Lance McCullers
Lance McCullers
26-Year-Old PitcherSP
Houston Astros
2020 Fantasy Outlook
McCullers has not thrown a pitch in the major leagues since October of 2018, but that is not going to stop people from drafting him as they did prior to the 2018 season. We fell in love with McCullers in that 2017 postseason when he was throwing all of the hammer curves and making hitters look silly. He was doing that in 2018 as well before the elbow gave out. The thing that gets overlooked with him is that even before the injury, durability was not a thing for him. His career high in innings was what he put up in 2018. Now, we're looking at a guy who is going to have workload restrictions in 2020 and who may struggle with command, as it is typically the last thing for pitchers to rediscover post TJS. His 2017 final line is absolutely repeatable in 2020, but that is not a good thing because those numbers are barely rosterable in a mixed league. There are safer plays for you in the player pool. Read Past Outlooks
$Signed a one-year, $4.1 million contract with the Astros in December of 2019, avoiding arbitration.
Avoids arbitration
PHouston Astros
December 13, 2019
McCullers and the Astros avoided arbitration Friday by agreeing to a one-year, $4.1 million contract, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports.
ANALYSIS
McCullers will make the same money he made last season, a year he spent recovering from Tommy John surgery. He should factor into the Astros' rotation plans this season, though he's never started more than 22 games in a season and is unlikely to record his highest-ever innings total in his first year back from a major injury.
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Pitching Stats
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2019
2018
2017
2019 MLB Game Log
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2018 MLB Game Log
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2017 MLB Game Log
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Left/Right Pitching Splits
Since 2017
 
 
-22%
BAA vs LHP
2019
No Stats
2018
 
 
-29%
BAA vs LHP
2017
 
 
-13%
BAA vs LHP
BAA Batters K BB H 2B 3B HR
Since 2017vs Left .202 474 140 40 86 21 1 7
Since 2017vs Right .258 565 134 50 128 34 2 13
2019vs Left 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2019vs Right 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
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
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Home/Away Pitching Splits
Since 2017
 
 
-31%
ERA at Home
2019
No Stats
2018
 
 
-19%
ERA at Home
2017
 
 
-41%
ERA at Home
ERA WHIP IP W L SV K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Since 2017Home 3.25 1.09 110.2 8 3 0 10.7 2.9 0.7
Since 2017Away 4.69 1.34 136.1 9 7 0 9.4 3.6 0.7
2019Home 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2019Away 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
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
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Recent RotoWire Articles Featuring Lance McCullers
Collette Calls: 2020 AL West Bold Predictions
25 days ago
Jason Collette kicks off his annual Bold Predictions series with a pair of predictions for each of the five teams in the American League West.
Mound Musings: AL West Draft Day Targets
309 days ago
Brad Johnson completes deep dive into each divisions this week with a look at the American League West, where in Seattle, Felix Hernandez might be in the twilight of his career.
Collette Calls: NL Central Bold Predictions
344 days ago
Jason Collette moves on to the NL Central for more bold predictions. Find out why he's not on the Willson Contreras bandwagon.
MLB Barometer: Early Risers -- Pitchers
January 22, 2019
With three openings in the Houston rotation, Forrest Whitley's path to a 2019 debut is clear. Derek VanRiper looks at Whitley and other early draft-season risers on the mound.
AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week
September 23, 2018
Erik Siegrist looks at the last set of roster moves and role shifts in the AL and wonders how much rust Aaron Judge will be able to shake off before the end of the regular season.
Past Fantasy Outlooks
2019
2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
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.
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
Reaches finish line in rehab
PHouston Astros
November 6, 2019
McCullers (elbow) announced Wednesday via his personal Twitter account that he has completed his rehab from Tommy John surgery and will have full clearance ahead of spring training.
ANALYSIS
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Throws off mound
PHouston Astros
Elbow
September 9, 2019
McCullers (elbow) threw off the mound Monday, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports.
ANALYSIS
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Throws off flat ground
PHouston Astros
Elbow
August 16, 2019
McCullers (elbow) threw a flat-ground session Thursday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in November 2018, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports.
ANALYSIS
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Transferred to 60-day IL
PHouston Astros
Elbow
June 9, 2019
The Astros transferred McCullers (elbow) to the 60-day injured list Sunday, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports.
ANALYSIS
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Cleared to throw
PHouston Astros
Elbow
April 2, 2019
McCullers (elbow) was cleared to throw and did so Tuesday, Alyson Footer of MLB.com reports.
ANALYSIS
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