2018 Outlook: The No. 9 starting pitcher in rotisserie and No. 11 in points-based scoring last season, Ray's 2016 and 2017 present a perfect illustration of the influence of batted-ball fortune on a pitcher's numbers. He had almost identical FIP (3.76 in 2016, 3.72 in 2017) and xFIP (3.45, 3.49), but saw his BABIP drop by 85 points and left-on-base percentage rise by nearly 16 percent, meaning that his true value probably lies somewhere between the two seasons. Ray's swing-and-miss stuff is the hook for his fantasy managers, as he had the fourth-best qualified whiff rate (32.8 percent) in 2017, but he's still a tad too prone to walks and fly balls to project another step forward in terms of ratios, even with the addition of the humidor in Chase Field beginning this season. He'll be a popular pick as people chase his past stats, but even with anticipated regression he should remain a top-20 starting pitcher.
2018 Outlook: Though he finished the 2017 campaign on somewhat of a down note, posting a 4.23 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in his final 15 starts, Martinez possesses a low-risk skill set that should keep him among the better starters in fantasy in 2017. He was one of four pitchers with at least a 25 percent strikeout and 50 percent ground-ball rate and a well-hit average below .150, showing a knack for missing bats, keeping the ball down and minimizing damaging contact. It's the combination upon which you want to speculate in fantasy, though Martinez's career seems to be progressing incrementally, making it difficult to project any Cy Young votes for him in 2018. Consider him a top-20 starter regardless of format, with greater value in points-based than Rotisserie leagues because of his durability.
2018 Outlook: Though he no longer appears to possess the mastery of painting the corners as he did during his brilliant, Cy Young-winning 2015, plus has dealt with injuries in each of the past two seasons, Keuchel rebounded in a significant way in limited time in 2017. He restored his elite ground-ball rate, elevating it to 67.5 percent, and minimized hard contact, shaving 12 points off his well-hit average, en route to a top-100 overall finish on the Player Rater. Keuchel did struggle during the season's second half, however, posting a 4.24 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 12 starts, a reminder that his injury risk is real and that he'd probably need a lot of things to go right to recapture his 2015 glory. He's a strong bet for a top-25 season among fantasy starters, but his ceiling probably is no longer much higher.
2018 Outlook: Cole has been a frustrating pitcher during his five-year big-league career, threatened from time to time by injuries and always seemingly settling just shy of the ace-caliber potential scouts have forecasted since he was tabbed the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 amateur draft. He has electric stuff, including a fastball that has averaged 95.6 mph in his career and both a curveball and slider that seemed on track to be plus pitches as he was rising through the minor league ranks. Now with the Astros, Cole could be allowed to harness his breaking pitches with more regularity, and while he's moving into a more homer-friendly environment and the DH league, be aware that Minute Maid Park is a sneaky-good pitchers' park from a run-scoring standpoint. The change of scenery could help and is enough to make him a top-25 potential pick at his position.
2018 Outlook: One of the most consistent pitchers in baseball during the past half-decade, Quintana looked like his skills were beginning to go off the rails early last season, before completely rebounding following his trade to the Cubs in July. Blessed with more run support, he won seven games for his new team, with ratios in line with any of his previous three full seasons, which bodes well for his providing more of the same in 2018. Quintana's strength is his control and aggressive approach early in the count, as his 67.3 percent first-pitch-strike rate last season was second highest among ERA qualifiers, and he has routinely ranked among the leaders in the category. He seemed to enjoy a bit of luck in the strikeout department, so expect some regression there, but he's very likely to again be his ho-hum, top-25 fantasy starting pitcher self.
2018 Outlook: Thanks to his unusually polished command for a pitcher with his level of experience, Nola broke through in a big way in the strikeout department last summer, rebounding from past injury issues to post 15 quality starts, a 3.18 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 155 strikeouts in his 21 starts from June 1 forward. In the process, he became one of only four ERA-qualified pitchers to post at least a 25 percent strikeout rate and 50 percent ground ball rate and a .150 well-hit average or better, combining the ability to miss bats with minimizing damage on balls in play. Nola has yet to prove that he can handle the rigors of a 200-inning season, but he wasn't too far from that last year; and even if he falls short, he possesses the kind of high-floor skill set that makes a good upside pick outside the top-20 starters.
2018 Outlook: On the surface, Osuna's 2017 had the look of his spinning his wheels, especially in points leagues -- he finished exactly 90th in 2016 and 2017, only declining by 16 points in the process. Now dig deeper: He had the majors' third-best relief FIP (1.74), thanks in large part to a 9.2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio that suggests he was supremely unlucky, as well as a substantial boost to his ground-ball rate (54.7 percent in the second half) due to his leaning more upon his sinker and cutter as the year progressed. Osuna dealt with anxiety issues during the season, which could've contributed to his poor fortune in terms of ERA. He should rebound in that department this season, and has the look of a potential top-five fantasy closer in all formats.
2018 Outlook: If only he could stay healthy. Another of the many risk/reward pitchers out there, Paxton posted the second-best FIP (2.70) behind only Clayton Kershaw in the past two seasons combined (minimum 250 innings), but was injured for 74 of the Mariners' past 273 games (27 percent). In this age of pitching specialization, 25 starts and/or 150 innings have more value than they did in the past, especially if pitched at the high level Paxton's were, but at the same time his fantasy managers select him knowing they'll have to fill those missed games. On raw ability, he's a top-20 starting pitcher, but selecting him there comes down to your level of risk tolerance.
