Fantasy Baseball

2020 Fantasy Baseball: This Year’s Lucas Giolito


The 2020 calendar has officially turned to March, which is one of my favorite months of the year! College Basketball’s regular season is winding down, as Championship Week and March Madness loom on the horizon. Spring Training baseball has fans using the words “Cactus” and “Grapefruit” while they search for this year’s Lucas Giolito. And, last, but certainly not least, St. Patrick’s Day is a mere 10 days away as of my writing this article.

March’s arrival also signals the annual influx of draft-prep articles from Fantasy Baseball pundits everywhere. The writers here at Fantasy Six Pack are also in full-swing (PUN intended) with fresh 2020 Fantasy Baseball content.

Among all the fervor of putting out new content, there still needs to be a balance with everyday life. So, never forget to take time to sit back and enjoy an ice-cold beverage (or two) while you work. That’s what the F6P does best (or, at least, I can say that I do)!

Speaking of enjoying some frosty drinks and fantasy baseball articles, let’s take another minute to digress just a bit more. I want to refocus on that thirst-quenchin’ holiday full of green beer and luck-bearing leprechauns, St. Patrick’s Day!

Although it may not be soberly clear (yet), there’s one glaringly-common theme between this article and that holiday booze-fest. That theme…luck!

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about the “Luck O’ the Irish,” here. Instead, my focus lies in the simple fact that fantasy managers need (at least) some luck to win their league’s championship trophy.

A perfect example of having some luck in 2020 would be for fantasy managers to own this year’s Lucas Giolito! Why Giolito, you say? Read on to find out and to see my picks for this year’s Lucas Giolito.

This Year’s Lucas Giolito

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Minor League Performance

Giolito came up through the Washington Nationals farm system after being selected 16th Overall in the 2012 MLB Draft. He did not make his first appearance in The Show until 2016, though.

Prior to his first big league experience, Giolito fared well in the Minor leagues overall.  His best year came in Single-A ball in 2014 when he finished 10-2 (20 GS) with a 2.20 ERA. Giolito also sported a 10.10 K/9 rate and a stellar HR/9 rate of 0.64 in his 98.0 IP in 2014.

Early MLB Performance

As noted, Giolito did not play in the majors until 2016, when he pitched in six games for the Nats. His overall performance in those games (including four starts) was mostly forgettable, though.

Giolito went 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA across 21.1 IP. He also posted a 4.64 K/9 rate, a 5.06 BB/9 rate, and a 29.2% HR/FB rate. Not much to brag about, nor are these numbers all that relevant to fantasy owners.

Fast-forward to 2017 when Giolito played his first season for the Chicago White Sox, and you’ll see a different story. Giolito started all seven games he played in the majors in 2017 and finished 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA.

He also had a staggering 92.0% LOB%, increased his K/9 rate to 6.75, and decreased his BB/9 rate to 2.38. The hidden problem with these stats is Giolito’s FIP, which was 4.94, or, more than 2x higher than his ERA.

2017’s overall numbers were much better stats from a baseball standpoint. But, they still were not a ton of help for fantasy managers.

In 2018, Giolito pitched his first full season in the majors with mixed success while also showing some promising improvement. For instance, Giolito had a FIP of 5.56, and lowered his HR/9 rate (1.40) and his HR/FB rate 13.4%).

However, Giolito’s ERA spiked in 2018, as he finished the year with a 6.13 rating. Granted, that increase could be blamed on a massive drop in LOB% (63.5%) and uptick in his BB/9 rate (4.67). Either way, it was still a pretty average first full season.

Enter 2019 Lucas Giolito

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Last season, Giolito really put things together, and his fantasy owners reaped all the benefits of his breakout season. Not only did his HR/9 rate (1.22) and BB/9 rate (2.90) drop, but his LOB% increased back to 77.7%.

His ERA and FIP settled in at 3.41 and 3.43, respectively. Yet, the biggest surprise in Giolito’s 2019 stat line was his jump in K/9 from a 6.49 to 11.62. That is his highest rate…ever…between both the minors and majors.

Enter This Year’s Lucas Giolito

Now, it’s finally time to present the list of Starting Pitchers I think could be this year’s Lucas Giolito! This group of pitchers was pulled together based on a few simple factors.

First, I looked for pitchers who had success in the Minors followed by disappointing big league performance.  Second, I wanted to find pitchers who could provide high value at a relatively low draft cost.

On to the list!

Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers

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Julio Urias is an obvious choice for this article, and for this category, for a few reasons. One, he’s a young pitcher who has shown extensive dominance in the Minors. Two, he has great peripherals, but also varied success in the Majors.

Between 2013 and 2017, Urias posted sub-2.80 ERA’s across various levels of the Minors (10.0 IP min.). His K/9 rate has also never been lower than 9.19 in those double-digit IP Minors seasons.

