Doug Fister signed a one-year deal with a club option with the Texas Rangers. While he is not considered one of the top free agents this offseason, the 33-year-old displayed improved talent last year to be considered a late-round flier.
In 2015 and 2016, Fister struggled to remain productive, as his average fastball velocity dropped to 86 mph. Because of the decline, he posted a sub-6.0 K/9 and got hit around with the highest home run rates (both 1.2 HR/9) since his rookie season.
Fister’s 2017 outlooked seem grim, but he bumped his fastball velocity (89.8 mph) up near to his career high, and his strikeout rate (8.3 K/9) was a career best. While the strikeout rate is not elite, it was similar to the 2017 production of Dylan Bundy, Madison Bumgarner, and Johnny Cueto. The walks contributed to his 4.88 ERA.
The strikeouts came with a drawback: no control. Fister walked a career-high number of batters (3.8 BB/9) while struggling to keep the ball in the strike zone. His value could jump if he dropped his walks closer to his career rate (2.1 BB/9).
Looking at 2018, it’s tough to put an exact fantasy value on Fister. He may be able to keep up his velocity and strikeouts, but the walks will limit his upside. Additionally, the Rangers’ home park is hitter-friendly, so he may struggle to produce a low ERA and WHIP. If the cards fall right, he could be a top-30 starter. If not, he’s droppable in the first week.
Fister’s cost should be low, similar to Charlie Morton this past season. Both rejuvenated their careers with added fastball velocity. Fantasy owners can pick Fister up at the end of the draft, see if his velocity stays up, and decide to either keep or dump him. He’s a low-cost, high-reward play in 2018.