Lance McCullers
Lance McCullers
25-Year-Old PitcherSP
Houston Astros
Injury Elbow
Est. Return 2/1/2020
2019 Fantasy Outlook
No sense in burying the lede: McCullers will miss all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery. In 2018, McCullers started 22 games for the third time in his four years in the league, throwing a career-high 128.1 innings. He was enjoying a typically solid season, albeit with a slightly elevated walk rate. Then, in August, in an interleague game at Dodger Stadium, McCullers left early after tossing just a couple of warm-up pitches before the fifth. The initial diagnosis was a forearm strain incurred from swinging the bat. He rehabbed for the next several weeks, making it back as a reliever for the last week of the season. In early November, McCullers went under the knife, with an expected 12-to-14 month recovery on tap, setting him up to be ready for spring training in 2020. If you're rebuilding and can stash a possible keeper, McCullers is worth a small bid. Read Past Outlooks
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$Signed a one-year, $4.1 million contract with the Astros in January of 2019, avoiding arbitration.
No drama on deadline day
PHouston Astros
January 11, 2019
McCullers (elbow) agreed to a one-year, $4.1 million deal with the Astros, avoiding arbitration, Brian McTaggart of reports.
This is McCullers' second year of arbitration, and while his talent would typically dictate a larger one-year salary, the fact that he will miss the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery worked against him. He will return for 2020 and will be under team control again for the 2021 season before hitting the open market.
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Pitching Stats
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Minor League Game Log
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Left/Right Pitching Splits
Since 2016
BAA Batters K BB H 2B 3B HR
Since 2016vs Left .221 642 202 58 127 30 3 9
Since 2016vs Right .255 749 178 77 167 41 3 16
2018vs Left .177 255 80 27 40 11 1 5
2018vs Right .251 272 62 23 60 16 0 7
2017vs Left .231 219 60 13 46 10 0 2
2017vs Right .264 293 72 27 68 18 2 6
2016vs Left .273 168 62 18 41 9 2 2
2016vs Right .248 184 44 27 39 7 1 3
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Home/Away Pitching Splits
Since 2016
ERA at Home
ERA at Home
ERA at Home
ERA at Home
Since 2016Home 2.95 1.21 170.2 13 6 0 11.1 3.5 0.7
Since 2016Away 4.81 1.41 157.1 10 9 0 9.7 3.9 0.6
2018Home 3.43 1.03 60.1 4 3 0 10.1 2.8 0.6
2018Away 4.24 1.29 68.0 6 3 0 9.8 4.1 1.1
2017Home 3.04 1.17 50.1 4 0 0 11.3 3.0 0.9
2017Away 5.14 1.39 68.1 3 4 0 9.1 3.0 0.4
2016Home 2.40 1.43 60.0 5 3 0 12.0 4.5 0.8
2016Away 5.57 1.86 21.0 1 2 0 11.1 6.4 0.0
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Stat Review
How does Lance McCullers compare to other starting pitchers?
This section compares his stats with all starting pitcher seasons from the previous three seasons (minimum 120 innings). The bar represents the player's percentile rank. For example, if the bar is halfway across, then the player falls into the 50th percentile for that stat and it would be considered average.
94.3 mph
Strand %
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Recent RotoWire Articles Featuring Lance McCullers
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
A pair of DL stints due to back issues limited McCullers to 118.2 regular-season innings (22 starts), but his performance when on the field further hinted at ace upside. He struck out 25.8 percent of the batters he faced, issued walks at a 7.8 percent clip and served up just eight homers, with the estimators suggesting McCullers was roughly a run better than his surface numbers would indicate. McCulllers has relied on his devastating curveball as his primary pitch over the past two seasons, throwing it 47.4 percent of the time in 2017 compared to 40.4 percent for his fastball (11.9 percent changeup). That's the Rich Hill approach, but also like Hill, McCullers is an injury risk, having missed time in 2016 due to elbow and shoulder issues. Expecting even 150 innings may be a stretch, but McCullers' contributions in that limited window may be so great that he still finishes as a borderline top-20 starter. The team context -- home park, bullpen, offense -- couldn't be any better.