2018 Outlook: Chapman has been a closer for six seasons now, and during that time, 19 different closers have saved at least 40 games in a season. Remarkably, despite his 100 mph fastball, filthy slider and elite strikeout totals, Chapman is not on that list. His raw ability elevates him into the upper tier of fantasy closers; but he did miss time early last season with rotator cuff inflammation, and his August struggles due to a problem with his fastball grip illustrate how important both full health and elite command of his pitches are to his success. Chapman again will serve as the Yankees' closer, but the team does have competition behind him if he endures any struggles, which is the main reason he's not ranked in the very top tier at his position. After Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel are off the board, though, Chapman is as strong a selection as any save-getter.
2018 Outlook: Tanaka's numbers took a significant turn for the worse in 2017, mainly the result of his inconsistent feel for his splitter. With the pitch, he surrendered the highest batting average and wOBA of his four-year U.S. career and coaxed hitters to chase it out of the strike zone at its lowest rate. Those who claim it was a day/night thing -- he had a 6.99 ERA in 10 day starts -- are overthinking, as Tanaka never showed such a split in his previous three seasons. In his defense, he seemed to turn things around late in the year, as counting the postseason, he had a 3.20 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 28.1 percent strikeout rate in his final 10 starts. The up-and-down pattern of his year underscored Tanaka's risk, but he also warrants credit for back-to-back seasons of at least 30 starts. He's plenty capable of again putting up top-30 starter fantasy numbers.
2018 Outlook: The uber-rare late bloomer, Hill has posted back-to-back top-80 rotisserie seasons, at the ages of 36 and 37, after having made just 62 starts combined in the pro ranks in eight years prior. He did it thanks in large part to boosting the spin rate of his two plus pitches: a fastball that clocks in at a modest 89.1 mph on average, and a curveball that breaks as sharply as most anyone's. Blisters have been Hill's kryptonite -- but don't blame the baseballs! -- as he made three trips to the DL in a 10-month span over two seasons; but he roared back from the most recent stint to post a 3.31 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 30.6 percent strikeout rate in his final 23 starts of 2017. Now 38, Hill isn't likely to be any more fortunate in the health department as he has been, and that the Dodgers like to utilize the DL as a way to deactivate pitchers to grant them additional rest only hurts his cause from a volume perspective. Still, on a per-game basis, his value is competitive with any pitcher outside, say, the top 12 at his position. He's the ultimate risk/reward selection.
2018 Outlook: Arrieta is one of the high-profile free agents whose lingering on the open market so deep into the offseason should be of concern because it hints that major league teams saw the same skills erosion that we did in fantasy. Last season, he lost a good amount of fastball velocity, his average speed dropping by more than a mile and a half, his FIP swelled to 4.16 and he struggled against left-handed hitters to the tune of .267/.344/.497 rates. Despite all this, Arrieta managed to finish just outside of the top 100 on our Player Rater, and barely inside it in terms of fantasy points, though that's still a precipitous drop from his No. 1 overall status in Rotisserie formats as recently as 2015. His decision in mid-March to sign with the Phillies did land him in a good enough situation that he should remain a top-30 starting pitcher, but be careful expecting much more.
2018 Outlook: Diaz's raw stuff is superb: He whiffed 32.0 percent of the batters he faced last season, after 40.6 percent the year before, propelling him to a 34-save, 89-strikeout campaign. He'll return to the Mariners' closer role this season, again serving as one of the 10 best sources of saves in fantasy. Until Diaz reins in his control or lowers his fly-ball rate, however, he'll be unlikely to elevate himself to the position's upper tier. He walked a career-high 11.5 percent of batters he faced and had a 42.2 percent fly-ball rate, 18th-highest among qualified relievers, in 2017.
2018 Outlook: Promoted once again by the Twins last May 13, Berrios finally began to show glimpses of his front-of-the-rotation potential, posting a 2.98 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 25.2 percent strikeout rate in his first nine starts of the season. He cooled a bit thereafter, registering 4.54/1.41/20.9 numbers in those categories in his next 16 starts -- with anything from the league catching up to him, regression to the mean or fatigue possible explanations. Between the majors and minors, Berrios has demonstrated that he's ready to handle a full-time, big-league starter's role, but polishing his changeup is probably the final step towards his realizing his top-20 fantasy starting pitcher value. Could it happen in 2018? Perhaps, especially if he looks good in the spring. Consider him an excellent dynasty building block and someone to target within the top 40 at his position in redraft formats.
2018 Outlook: Hand tendinitis cost Hendricks six weeks last season and seemed to take him a step backward skills-wise. But upon his return immediately after the All-Star break, he seemed to be his usual self: He had nine quality starts, a 2.19 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 13 second-half starts. He's not an overpowering type, instead relying upon location and a high spin rate on his curveball to get by, despite having never posted more than a 8.35 K's per nine or 22.8 percent strikeout rate in any of his four big league seasons. Hendricks isn't about to win any Cy Youngs, but he's also not as risky as you think; he's the kind of high-floor-but-low-ceiling type who shouldn't have much trouble navigating his way into the top-30 fantasy starting pitchers again in 2018. Note: His lack of strikeout prowess does make him slightly less appealing in points-based leagues.