 games in the month. So which version of Hoskins is the real one? The answer is probably somewhere in between, as his combination of lofty fly ball and hard-contact rates makes him a legitimate candidate for a home run title, but his hit tool remains somewhat in question. Expect some streakiness from Hoskins, but he's still a strong early-round pick, especially in points-based leagues where his patience is a plus.
2018 Outlook: Although his final 2017 numbers had the look of an age-influenced down year, Donaldson roared back with a .281/.401/.604, 25-homer second half that restored his status as a strong early-round pick. In his defense, the early-season DL trip that cost him 38 team games was the first such stint in his career, and the calf issue was probably responsible for some of his lackluster June and July numbers. At the same time, Donaldson is now 32 years of age and subject to increasing age- and injury-related risk, which makes him a weaker building-block pick in an era when many 25-and-under players are breaking through as the game's newest stars. Don't write him off just yet, but keep those risks as well as the prospect that he could be traded into a less homer-friendly environment in mind when considering Donaldson.
2018 Outlook: Though it might seem like he broke through in a significant way in 2017, the truth is that Ozuna planted the seeds in the early stages of 2016. Before he injured his wrist in late June 2016, he had posted similar numbers in terms of batting average, isolated power, hard-contact rate and ground ball rate as he did in 2017 as a whole. Still, Ozuna's .355 BABIP indicated that he enjoyed a good amount of fortune on balls in play, so regression in that department seems inevitable. Now with the Cardinals, he'll call a similarly pitching-friendly environment his home while batting in the heart of a talented, perhaps underrated lineup. He shouldn't have much trouble remaining a top-50 player overall regardless of format.