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Player Profile: Lance McCullers, SP, Houston Astros

McCullers has an elite curveball, but can he stay healthy long to become a fantasy baseball ace?

MLB: New York Yankees at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

McCullers was one of the best pitchers in the first half. He posted a 3.05 ERA while garnering 106 strikeouts in 91.1 innings. He would then post an ERA of 8.23 in the second half, but this was mostly due to an injury he had which also limited him to just 27.1 innings.

McCullers has one of the best curveballs in all the major leagues. Because of his elite curveball he has been able to limit hard contact and accumulate a high amount of strikeouts. With a ground ball rate of 61.3% and a 20.7% soft contact rate, McCullers should be able to limit the amount of home runs against. He will actually be in the running to lead all qualified pitchers in HR/9 in 2018 if he is able to stay healthy. Pitchers who are able to limit home runs are subject to better ERA’s due to how many runs are scored based on each offensive stat, so don’t be surprised if you see a sub-three ERA from McCullers in 2018.

McCullers has also been a top fantasy prospect due to his high strikeout rates the past three seasons. With a swinging strike rate of 12.0% in 2017 it is no wonder how he is able to accumulate so many strikeouts. However that 12.0% could be closer to the 13.0% he posted in 2016. This is because he would have posted an even high rate if it weren’t due to an injury he tried to pitch through in the second half of the season.

The one question surrounding McCullers is his control. In 2016 he had a walk rate of 12.8%, but he did seem to fix that last season as his walk rate dropped a while 5.0%. With him hitting the zone 2.6% more in 2017, fantasy owners should feel confident in McCullers ability to control the. However it is worth keeping an eye on in 2018 in case he struggles with his control to start the season.