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: 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: 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: 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.
2018 Outlook: Previously one of the most durable pitchers in baseball and a top-10 fantasy starting pitcher four years straight (2013-16), Bumgarner was unfortunately lost for 75 team games beginning in April, when he suffered bruised ribs and an AC sprain in his pitching shoulder in a dirt bike accident. At the time, he was pitching like the ace he had long been, but the injury adversely impacted his numbers thereafter, as he had a 3.43 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 21.6 strikeout rate and 90.7 mph average fastball velocity in his final 13 starts, all of those rates easily worse than he had in any of his four full seasons prior. Bumgarner's injuries almost assuredly diminished his skills last season, but did rest over the winter provide him ample time to recapture his prior ace form, or will the injuries have permanent repercussions? We'll have to wait and see, as another injury -- this time a broken pinkie -- will delay his 2018 regular season debut.
2018 Outlook: Health has always been the primary obstacle in Wood's path, as he has averaged 144 innings pitched in his four full big-league seasons. While his 2017 might've felt like a career year, his peripheral numbers were almost spot-on with his career rates, and in fact were very close to his 2014 stats. His path to get there was what probably influenced your opinion in one direction or the other, as he had a scorching 10-win, 1.67-ERA first half but struggled with injuries to the tune of a 3.89 ERA in the second half. In Wood's defense, he showed quite a bit of growth in terms of control through the course of the year, enhancing his repeat prospects, but on a Dodgers team that is content to frequently mix and match roles, even using the DL to do it, he's unlikely to fill a spot for you for all 26 weeks. Be prepared with a backup plan.
2018 Outlook: Castillo has been one of the more buzz-worthy young pitchers of the offseason, after managing to crack the Player Rater top 300 despite serving as a member of the Reds rotation for fewer than 70 team games in 2017. Additional polish on his once-developing changeup was largely behind the breakthrough as, per FanGraphs, it was the 11th-best performing changeup by any pitcher for the season, giving him an elite pitch to neutralize left-handed hitters and another legitimate swing-and-miss offering. In short, it was a sustainable skills bump that vastly elevated his statistical floor, best evidenced by the fact that he was one of only four starting pitchers in baseball who had, from his June 23 debut date forward, at least a 25 percent strikeout and 50 percent ground-ball rate plus a well-hit average under .125. Experience and a possible innings cap are his two remaining obstacles, but since Castillo is lower-risk than people think and might be capable of 180-plus innings after totaling 169 2/3 in 2017, he makes a legitimate case to be picked as one of the top 30 at his position (though you might be able to get him slightly later).
2018 Outlook: In his sixth big-league season, Bauer finally appeared to harness his front-of-rotation potential, specifically when he leaned more upon his slider and curveball while ditching his cutter after the All-Star break. With those adjustments, he posted 10 quality starts, 10 wins, a 2.60 ERA and a 26.7 percent strikeout rate in his final 13 games. Was it a sign that Bauer has arrived as an every-start fantasy option? Perhaps, and in this age of declining pitcher workloads, he's a viable top-40 pick at his position regardless of format. You'll just have to endure his so-so WHIP.
2018 Outlook: Summoned by the Cardinals in early July, then thrust into their rotation a few weeks later to cover for some of the team's injuries, Weaver won seven of 10 starts and posted a stunning 4.24:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the majors last season. In the process, he flashed balanced righty/lefty splits, thanks in large part to a changeup that performed as one of the game's best during his limited time. Weaver is now locked into a rotation spot for the Cardinals, where his skills hinted that he should've enjoyed better Rotisserie numbers than he had. With some luck, he could find his way into the top 30 at his position, though since he has never thrown more than 138 innings in any pro season -- that was his 2017 total -- he might face an innings cap.