Still, Urias has been inconsistent or unavailable in the Majors since his MLB debut in 2016. His stats that year were serviceable (5-2 in 18 G, 9.82 K/9, 3.39 ERA, 3.17 FIP). But, he only pitched a total of 27.1 innings between 2017-2018 before notching 79.2 IP in 2019. That may seem like a big jump, but Urias pitched in 37 games, including eight starts.

For 2020, Urias is locked into the LAD rotation. But, knowing how the Dodgers like to “Dodger” their starters, I can see a starter/reliever workload for Julio this season. Steamer projects Urias to finish 9-7 with a 3.96 ERA, 4.23 FIP and 9.65 K/9 across 127.0 IP.

I can agree with the innings count, but I see double-digit wins and a K/9 above 10.0 for Urias. I also think his ERA could settle in closer to 3.50 compared to Steamer’s near-4.00 finish. With an ADP of 160.0, I’ll have plenty of shares of Urias in 2020, and you should, too!

Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays

Like Julio Urias, Tyler Glasnow completely dominated in the Minors after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012. His K/9 rate never dropped into single digits until he made the big leagues in 2016, as well. Glasnow has always been pretty suspect to giving up walks, but he doesn’t really get hurt by the long-ball.

Glasnow’s 2019 season was downright spectacular, but it was sadly cut short by a forearm injury. Had he pitched the entire year, this article might have written with his name in the title instead of Giolito’s. He was that good!

I am all-in on Glasnow for 2020, and anticipate repeated success (with justified regression) from his shortened 2019 season. An ERA right around 3.00, a BB/9 rate close to 3.20 and a sub-1.00 HR/9 rate are all reachable numbers. I can also see a 12.00+ K/9 in 2020.

Glasnow (currently sitting at an ADP of 75.0) will definitely cost you more than Urias, but he’ll be worth it. Buy, buy, buy!

Dylan Bundy, Los Angeles Angels

Bundy represents a perfect example of a highly-touted pitching prospect who cruised through the Minors, but disappointed in the Majors. He also represents a major high-value/low-cost option, as his ADP currently sits at 299.0.

The Baltimore Orioles drafted Bundy with the 4th Overall Pick in 2011. While pitching in the Orioles farm system, Bundy was rarely taken deep. In fact, he gave up only six dingers over 167.0 IP in the Minors.

Sadly, that trend never carried over to the Majors, and helps explain his career ERA mark of 4.67. The good news for Bundy? He won’t be pitching in homer-friendly Camden Yards on a regular basis in 2020! His new home, Angel Stadium, consistently ranks among the most pitcher-friendly parks in the MLB year-in and year-out!

I predict a bounce-back year for Bundy in 2020, especially if he can lower his HR/9 into the low 1.00’s. A sub-3.80 ERA is optimistic, but not unattainable now that Bundy will be pitching in the AL West.

Other Notable Options

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Lance Lynn, Texas Rangers

In 2019, Lynn ate up 208.1 IP and finished 16-11. He held a 10.63 K/9 rate, a 2.55 BB/9 rate, a respectable 3.67 ERA, with a 3.13 FIP. Those are very good stats for a Rangers Starting Pitcher, especially one with a 126.0 ADP. I love me some Lance Lynn this year!

Garrett Richards, San Diego Padres

Garrett Richards is another bounce-back candidate that I like in 2020. Injuries have completely derailed Richards since 2015. But, he has the talent to be a sneaky, late-round flier for those willing to take the risk. If Richards can stay healthy, he will be an asset to an already strong Padres rotation in 2020.

Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners

Walker is another injury concern player after missing basically all of 2018 and 2019. Alas, he’s only 27, and has shown flashes of success earlier in his career during his first stint with Seattle. Oh, and he’s basically free in drafts right now! That could change, though, if he pitches well this Spring.

For more preseason Fantasy Baseball, check out our whole series of position previews linked below.

Catchers | First Base | Second Base | Third Base | Shortstop | Outfield | Starting Pitcher | Relief Pitcher

About A.J. Applegarth

A.J. has been in the fantasy sports game for so long, that the first fantasy team he ever managed used football box scores from newspapers to calculate points. Since those days, A.J. has taken home numerous fantasy football and baseball championship titles. He has also taken his talents to a few fantasy basketball leagues and countless DFS games in more recent years. A.J. would openly admit that “luck” has been a factor in his two-plus decade-long success in fantasy sports, but he will also be the first one to tell you, “You can’t teach luck!” Catch A.J.’s witty banter and "Beer of the Week" picks on The Fantasy Six Pack Hour Podcast, and follow him on the Twitter-space @AppleGarthAlgar.

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  1. Pingback: 2020 Fantasy Baseball: This Year's Liam Hendriks - Fantasy Six Pack

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