Lance McCullers
Lance McCullers
24-Year-Old PitcherSP
Houston Astros
2018 Fantasy Outlook
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. Read Past Outlooks
RANKSFrom Preseason
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$Agreed to a one-year deal with the Astros in January of 2018, avoiding arbitration.
Activated from disabled list
PHouston Astros
September 24, 2018
McCullers (forearm) was activated from the disabled list Monday, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports.
ANALYSIS
McCullers hasn't pitched since Aug. 4 after suffering a forearm strain. He appears to be ticketed for a bullpen role in the final week of the season. Prior to the injury, he had recorded a solid 3.93 ERA in 22 starts.
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Pitching Stats
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Minor League Game Log
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Left/Right Pitching Splits
Since 2016
 
 
-14%
BAA vs LHP
2018
 
 
-30%
BAA vs LHP
2017
 
 
-13%
BAA vs LHP
2016
 
 
-9%
BAA vs RHP
BAA Batters K BB H 2B 3B HR
Since 2016vs Left .222 639 201 58 127 30 3 9
Since 2016vs Right .257 745 175 77 167 41 3 16
2018vs Left .179 252 79 27 40 11 1 5
2018vs Right .255 268 59 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
 
 
-40%
ERA at Home
2018
 
 
-22%
ERA at Home
2017
 
 
-41%
ERA at Home
2016
 
 
-57%
ERA at Home
ERA WHIP IP W L SV K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Since 2016Home 2.95 1.21 170.2 13 6 0 11.1 3.5 0.7
Since 2016Away 4.88 1.43 154.0 10 9 0 9.6 4.0 0.6
2018Home 3.43 1.03 60.1 4 3 0 10.1 2.8 0.6
2018Away 4.39 1.34 65.2 6 3 0 9.6 4.2 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.
K/BB
2.76
 
K/9
9.9
 
BB/9
3.6
 
HR/9
0.9
 
Fastball
94.3 mph
 
ERA
3.93
 
WHIP
1.19
 
BABIP
.288
 
GB/FB
2.42
 
Strand %
68.8%
 
Advanced Pitching Stats
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Defensive Stats
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Stats Vs Today's Lineup
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
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
To join team over weekend
PHouston Astros
Forearm
September 21, 2018
McCullers (forearm) will return to the team Friday, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic reports.
ANALYSIS
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Another sim game coming
PHouston Astros
Forearm
September 19, 2018
McCullers (forearm) will throw another simulated game Friday or Saturday, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle reports.
ANALYSIS
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Throws simulated game
PHouston Astros
Forearm
September 18, 2018
McCullers (forearm) threw a 30-pitch simulated game Tuesday, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports.
ANALYSIS
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Completes bullpen session
PHouston Astros
Forearm
September 15, 2018
McCullers (forearm) completed a 20-pitch bullpen session Saturday, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle reports.
ANALYSIS
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Throws another bullpen session
PHouston Astros
Forearm
September 11, 2018
McCullers (forearm) threw a 40-pitch bullpen session Tuesday, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports.
ANALYSIS
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