McCullers' season had two negative bookends of shoulder and elbow DL stints, which no doubt helps explain the 1.54 WHIP he posted in between. The fact that his WHIP shot up from 2015's 1.19 without any change to his 3.22 ERA speaks to how well he pitched in traffic. His 81.4 LOB% tied for the fourth highest with Kyle Hendricks and Danny Duffy among starters (minimum 80 IP). His ability to generate weak contact so consistently (fifth-lowest hard contact rate) and to keep the ball on the ground when in play (third in GB%) while also limiting contact in the first place (his 30 percent strikeout rate was sixth-best) were instrumental in his strand success. Despite the injuries that curbed his workload, there were enough positives from the half-season to be excited about the 23-year-old going forward. Early winter checkups report the elbow -- which was the second of the injuries -- won't delay the start of his 2017. The young flamethrower with a devastating swing-and-miss curve has shown major promise in 206.2 innings as a big leaguer. Buy in bulk.
This is why prospect mavens aren't lying when they say "I don't know" so often when discussing callups. If someone told you a 21-year old who had peaked in High-A (and was crushed there with a 5.47 ERA and 5.2 BB/9) with just 97 IP would blitz through Double-A and thrown 125.7 regular season IP in the majors, you'd have called them crazy. McCullers was so dominant in Double-A (0.56 ERA, 13.5 K/9) and Houston was competitive so they took a shot and it panned out brilliantly. He has the potential to be the right-handed complement to Dallas Keuchel atop the rotation, though it will take some time for that kind of consistency to develop. Walks are his biggest hurdle. He allowed two or more in 68% of his 22 starts (league average: 53%) and had a 4.5 BB/9 in 260 minor league IP. Shoulder soreness has McCullers likely ticketed for a DL stint to start the season, so he should be downgraded somewhat on draft day.
McCullers took the next step in his development with High-A Lancaster last season and predictably endured some growing pains in the hitter-friendly California Leauge. An increase in walks (5.2 BB/9) and home runs allowed (1.67 HR/9) were his main flaws, but he still struck out batters at an elite clip (10.7 K/9). His future remains unclear as a big league starter or closer, but how he pitches in the more neutral environment at Double-A Corpus Christi should help give the Astros a better read on his path to the majors.
McCullers, a second-generation hurler, performed exceptionally well in his first full season in the minors. In 25 appearances (19 starts) for Low-A Quad Cities, McCullers went 6-5 with a 117:49 K:BB over 104.2 innings. His walk rate (4.2 BB/9) was a little high, but he more than made up for it by keeping the ball on the ground (2.00 GO/AO) and inside the park (0.3 HR/9). The 20-year-old's aggressive three-pitch arsenal includes an upper-90s fastball with excellent movement, an above-average slider and changeup. While his future as a big league starter or closer remains uncertain, how McCullers fares this season - most likely in Double-A - should give the Astros a better read regarding his path to the majors.
The Astros drafted McCullers with the No. 41 pick in the 2012 draft, far lower than he was projected pre-draft due to what was perceived to be excessive bonus demands. The Astros were able to meet those demands with a $2.5 million bonus, thanks in part to signing the surprise first overall pick (Carlos Correa) for far less than slot. McCullers gets the ball up near 100 mph, but his arm action is far from easy, putting him at increased risk of injury. With dominant stuff, McCullers projects as a future ace. He'll likely begin the year in High-A, but could wind up in Double-A before all is said and done.
More Fantasy News
Out for season following Tommy John surgery
PHouston Astros
November 6, 2018
McCullers underwent Tommy John surgery Tuesday and will miss the entire 2019 season, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports.
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Surgery not ruled out
PHouston Astros
November 6, 2018
General manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday that McCullers could require surgery to address a lingering elbow injury, which would sideline the right-hander for the entire 2019 season, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports.
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Could miss large portion of 2019
PHouston Astros
October 23, 2018
McCullers' elbow woes could cost him a large part of the 2019 season, manager A.J. Hinch said on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM on Tuesday.
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Makes second relief appearance
PHouston Astros
September 30, 2018
McCullers struck out one over two-thirds of an inning in a 5-2 win over Baltimore in the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader.
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Makes first appearance off DL
PHouston Astros
September 27, 2018
McCullers threw a scoreless inning, striking out one batter, in Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays.
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