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Monday 18th Dec 2017

After devoting last week's column to the mixed-league worthy hitters who officially changed teams since the start of the Winter Meetings, it's only fair that we give equal attention to the pitchers. Since the performance level of pitchers from year to year tends to be tougher to predict, any edge that these guys can get from a more favorable home ballpark, a stronger supporting lineup or a more prominent role can be vital when it comes to a pitcher's fantasy outlook. Let's get started.

Chris Sale - I don't need to tell you that Sale is a fantasy ace. You knew that already. I don't need to tell you that Sale is a top-5 fantasy SP. You knew that already. As far as his value is concerned, I don't see it changing much. The move to a better team with a better lineup comes at the cost of a tougher division. Sale is a lock to be drafted among the top 30 players in 2017, and since I don't like to draft starting pitchers very early, it's unlikely that he will be a part of any of my teams. That said, barring injury, it's unlikely that he will disappoint.

Aroldis Chapman - I do worry about how the final year or two of Chapman's five-year contract will play out, as a 93 mph Aroldis Chapman is far less intimidating than the current 103 mph version. But really, who could criticize the Yankees for signing the Cuban southpaw, who boasts a career 2.08 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 15.2 K/9 rate? The bottom line is that Chapman deserves to be the first closer off the board in 2017 drafts.

Mark Melancon - Melancon is no Chapman, but he's pretty good. Over the past three seasons, the 31-year-old sports a combined 1.93 ERA and 0.90 WHIP to go along with 131 saves in 141 chances. He certainly adds stability to what was a messy late-inning situation for the Giants last season, and he will add stability to your fantasy bullpen as well.

Wade Davis - Davis entered the 2016 campaign as the consensus top fantasy closer, but he has now lost that title following a season in which forearm issues limited him to just 45 appearances. But the other numbers were once again stellar. For those willing to take on the injury risk, there's upside appeal in drafting the new Cubs stopper towards the back-end of the top-10 closers. Would anyone be surprised if he reclaims the #1 spot?

Lucas Giolito/Reynaldo Lopez - Quite a return package for the White Sox, who acquired these two hurlers (along with Dane Dunning) from the Nationals in exchange for Adam Eaton. Both Giolito and Lopez struggled in their first taste of the big leagues last season, but both are still very young and sport impressive minor league stat lines. Lopez could earn a rotation spot out of spring training while Giolito is likely to open the season in the Minors, though he has the higher ceiling. Expect both to make a mixed league impact by year's end.

Derek Holland - The White Sox weren't done adding arms to their roster, and there's little downside in signing Holland to a one-year contract. But after enjoying a solid 2013 campaign (3.42 ERA, 189 K's), health woes have limited the 30-year-old lefty to a combined 38 games over the past three seasons, and the results have been far from impressive. Holland is strictly an AL-only option for now, though owners in deeper mixed leagues would be wise to track his progress throughout spring training and into April.

Fernando Rodney - By now, we know the deal with Rodney. He will open the 2017 season as the Diamondbacks closer. He might even finish the 2017 season as the Diamondbacks closer. But he will drive his fantasy owners nuts from start to finish, so nuts that the saves will not be worth it. Stay away. 

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