2018 Outlook: If you're of the belief that left-handed pitchers are at a disadvantage when calling Fenway Park their home, Sale certainly did his best to prove you wrong in 2017. Consider his accolades in his debut season for the Red Sox: His 308 strikeouts were the most by any pitcher in 15 years, and his 36.2 percent strikeout rate was third in history by an ERA-qualified pitcher. Sale posted 117 strikeouts and a 1.00 WHIP in his Fenway games, which ranked second and fourth in history, respectively, among ERA-qualified Red Sox left-handers. What's more, opponents continued trying to load lineups with right-handed hitters as they attempted to solve the Sale puzzle, yet he limited them to a .274 wOBA -- 13th among the 134 pitchers who faced at least 250 righties -- and he whiffed a major-league-leading 267, 98 more than anyone else. Sale is as good a strikeout source as there is and a clear member of the starting pitcher "Tier 1," a group with as much value today as it has had in any season so far this century.
2018 Outlook: Only three players in baseball scored more fantasy points (using ESPN's standard format) than Votto in 2017, and they were all pitchers: Corey Kluber, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer. It was the third consecutive year in which Votto was a top-10 overall performer in that format, and his elite combination of patience, contact and power makes him one of the most desirable picks there, as well as in sabermetrically angled scoring systems. Toss in the fact that he possesses arguably the most balanced splits -- whether lefty/righty or home/road -- and Votto's statistical floor is as high as anyone's in fantasy. He's the rare first baseman worthy of an early-round pick in Rotisserie leagues, despite having spent the majority of his career playing for noncontenders.
2018 Outlook: A fractured wrist suffered in mid-May cost Freeman 44 games and threw him off track of what was an MVP-caliber campaign at the time. He was hitting .341/.461/.748 with 14 home runs when he went down. To his credit, Freeman put up top-75 seasonal numbers using either Rotisserie or points-based scoring despite the significant missed time, even posting .282/.370/.518 numbers with five home runs in 29 September games -- a month during which he admitted he was playing through weakness in the left wrist. Although he might not feel like one -- playing for a rebuilding Braves team might have something to do with it -- Freeman is a premier talent in fantasy baseball, as capable of batting .300-plus as he is of hitting 30-plus home runs. Considering that the Braves' new ballpark plays a bit better for left-handed power than its predecessor, Turner Field, Freeman's power ceiling might in fact be even greater now.
2018 Outlook: Many players adjusted their launch angles in 2017 in hopes of boosting their home run outputs, but few exhibited as dramatic a shift in approach as Lindor. Previously a speedy on-base specialist, he shaved nearly 10 percent off his ground ball rate and elevated his launch angle by 6 degrees from 2016 to 2017 -- more than doubling his homer total and adding nearly 100 points of isolated power in the process. Better yet, he did this with no drop in contact or walk rate, a sign that with greater fortune on balls in play, he could reach .300-30 status. Lindor is also one of the more underrated baserunners in the game despite modest stolen base totals, and his outstanding defense will assure him maximum playing time, which only bolsters his fantasy value. He has become a true building-block player in points-based leagues, and he has the skills to be a five-category Rotisserie star as well. Don't let him sneak beyond the second round in your league.
2018 Outlook: About as consistent a player as there is, Rizzo has batted .281 with an average of 32 homers, 106 RBIs and 96 runs scored over the past three seasons, never deviating by more than 11 points of average, one home run, five RBIs or three runs scored. Rizzo also possesses one of the best batting eyes in the game, as one of only five players to qualify for the batting title in 2017 while walking more often than he struck out. That helped propel him to a top-20 finish in fantasy points. Now 28, Rizzo is one of the safest early-round selections you'll find.
2018 Outlook: Inexplicably, after putting forth one of the most productive second halves of 2017 of any player in baseball, Martinez lingered on the free-agent market deep into February, before finally signing with the Red Sox. During said second half, Martinez managed the game's best slugging percentage (.751), isolated power (.445), home-run rate (11.3 percent of his plate appearances) and wOBA (.472), his 31 home runs trailing only Giancarlo Stanton, thriving in one of the game's most hitting-friendly environments following his mid-season trade to the Diamondbacks. While Martinez's power metrics are destined to naturally regress, as that half-year was historic and practically impossible to repeat, and Fenway Park's Green Monster could convert a handful of his homers into extra-base hits, what he loses in that department he could gain in terms of runs/RBIs/plate appearances by joining a loaded lineup. He's capable of a batting average anywhere from .275-.300, and 30-plus-homer power, assuming he can stay healthy enough to accrue the at-bats to get there. Martinez is well worth an early-round pick.
2018 Outlook: Already one of the best contact hitters in the game -- his 88.6 percent mark the past two seasons was third out of 131 players with at least 1,000 plate appearances -- Ramirez added some pop to his game in a breakthrough 2017. That was, in large part, due to a nearly 5 percent rise in his fly ball rate and nearly 2-degree rise in his average launch angle, things that bode well for his prospects of repeating a .300-plus average and 20-plus homers. Ramirez's skill set makes him low-risk, and he's one of the few in the game who brings dual infield position eligibility to the table -- second and third base -- but he probably isn't the top-15 overall Rotisserie or top-10 point performer he was a year ago. Expect mild regression, but don't let him slip more than couple rounds in your draft.
2018 Outlook: Following a historic rookie season, what will Judge do for an encore? He enjoyed one of the most prolific power years in baseball history, setting a rookie record with 52 home runs that tied him for third by any player age 25 or younger. Judge's supporting metrics even back up his repeat prospects: He led the league in the Statcast metric "Barrels," which measures batted-ball events that provide the maximum outcome (.500-plus batting average and 1.500-plus slugging percentage), with 87, and he had the longest average fly ball distance (332.3 feet). Still, pitchers seemed to figure Judge out during the second half of the season as well as the postseason. His three-true-outcomes (home run, strikeout or walk) approach subjected him to streakiness and a low batting average, making him a slightly less attractive pick in points-based leagues. He's due some regression and could be overvalued given how prolific his 2017 campaign was, but he's also likely to once again be one of the best power sources in baseball and a particularly excellent pick in leagues that utilize on-base and/or slugging percentage instead of batting average.
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: Regression to the mean meant Dozier went from 42 to 34 home runs from 2016 to 2017, but his offensive numbers remained excellent, as did his underlying skills, earning him a place within the top 35 fantasy players, whether using rotisserie or points-based scoring. He's an extreme fly baller, with his high launch angle providing him great odds of a third consecutive season leading his position in home runs, even if his batting average is middling. What's more, Dozier is a capable base stealer, posting double-digit totals in each of his five full seasons in the majors, further bolstering his value. He's one of the safest picks you'll find at second base and worthy of an early-round pick.
2018 Outlook: Injuries have dogged Strasburg throughout his eight-year career, as he has averaged just 24.1 starts per season (prorating his 2010 debut, which was split between the minors and majors). But when healthy, he has provided numbers competitive with almost anyone's in the game. His eight-start performance to conclude 2017, after missing 23 team games with a nerve impingement in his pitching elbow, is compelling evidence: Strasburg's 0.84 ERA led the league, his 0.78 WHIP was third best and 31.7 percent strikeout rate was fifth best. He's also top 10 in baseball in all three categories since his June 8, 2010, big league debut (among pitchers with at least 100 starts). Selecting him is taking a chance on his Cy Young-caliber talent on a per-start basis and knowing you'll probably need someone to fill in during his likely injury absences. That's a more palatable strategy today than it was in the past, at least.
2018 Outlook: He tends to be overlooked as a member of a rebuilding White Sox team. Abreu has not only adapted well to the U.S. game but has quietly become one of the most consistent players in fantasy baseball. He's one of three players in history to bat at least .290 with 25-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs in each of his first four big league seasons, joining Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols, and he did it while improving his contact rate in each of those years. Abreu also possessed balanced home/road splits, which bodes well should the team decide to trade him midseason. He might not -- and should not -- be one of the top players on your draft board, but he's one of the safest available selections after the top names are gone.
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: Though Upton's power output appears to be on the rise, remember that his rates have risen concurrently with the league's overall increase. Keeping that in mind, Upton's annual numbers have been remarkably consistent, as he has a five-year average of .261/.341/.483 slash rates, 30 home runs and 12 stolen bases, rarely straying far from any of those stats in any individual season. He also finished 2017 on a high note, a good sign considering his late-season trade to the Angels, batting .282/.373/.594 with 20 homers in 71 second-half games. This might be Upton's peak, but even if it is, those numbers support his candidacy as an early-round selection, especially considering the Angels' offensive additions could help pad his RBIs and runs-scored totals.